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Keep your eyes on the tide

Fort Myers Shelling

If the best souvenir is free, then in Southwest Florida, our beaches are some of the best in the world to find gifts from the sea - or better known here as seashells. From first-time scavengers to seasoned shellers (our local term for shell collectors), it’s easy to see why anyone can find amazing shells here, and why so many keep coming back for more.

Every day creates a shelling experience different from the day before. The change in tide or shoreline reveals new specimens, thanks to the currents from the Caribbean. With Sanibel’s east-west orientation, gentle waters push along the Gulf’s sloping sea floor, allowing many shells to arrive unharmed. Anytime is a good time to collect seashells, but often, the early morning at low tide is best. No one area is good all the time, and no collection worth viewing was ever found on one outing, so shell seekers assume the famous “Sanibel Stoop" or “Captiva Crouch" for a closer look at the endless shells blanketing the sand.   

Consider a private charter shelling cruise for more remote locations. You’ll also find the chance to enjoy a sunset and watch dolphins play in your boat wake during the trip from shore. Dozens of tour guides can help you find the perfect shell, but remember to leave live shells behind, as they are protected by state law. Most shellers here can expect to find lettered olives, lightning whelks, Florida fighting conchs, baby’s ears, worm shells, nauticas, scallops, coquinas and other bivalves. But one of the rarest finds – and the shell that keeps many returning – is the brown-speckled Junonia. Those who come looking for a particular shell often find so much more if they remain open to the surprises twinkling on the beach.


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