Where and When To Find The Best Seashells?

disc dosinia seashells

Most people love to find and collect seashells. The “best shells” is a relative term, as it may mean different things to different beach-combers.

I’m lucky to live in Florida where a beach is always close by. The West coast is the place to search for beautiful shells, and probably the Keys too, but I do find some cool shells on the East coast where I live. The truth is that I find the best shells while out boating.

The best place, in general, in the state of Florida, to find beautiful and unique seashells would be Sanibel Island and the surrounding area.  I would also include any islands away from shore where there are fewer shell-seekers to compete with.

The best time, in general, to search for keepers would be at low tide or after a storm.

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 10.18.43 AM
Sea greenery shows where high tide was

I’ve never done any shell collecting just after a big storm, but I’ve read blogs where people have found loads of particular shells washed up on the beach. I have come across shells far up on the beach, or tucked under roots of trees where they were shoved by the force of storm waves.

Anything sturdy and possibly buried in the sand can be moved with the extra-high tides and large waves that erode areas, especially after hurricanes. I am usually too busy dealing with the after effects of the hurricane to go out and collect seashells.

What does “best” Mean to you?

Shells I consider to be the “best” are the ones I come across less frequently, like these flat dosinia shells.

disc dosinia seashells
Disc Dosinia Seashells

The best shells to find are the more rare ones. Big beautiful gastropods, like the pink conch, horse conch, and helmet shell (pictured below), can also be categorized as the best.  Good luck finding an empty one in good shape.

Helmet seashells
Helmet Shells (photo credit: Skeeze at Pixabay)


It depends on what you hope to find. Sometimes tiny shells can be special as well. I once came across some little Marsh Periwinkles which I’d never see before.   I was walking around an island near Ponce Inlet and found three of them just lying in the sand.  My Seashell ID book tells me this type of shell is not commonly found in my area, but can be found further north. They were empty so I took them home.

Wherever you plan to be while vacationing in Florida you are certain to find some interesting specimens along the beach. Be safe (the sun is a killer here) and know the rules when planning a trip.

Author: Pam

Spending time on the water is the best, and blogging about the sea life found along the saltwater river and ocean is what I do. I’m also a designer at Zazzle and sell my work, with a lot of ocean themes, on the site.

8 thoughts on “Where and When To Find The Best Seashells?”

  1. Thank you for the input and for sharing your opinion about the tourist aspect of the Sanibel area of Florida. I have to agree that there are many more places to collect seashells, and find good ones, than just the Sanibel area. As is true with so many beautiful areas in the state, it has been made less nice to visit than it once was (don’t really want to say ruined) by the huge influx of people.

  2. I can Not disagree more strongly with John Smith. I am sure if you are a resident you probably feel different. We bought in Ft Myers in 1992. I think that is adequate time to form an educated opinion. Charging $6 to cross a bridge (was $2 YEARS ago to pay for the “new” bridge..which is now fully paid)..All weekends and most of the tourist season be prepared to circle the parking areas to locate a space. You should probably wear your beach clothes and bring water to wash off the sand since you will find limited access to bath houses. Public beaches do have access to portapotties if there is not a bath house. Remember all public parking has a charge. Seems like it is about 15 minutes for 25 cents. I always tell my visitors that you have to go to Sanibel just to say you have been there but in my opinion, beach, shelling, sunset, green flash and all…Lover’s Key and Turtle Key are fine beaches for shelling. You may have to walk longer and the shell mounds may not be as productive but there are definitely shells that are as pretty and fun to find as on Sanibel…And you can see a green flash any where there is a clear horizon if the weather/sky conditions are right.

  3. I guess some people take the word “touristy” to mean “horrible – don’t go there”, which is not what I am saying. It means that there will lots of people visiting a beautiful spot – and why not? When I visit, I am a tourist. I lived in Florida for almost 30 years and I would definitely say it is a place for tourists.
    Your apology is accepted. Congrats on your find.

  4. I have been there a number of times, and in my opinion it is definitely a tourist attraction as are most Florida beaches. I’m sure it’s a beautiful place to live, if you have the money to do so. I am certainly not trying to “ruin the island’s reputation” and I don’t think that most people see this post in the light that you do – for some reason.

  5. I am sorry for the previous comment, Sanibel is very important to my family and I don’t want people to think of it as touristy. Please do not take offense, it is indeed a beautiful area and a fantastic place for shelling and so many other activities. I actually just found a fighting conch today on the island. Sorry again. I got a little carried away. 🙂

  6. What are u talking about! Sanibel is not touristy. U obviously have never been here. U shouldnt say things like that unless u know it for a fact. People like u ruin the islands reputation. Sanibel Island was just rated the number 1 place to live by frommers travel agency. Get your facts straight.

  7. Thanks for reading Pam! I visit your neck of the beach when I need some sand and surf. It’s always a pleasure!

  8. Hey- Maybe that’s why I haven’t found that elusive junonia yet…. I am so not an early bird. That’s okay, in Sanibel you can find seashells any time of day if you aren’t looking for specific types. It’s a tresaure hunt! You are a doll! It is so sweet that you mentioned me in your post about shelling today.

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