15 Best Shelling Beaches in Florida You Need to Visit

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If you are a shell lover this post is for you! The Sunshine State offers an abundance of beaches each with their own unique charm and a variety of shells waiting to be discovered. Florida has plenty of beaches for shelling and is known to have some of the best shelling spots in the world with many different types of shells including, olive shells, jingle shells, moon snails, conch shells and the rare Junonia shells.

Pro Tip: Make sure to bring a mesh bag for shelling. It makes collecting shells so much easier and allows you to easily rinse them before taking them home with you. I like a mesh bag without a metal zipper, because the saltwater eventually causes the zipper to stop functioning properly.

Identifying Popular Florida Shells

The Best Shelling Beaches in Florida

All of these beaches are perfect for beach combing and the thrill of uncovering treasures along the shore. Most of these beaches are along the Gulf of Mexico, which is known as the calmer and more laid back side of Florida and has stunning sunsets. The Atlantic coast is known for its lively neighborhoods, nightlife and waves making it popular amongst surfers. Regardless of what coast you visit, you will enjoy shell hunting on Florida’s sandy beaches. 

Remember NEVER take a live shell, sand dollar or starfish from the beach. Check all shells for sea life and gently toss back any shells with living creatures in them. 

Cayo Costa 

Located off the tip of Captiva, Cayo Costa State Park is only accessible via boat or kayak. With nine miles of untouched beaches, this park has no shortage of shelling, swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. You’ll see several shorebirds while you’re here, and you might even spot a porpoise, sea turtle, or manatee off the shore. Those who love to fish will find flounder, snook, trout, redfish, snapper, whiting, sheepshead, and tarpon within these waters. 

Captiva Island

Just north of Sanibel Island, Captiva Island provides white sandy beaches, turquoise water, and many water activities. There are over 250 kinds of shells on these shores – and Turner Beach, in particular, spanning five miles, has several colorful shells. 

In addition to shelling, you can enjoy boat tours showcasing wild dolphins, fishing from the shore, exploring the shops in downtown Captiva, or several fantastic beachside restaurants. 

Sanibel Island

Located 3 miles off the coast of Fort Myers, the Sanibel Island beaches boasts miles of beach, abundant wildlife, and lush foliage.

Because Sanibel Island is shaped like a curve, seashells are easily funneled to its sugary-white beaches, making it one of the best beaches for shell collectors. In fact, this island is often referred to as the “seashell capital of the world,” and it’s one of the best shelling beaches in Florida.

The best time to visit is at low tide or after a storm when the shoreline is sure to showcase rare shells. However, you’ll want to leave sand dollars, starfish, live shells, and sea urchins alone – they’re protected by law.

Shell Key Preserve

Encompassing 1,828 acres, this archipelago sits at the mouth of Tampa Bay along Florida’s Gulf Coast, serving as a sanctuary primarily for birds and diverse wildlife. Accessible only by boat, Shell Key is the largest landmass within this preserve, making it one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the St. Pete/Clearwater area. 

Surrounding the key, this preserve extends eastward to the Pinellas Bayway, featuring approximately ten small mangrove islands and shallow waters adorned with expansive seagrass beds that nurture several marine life species.

During the nesting season from May 1 to September 30, this preserve becomes a vital habitat for sea turtles. With restricted car access and stringent protective measures in place, visitors to Shell Key will get a rare opportunity to witness unspoiled Florida. While you’re here, you’ll find beautiful shells along the shore, with ample opportunities for observation and photography.

Caladesi Island State Park 

Unlike many shelling beaches, Caladesi Island is conveniently situated near urban areas, just west of Dunedin, and nestled between Clearwater Beach to the south and Honeymoon Island State Park to the north. Despite being an undeveloped beach, this island has several amenities, including restroom facilities, showers, and a concession stand offering a variety of food and beverages.

While you can get to this beach from Clearwater Beach by walking or wading during low tide, the only other mode of transportation to this island is via a 20-minute ferry ride. Because it’s somewhat remote, you’ll find beautiful shells on this shore!

Lovers Key State Park 

Located in Fort Myers, Lovers Key State Park is a collection of secluded barrier islands. While this area was formerly destined to become the site of luxury condos, these lands were eventually donated to the people of Florida so that everyone could enjoy its beaches, mangroves, and wildlife. 

In addition to excellent shelling opportunities, this park has over five miles of multi-use trails, like the Black Island Trail and the Eagle Trail. In the inner waterways, you may even catch a glimpse of a dolphin or manatee, along with over 40 species of birds.

