Top 10 when Visiting Sanibel Island for Seashells


Do you want an isolated place to get away, with a tropical feel but still easy to get to? Consider visiting Sanibel Island. This quiet Island is known for its beautiful seashells that wash ashore at all times of the day. Sanibel and Captiva extend like a bent finger into the sea, curling into the Gulf of Mexico and into the path of storms. This island is on par with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, having more than 200 species of seashells; one of the Earth’s largest natural selections.

Also something to admire is the emphasis residents have made to preserve this treasured piece of land.  And no stoplights! You will see local police directing traffic at peak times of the day. No large chains; no McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts. They heavily support local business, and those businesses thrive! So, what are the top 10 tips when visiting Sanibel and Captiva Islands.. specifically for shelling?

1)     Captiva Cruises: Captiva Island is just a short drive from Sanibel and is known for being even more private and just as beautiful. Cayo Costa State Park, located next to Captiva Island, has nine miles of beautiful beaches only accessible by boat. This is an ideal spot for shelling, hiking and biking. Captiva Cruises manages a ferry from Captiva to this location and it’s number one on my list when I return.

2)    The best season for shelling is during the winter months. December and January are great, but February and March are the perfect due to the extreme tides.

3)     Check the tides before you begin shelling because the hour before and after low tide is best.

4)    The winds have an effect on shell patterns, too. Northwest winds are best for Captiva and southwest winds are great for the lighthouse end of Sanibel. Shelling after a storm with west winds gives the best results anytime.

5).    Shelling during a New or Full moon reveals some of the most amazing finds because of the tidal effect.

6)     Bring a bucket or net bag and a scoop to collect shells. Shuffle your feet in the sand to expose partially hidden mollusks and scare fish away.

7)    The general rule is that the smaller shells are found on the Lighthouse end of the island chain and larger ones at the Captiva and North Captiva end.

8).    Jujonia shells are the islands most coveted shells and anyone who finds one get their picture in the local paper. It’s milky chamber is covered with brown spots.

9)     Watch for gray fins rippling through the waves to catch a glimpse of some bottlenose dolphins. They generally travel in groups of 2-6, visiting the island shores and waters to feed. Chances are you will see a pod while swimming or boating.

10)     It is illegal to take “live” shells, sand dollars and starfish from the ocean so don’t unless you want a fine.

To clean the shells, put them in a 50\50 bleach and water solution for a few hours or overnight. Remove any barnacles or other matter with a pick or a toothbrush. Then wipe them with mineral or baby oil to shine.

And BAM! My favorite finds using these tips, except that I went in July.

"And the day came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom" – Anaïs Nin

Skip to toolbar