The beach. A unifying attraction for vacationers, there are many beautiful ones to choose from around the world. And some surprising ones in the United States for the popular activity of collecting shells! This treasure hunting like nose-to-the-ground activity is fun for all ages, and hours can pass in perfect bliss searching for the perfect shell to take home as a souvenir. These 10 beaches are perfect for shell enthusiasts!

* As a general rule, never remove live shells or sand dollars from their beach home.

Best Beaches for Shelling

1. Longboat Key Beach, Florida

Pristine white sand, bright blue water, and palm trees. That is what you will find at Longboat Key Beach in Florida, a beach paradise. While it is mostly used by those staying in nearby resorts or beach cottages, there are 3 main public access points for those visiting just for the day. However, as per the website: “there are no modern conveniences” so be sure to bring everything you need with you, and get there early as parking is limited.

When to go: Arrive early as parking is limited for those not staying in a resort or private cottage nearby.

Beach Admission: Free

Activities: Beach Walks, Kite Flying

2. Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island is officially one of the best beaches in the United States for shelling, (the “Sanibel Stoop” is a term that came about from the position people remain in, eyes firmly on the sand as they look for shells). This is a destination beach for it’s sand dollars and other “treasures from the sea.” Shells of all sizes, colors, and styles can be found, and the website even has a whole section dedicated to shelling tips. Did you know the best time to search for sells is at low tide? A visit to Sanibel Island is guaranteed to not only grant you some beautiful finds, but is a great way to meet fellow shell enthusiasts!

When to go: Open year round, though peak tourist times get crowded

Beach Admission: Free

Activities: Bird Watching, Boating

3. Point Reyes, California

One of the few pacific coastline beaches where good shelling can be found. In particular it’s one of the best beaches in the country for sand dollars. Not the best beach for swimming, as the water is cold and the weather doesn’t get quite warm enough to make it worth it. However, surfers can often be seen taking advantage of the crashing waves! Just make sure to wetsuit-up before venturing out.

When to go: Open year round, there’s never a bad time to visit the picturesque Point Reyes seashore. Between January and April is the best time for whale watching! And be warned that the famous Bay Area fog socks in the area for much of the summer, mainly June and July. The clearest days can be found in the fall.

Beach Admission: Free

Activities: Hiking, Horseback Riding, Picnics, Wildlife Spotting

4. Shipwreck Beach, Hawaii

Aptly named, there’s no telling what kind of fun items can be found on a treasure hunt through the sand at Shipwreck Beach in Hawaii. The treacherous winds and waves here have put many a ship in peril, hence the name. In fact a rusted over 1940’s oil tanker hull is firmly beached on Kaiolohia Bay’s coral reef — a reminder to think twice before venturing into the water for a swim.

When to go: Beach is open year round. 4 wheel drive is required to get there and make sure to ask for clear directions, as roads are unmarked.

Beach Admission: Free

Activities: Though swimming is not advised, there is excellent wildlife spotting.

5. Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

North Carolina beaches have a certain romanticism about them. Something about the location in the South brings a timeless feel. Ocracoke Island is just about as perfect a beach you can find. Good for kite flying, swimming, sand castle building, wildlife spotting, and of course, a beautiful variety of shells!

When to go: Open year round, 9am to 5pm

Beach Admission: Ocracoke is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which does not charge an entry fee.

Activities: Fishing, Hiking, Bird Watching

6. Calvert Cliffs State Park, Maryland

While shells are plentiful, the real treasures on this stretch of beach are fossils, millions of years old. The cliffs that the park is named for used to be completely submerged under water and when the water lever receded, the sheer rock faces revealed the fossilized remains of a vast array of prehistoric species. It is a marshy, rugged shoreline, so dress accordingly!

When to go: The park gets extremely crowded during peak times, such as summer weekends and

holidays. Off season is the best time to go to avoid tourist crowds.

Beach Admission: $5 / vehicle

Activities: Hunting, Fishing, Picnics

7. Galveston Island State park, Texas

Beaches in Texas? You heard right. While the entire South East portion of the state borders the Gulf of Mexico, this can be easy to forget. Galveston Island State Park boasts an incredible diverse ecosystem, and is highly recommended for wildlife viewing. Part of this ecosystem is the variety of shells to be found along the shore. Galveston is part of a barrier island, a gateway between land and ocean which lends to its amazing diversity.

When to go: Shelling is good year round, though March through October is the busiest time. Spring and Fall are recommended for bird watching.

Beach Admission: $5 for adults, Free for kids age 12 and under

Activities: Kayaking, Beach Camping, Nature Walks

8. Cumberland Island, Georgia

For a perfectly wild and untamed beach, most might think of the Pacific Northwest, but Cumberland Island in Georgia is just such a place. The type of beach with history whispering through every step, whose waves have seen it all. Native American communities, Spanish missionaries, American slaves and slave owners, industrialists, all have lived here and the air is palpable with their legacy.

When to go: The ferry to the island is available year round, however times and frequency differ by season.

Refer to the website for specific details.

Beach Admission: Cumberland Island is part of the National Parks Service, which costs an entry fee of $4 for adults over 15. The island is only accessibly by ferry, which does cost an additional amount of $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, $15 for children 12 and under for round-trip tickets. No cars, pets, bikes or kayaks are allowed on the ferry.

Activities: Bike rentals, Bird Watching, Camping, Hiking, Fishing

9. Bullards Beach State Park, Oregon

While most best shelling beaches in the US are located in the east coast and the south, the Pacific Northwest does possess a few, Bullards Beach in Oregon being one of them. A popular beach for camping due to being protected from the wild winds normally present in the area, it is often populated by campers and backpackers.

When to go: Beach is open year round, but remember that it can get chilly in the area, regardless of the


Beach Admission: $5. There are a number of reservations you can make if you are planning to camp, which cost extra.

Activities: Camping, Hiking, Fishing, Picnics, Biking

10. Hanalei Bay, Hawaii

Already a gorgeous, perfect outing, Hanalei Bay is a fantastic beach for shells. The bay boasts spectacular ocean views, and there are actually 4 beaches within the bay, so you have your pick for beautiful shells. And it’s Hawaii…could it get any better? I don’t think so.

When to go: Spring, Summer, and Fall give the best surf and weather.

Beach Admission: Free

Activities: Hiking, Kayaking, Windsurfing, Snorkling

This article was written by Samantha Scott. Image by Ananda Escudero Gomes.