How to Find Seashells on the Beach

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Searching for seashells along a sun-lined, sandy beach is a coastal pastime enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Even the most avid seashell collectors, however, have trouble finding large, intact gems straight from the ocean floor. With a little knowledge and a lot of patience, though, you can unearth some of the best shells your collection has seen.

Things You'll Need

  • Bag
  • Swimwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Grab your plastic bag and head to the beach's shoreline. Walk along the point where the shore stops, picking up and bagging any shells you find.

  • Observe areas that seem to be pushing debris -- seaweed, trash, rocks or seashells -- toward the shore. Head to that area and wait for the tide to come in. Pick up any shells that wash up.

  • Walk a little deeper into the water to see what lies on the bottom of the ocean floor, going in only about ankle deep. This will allow you to grab shells you see before they're picked up by the motion of the tide. Act quickly if you see a shell, though, so you can catch it before the tide comes in.

  • Reach to the bottom when the water is muddy or murky, or when the reflection is too bright to see to the bottom. Feel for foreign objects. If you feel a lot of different textures, there's a good chance they may be rocks and seashells. Sweep your hand along a few inches of the ocean floor, scooping up what you come in contact with.

  • Go through the items you've grabbed. Finding seashells of any type, small or large, may indicate the presence of more below. If you find only small, pebble-like rocks and lots of sand, move on to a different area of the beach.

  • Test various spots in the shoreline, sticking your foot a few inches into the water not too far from where the shore ends. See if many items pass under your foot, aside from sand, when the tide comes in. If you have seashells or rocks trapped just underneath the sand below your foot, the current from the shoreline activity will forcefully try to pull them toward the beach.

  • Look around the beach, keeping an eye out for children who may also be collecting seashells. Move to areas closer to them where shells may be abundant. Just don't completely invade their territory or take shells that you see others reaching for. Beachside etiquette is especially important when it comes to children.

  • Visit out-of-the-way or deserted areas of the beach, which may be untapped resources for shells.

  • Search the various crevices and cracks of any rock formations that extend into the ocean. Shells can become trapped in these holes when the current breaks on the rocks. Shells may also be hidden in seaweed or in other items that wash ashore.

Tips & Warnings

  • The best time to find seashells (in the United States, anyway) is typically December through February, between late winter and early spring. Because it's typically cold and off-season for tourists, fewer visitors frequent beaches during these months.
  • High tide also tends to bring in a lot of shells, so be sure to visit the shoreline after a big storm or high-tide warning.
  • Use common sense when plunging your hand or foot into the water. If you're at a beach known for jellyfish or other animals that frequent the shoreline, reach in when the waters are calm or where you can see the bottom once the tide settles.
  • Make sure the bag you choose for storing your shells will hold the weight of the shells. Try not to swing the bag or knock it against other items. This may damage the shells inside.
  • Wash shells you collect once you get home to remove any remnants of sea creatures. Soak your shells in a bowl of water with bleach or other detergent that won't harm their texture or color. Use a toothpick, hook or even a shucking device for shells with lots of crevices.
  • Wear beach-friendly footwear if the beaches are rocky or if you see any signs of broken glass.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images
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