There are three ways to get to the beach at Ponce Inlet. Drive on the sand to the end of the beach at the jetty, park and walk to the inlet, or if you live close, simply walk there. Pay to park at Smyrna Dunes Park and walk the boardwalk (it’s not finished yet) and sandy paths that lead to the beach. Pull up to the shore in a boat. This area of beach is one of my favorites to visit.
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Our beaches on the East coast of Florida are not as well known for shell collecting as they are over on the Gulf Coast. Visit Sanibel Island and you are likely to go home with a fabulous assortment of beautiful seashells.
We have to work harder to find shells on the East coast beaches, and then, many shells are the same. Arks, clams and coquina shells can usually be collected in the New Smryna Beach area. But, travel off the beaten path – out to the islands and backwater – and it’s possible to find something more unique. Only boats can reach this place so it’s mostly tourist-free. It’s the best part of Florida.
We took the boat out toward Ponce Inlet and stopped at a sandy island which appears when the tide is out. The water was just beginning to come back in when we dropped anchor in the shallow water.
I love to be out here, away from people… as you can see, we had the place to ourselves. It helped that the weather forecast was cloudy with possible storms – and it was the middle of the week. Most boaters stayed home….lucky us.
Across the waterway, to the left of this photo (above), is Disappearing Island. It’s like this place, only larger, and the name says it all. At high tide these islands “disappear” beneath the ocean, with only some of the scrub trees left above the waterline – or so I think. I’ve never been here at high tide.
I waded ashore and began to scour the shoreline, searching in all that grass, hoping to find a cool shell.
I found a lot of large clams, partially buried in the sand. In fact, most of the shells were either whole, or pieces of big clams. Also the Southern quahogs were numerous, which are white with vertical lines along the shell.
But I did find a nice Dosinia shell. It’s the flat, roundish shell at the bottom of the photo below. I also happened upon that cute little shark’s eye which was partially buried. It was pure luck that I noticed it! I’ve come across much bigger ones, but they always have a hermit crab inside.
I do collect broken shells, because they are unique in their own way. In my photo below you can see a broken crown conch… if it was whole, there would be a hermit crab inside, no doubt. Crown conchs are everywhere in areas like this, but they are always inhabited. (I found a live Fighting Conch, and hermit crab inside a little shell I couldn’t identify. More to come about those, on a later post.)
The little shark’s eye shell (below) has a hole drilled into the side. That is how the mollusk inside was killed. Something came along and bored into the shell to eat what was inside. The thing is, Shark’s eyes ARE predatory, and this guy would have done the same to another shell!
As the water came up, I headed up onto the sandy dune area to search among the scrub brush. I wondered if I’d find some sort of seashell treasure up there.
And I did! This is where I found those three little white Marsh Periwinkles (photo above) – or at least I think that is what they are. They were all found close together and nothing was inside except sand, so I picked them up. I’ve never seen these before, so I had new shells for my collection. Nice…. I had to be careful not to lose them, as they are tiny!
I found some trash, of course, and what looked like an old campfire pit, and saw some mourning doves – that was a surprise! I really thought that all I would see were shore birds.
I came across the remains of a coconut. It had traveled from the mainland or beach peninsula, because there were no coconut palm trees on that island.
We left later in the day when the clouds were thickening up. The water had come in quite a bit by then. Soon the all that sand would be covered, until the tide began it’s journey back out to the sea.
I wonder what treasures it will leave behind. Can’t wait to return here.
One late afternoon we headed over to Ponce Inlet so the boys could fish and I could search for some good seashells. It was a successful visit (for me), as I came home with lots of nice shells. I have some pictures of the seashells that I collected on my post, Take a Closer Look When Seashell Collecting.
The tide was going out, which is perfect if you are a beachcomber. The water was very rough, and the only people in the water were a couple of surfers, and some fishermen who stood thigh deep. My boys fished from the shore – and caught nothing.
One man, who was fishing out in the channel, did catch a nice big fish, and I asked his permission to take this picture. He was proud to show off his catch, and rightly so! What a gorgeous Bluefish he had!
I’ve cut off his head on purpose to show the fish, yet keep his identity private. It was a long walk back to the cars, but he didn’t seem to mind that.
Now we have a boat and will be out fishing from the boat more so than onshore. On our second day of boat ownership, we lounged in the water around Disappearing Island which is in this same general area of this inlet.
If you are not a regular beach-walker and seashell collector, it may seem that the good seashells (usually we think they will be big too) will be easy to find. If only you find them first. But heading to the right beach, at the right time, is not all it takes to find unique and wonderful shells. Often a closer look at the sand beneath your feet will give up surprises.
In my photo below, it seems as if there are few shells here to find. But that is not true. All the seashells in my photo (next one down) were collected in one day here. But I had to look closely, and I picked up a lot of stuff I didn’t want, in order to find them. I also walked back and forth along the breakers more than once.
As I walked the beach at Ponce Inlet yesterday afternoon, I didn’t see many people looking down at the sand. Most people were hanging out in chairs, or walking and talking, or in the water fishing. It occured to me that searching for unique shells takes some intense looking. I had to closely scan the sand around me in order to collect some unique, smaller keepers. It made me wonder if anyone ever looks closely at the shells beneath their feet. I know they would scramble to pick up a whole starfish or sand dollar, but I doubt many people give much thought to other inconspicuous shells, or the creatures who made them.
The beach was full of shells, with more being exposed as the tide went out quickly. Most were the commonly found arks and other types of clams. They are thick bivalves, which make them easy to find in one piece. Don’t get me wrong, they are nice looking, but can be found all over this area. I was looking for something that would be relatively rare to add to my collection.
My sons and I spent nearly three hours on the beach, fishing and beachcombing (they fished), and today my back aches from the constant bending and standing. Who knew that shell collecting could be a workout?
I found many beautiful shells, and a few I have not collected before. Unfortunately the surf is rough and finding whole shells here is difficult. So I collected some pieces of shells, and bits of sand dollars, knowing that I may never find a perfect specimen.
A few of the shells I found were easy to see, just beneath the waves, or stuck in the soft sand. The big, white Angelwings immediately attracted my attention, and although pieces were missing along the tops, I took them home.
I also brought home three Channeled Duckclams, which I see a lot, but are always broken. Usually I only find bits and pieces not worth collecting. Yesterday I did take the big broken ones. Their shells are thin, like the Angelwings, so finding a perfect shell is tough.
Other shells that were fairly easy to find were the black ones. Black stands out against the beach sand, and against the others. Happily, most of the black shells I went for ended up being Jingle Shells! One black shell was a piece of what looks like a whelk of some kind, but I loved finding all those jingle shells.
But some of the most awesome shells I came across were very small and could only be found by looking closely at the sand. They blended in with all those arks, but every now and then something different would catch my eye. It helps to know a little about seashells. They are not all the same, although at first glance they may seem to be.
I was able to add two Dosinia shells to my bag (lower left in photo above). I love the feel of their smooth flat surface. And I rarely see them. A little gray sharks eye was sitting on the sand, and although it was broken, I collected it. I’ve found big beautiful sharks eye shells while out boating but they are always inhabited by hermit crabs.
Other unique (to me) shells were the Stout tagelus, slipper shells, cross-barred venus, a black scallop, and two lettered olives (one alive, which I left in the sand). And I found some things that have baffled me. I’m still researching photos in my seashell book, Florida’s Living Beaches, to discover what they are.
As I write about each of the shells I found, I will link back to this page so you can click to see the photos of the shells.