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Sanibel Island, Florida: A Beachcomber’s Bonanza

Posted by Jody on September 8, 2011

Sanibel Island, Florida is the ultimate US vacation destination for the serious beachcomber! Sanibel Island, located in the Gulf of Mexico, is south and west of Fort Meyers. With miles and miles of shell-strewn, sugary white sand beaches and hundreds of different types of sea shells to pick from, you won’t need anything to keep you busy but the seashore!

©Jody Diehl

Sanibel Island Beach Treasures (©Jody Diehl)

Head out to the wide sandy shore, and soon enough you’ll find out exactly what the “Sanibel Stoop” is.  If you aren’t doing the “Sanibel Stoop” in a matter of minutes, you are sure to see plenty of beachcombers who are! We are stoopers.  Other shellers will come armed with shelling baskets attached to long handles. (These scoops are used to reach down into the sandy shallows.) Some come equipped with handy-dandy surgical tweezers to pick up the mini sea shells that are often found at Lighthouse Beach. I’m convinced that all systems for shelling on the beaches of Sanibel Island are equally effective.

Sanibel Island Lighthouse at Christmastime (©Jody Diehl)

Sure, you’ll be told the best time to shell on the beaches of Sanibel Island is a couple days after a winter storm, during low tide, when the moon is full…  Those may indeed be the ideal conditions for shelling, but that never seems to matter.  We have always come home quite happy with new beach treasures from our seashell hunting any time of year, no matter the tide, no matter the  phase of the moon, and no matter which Sanibel Island beach!

We have found teeny-tiny miniature shells in heaps, and we have come across live whelks as large as Greg’s size 12 sandal moving across the sand. The most amazing thing about shelling on Sanibel Island’s beaches is the number of whole, unbroken shells you can find.  Lightning Whelks, Fighting Conchs, Olives, Augers, Turkey Wings, Moon Shells, Alphabet Cones, Scallops, Banded Tulips! The variety is amazing and the colors are so beautiful.

Be sure to have good a shell guide for identification purposes and check out the tide tables if you do want to hit low tide at the beach.  You won’t want to miss seeing the sunrise and sunset from the Gulf side of the island.  Those colors are absolutely gorgeous, too!

Have a great day beachcombing on Sanibel Island, Florida!  -J-

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37 Responses to “Sanibel Island, Florida: A Beachcomber’s Bonanza”

  1. Super Winner said

    Where are the shells THIS YEAR? We have visited twice and found ALOT fewer shells hardly any for our shell bags? Why ? Cycles? New Currents?

    • Jody said

      Aloha, there, Super Winner! We’re sorry to hear about your shelling difficulties (though a challenge can make things fun and interesting, too ^_^), and we’ve turned to our trusty copy of The Sanibel Shell Guide to find you an authoritative answer to your question. According to the guide:
      “The most ideal combination of conditions for shelling would be the following: an exceptionally low morning tide during a full moon, a north-west wind, two or three days after a rousing storm during the high season” (page 12). The “high season,” incidentally, is the winter. The book actually explicitly states that “good shells are hard to find” during the summer, which may have been your problem, depending on when you visited. Here’s hoping you get one or two of the above listed ideal conditions on your next Sanibel visit! – E.G.D (though I’m on Jody’s account)

      • Melissa said

        Hello! I have been to sanibel island several times! Can’t wait to go again soon. I have cancer and have a longing to just walk in the beaches down there and collect whatever the LORD puts in my pathway! Can’t wait! Melissa

  2. I have some family in Florida and have never been there yet! I would love to shell.

  3. We have a place on Marco Island, never been to Sanibel Island – now I think there’s a great reason to go! Thank you!!

  4. This sounds like a wonderful place. here on our beach in South Africa, there are hardly any shells, and nothing worth collecting at all.

    • Jody said

      Yes, Sanibel Island is known as one of the top three shelling beaches in the world. I’ve been to others that have been loaded with seashells but Sanibel has more variety that I’ve seen anywhere else! ~Thank you for sharing!

  5. Fay Oostra said

    Where’s the best place to stay on the Island if we come around Thanksgiving?

    • Jody said

      Good question! We have stayed at the Sanibel Siesta Condominiums and at a couple of properties with the Inns of Sanibel Collection. We were very happy at each place. Look around! Sanibel is full of wonderful choices. Anywhere on the island is a good pick as far as location is concerned! ~Thanks so much for stopping by & have a great day at the beach!

  6. Yes, Sanibel is just south of us, beautiful place…I stayed at the Plantation condos there with my sister several years ago. We tend to go to Englewood for a quick trip to the beach…not as many shells, but there are other things to find…horse teeth, turtle shells, sharks teeth, if you’re willing to walk down the beach a few miles north of Blind Pass.

    Your photo of all the beautiful shells looks just like the basket full of them in my dining room…I know all about the Sanibel stoop..and that’s one reason why I take photos at the beach now-a-days!! Ha!!

    Great post!!

    • Jody said

      Thanks so much! I’m so glad you have an equally beautiful stash of Sanibel beach treasures! I’m always up for a walk on the beach. Sometimes I turn around and cannot believe how far I’ve wandered. 🙂 Thank you for the great tip.

  7. mariannegv said

    Wow! You really have a beutifull treasure of Sanibel Island. Those shells are beautiful and have lovely colors. By the way, thanks for liking my photo post “Horizon”.
    Kind greetings,

  8. I have always wanted to make it down to Sanibel, but haven’t made it. Maybe one of these days.

  9. Joy said

    Can’t wait til April when we head to Florida…I am 63 and have ALWAYS wanted to go to Sanibel Island so this is going to be epic in my life! Thank you for the information….

  10. Is much sea glass found there?

  11. just got back. LOVE LOVE Sanibel Island !! our second trip.The shells are perfect

  12. Linda Sevier said

    Are there any motorhome parks nearby?

  13. Dustytoes said

    I look forward to finding shells on Sanibel Island again one day soon!

    • Jody said

      Me too! We were there a couple of days ago but it was not a fabulous beachcombing day. A wonderful beach day just the same!

  14. Amy Cooper said

    How are the shells this year? We are Coming from va

  15. becky said

    How’s the shelling so far this year? I’m going to be there the end of this month, the first time since I was a child, about 40 years ago!!!

    • E.G.D. said

      Wow!! I hope it was awesome. Sorry it took so long to approve your comment. WordPress moved the comments approval area and made these really difficult to find. As for whether it was good this year, isn’t the shelling great every year at Sanibel?

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