Venice Beach

Also known as the “shark tooth capital of the world,” Venice Beach is just a short drive from Sarasota. Not only does this beach have beautiful seashells, but it also has several amenities, like a concession stand, lifeguards, volleyball courts, and boardwalks. It’s one of the best shelling beaches in Florida!

On this beach, you’ll get a great view of the Venice Public Fishing Pier, and chances are, you’ll probably see a dolphin or two. If you’re here between May and October, you can witness the numerous marine turtle nests along the beach. 

Marco Island

Only a short drive from Naples, Marco Island is the largest and only developed island of the Ten Thousand Islands. This island is the perfect blend of resort-style luxury and fishing village atmosphere. 

You can find some of the best shells on the island on the public South Beach or the rockier Tigertail Beach. Between Naples and Marco Island, you’ll also find Keewaydin Island – and you can actually go on a shelling cruise to this area starting from Naples!

The Ten Thousand Islands

Off the coast of Southwest Florida, Ten Thousand Islands are a chain of islands and mangrove islets mostly untouched and uninhabited – meaning you’ll find some incredible seashells along these beaches. 

These islands are also home to abundant wildlife, from loggerhead sea turtles nesting on summer nights to cuckoos and black-whiskered vireos calling from the mangroves in the spring. 

One of the best ways to explore this chain of islands is via kayak – the Sandfly Loop kayak trail is the most accessible, spanning only about five miles and starting from the Visitor’s Center.

Anna Maria Island

West of Bradenton, Anna Maria Island is a seven-mile-long barrier island along the Gulf Coast. Home to award-winning beaches, stunning Gulf sunsets, and that Old Florida vibe with colorful houses, beach shops, and a laid-back atmosphere, Anna Maria Island is one of the most beautiful places in Florida.

On the southern end, you’ll find Coquina Beach, the longest stretch of beach on the island. This is one of the best shelling beaches in Florida, perfect for swimming, hunting seashells, and finding sand dollars. 

Honeymoon Island State Park

As a string of barrier islands on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Honeymoon Island State Park features four miles of beaches, showcasing clear waters. While many of Florida’s untouched beaches are only accessible via boat, this state park can be reached by car.

With showers, a restroom, and a cafe, plus kayak, bicycle, and beach chair rental, you’ll have everything you need for a fun day of shelling and swimming. If you need a break from the beach, check out the 2.5 inland nature trail passing through a virgin slash pine forest. Birds and wildlife are also abundant in this park – you’ll find osprey, black skimmers, royal terns, sandwich terns, and Caspian terns. From May through October, sea turtles often nest on the beach here.

Cedar Key

Located halfway between Orlando and Tallahassee, Cedar Key is a walkable fishing village along Florida’s Nature Coast. Cedar Key has a very small beach with soft sand and a roped-off swimming area. Best known for its tidal pools, this beach is perfect for finding seashells, swimming, kayaking, and fishing. Walk around the village to explore its mom-and-pop resorts, shops, and quirky murals. 

Amelia Island

Only 30 minutes from Jacksonville, Amelia Island is off Florida’s northeast coast. In addition to its luxury resorts, golf courses, and sandy beaches, this area is known for its seashells and fossilized shark teeth you can find in the sand!

The northern part of the island, near Fort Clinch State Park, is the best place to find shark teeth and seashells. At this 1400-acre park, you can also explore the Civil War-era Fort Clinch. 

Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island’s main city, is also worth exploring while you’re here. You can walk around its historic district, museums, and lovely beach areas. Fernandina’s Main Beach Park has golden sand, shark tooth fossils, sea shells, and several restaurants.

Shell Island

Shell Island in Panama City Beach is one of the best places in Florida to truly connect with nature. With sugary white sand and seven miles of undeveloped beaches, this island is home to diverse wildlife. Deer, ghost crabs, bottlenose dolphins, and sea turtles are just a few of the animals you’ll find, in addition to shorebirds that nest in the dunes and coastal scrub forests. 

While this island is remote and untouched, it is easily accessible via the Shell Island Shuttle during the summer months. This shuttle service also offers watercraft rentals and bikes.

Navarre Beach

Situated 20 miles east of Pensacola, Navarre Beach is one of Florida’s true hidden gems. This sandy white shoreline stretches for 12 miles, showcasing stunning emerald green water – you’ll find plenty of seashells along this coast.

This beach was actually one of the places where the iconic film series Jaws was filmed. However, this area doesn’t feel touristy at all – just peaceful and relaxing!

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