Sanibel and Captiva Islands on Florida’s Gulf coast is a popular tourist destination for the serious seashell collector. It is possible to find some quite rare shells there, and it’s impossible to not find any. Some of the beaches on Sanibel Island are nothing but shells!
But if you travel to Florida’s east coast – which is very long – you’ll still find your share of seashells. Just don’t expect them to be as plentiful. You will probably also see some very interesting sea life, dead and alive along the shore.
One of the best times to get out looking for specimens on the beach is when few other people are doing so. I always loved to stay at the beach and go out walking after supper when the atmosphere was more relaxed and the burning sun was no longer an issue.
We have found seagrass, driftwood, bits of coral, crab claws, seaweed, jellyfish, egg cases (that is one from a lightning whelk in the picture, but it was found on Sanibel), crab shells, horseshoe crabs and more while strolling the quiet beach. We used to see things that actually looked pretty gross and we had no idea what they were.
As far as seashells, most often we would find clam shell or cockle shell halves, but occasionally we’d get a piece of a sand dollar. You can also find jingle shells and kitten paw oysters, jackknife clams and pen shells. In fact most of the shells in the pictures along my blog sidebar (to the right) were found along the east coast. (Some of my larger shells and the sand dollars were purchased.) We used to find some very big pen shells as I recall.
My kids used to play with the little mole crabs (or sand fleas) and try to catch one to keep in their bucket for a while. And of course the tiny and colorful coquina shells are plentiful, but usually occupied.
I didn’t know anything about seashells back then, so who knows what we threw back and didn’t keep, but we usually kept the pretty ones that were in one piece. We also kept pieces that obviously broke off something much larger and could only dream of what the seashell once looked like.
If you visit Florida’s east coast, keep your eyes peeled for interesting wildlife and seashells. Just remember not to take home anything living!