Shelling Tips for Sanibel Island Florida

Spending time on the beach isn’t complete without shelling, and Sanibel Island has a world-renown reputation for shells. The island has a unique east-west location that allows it to catch lots of sea treasures from the Gulf of Mexico. Five beaches welcome guests of all ages to hunt for their favorites while spending time with loved ones or taking a peaceful break. Here are our tips for shelling:

Sanibel Island Shelling

Photo: nikoretro

Safety First

Protective sunscreen and gear is essential to skin safety, so make sure you apply and reapply while outside. Other protective gear that will help keep you cool and safe include hats, sunglasses, and flip-flops or water shoes.

Start Early

You’ll find the most shells during low tide, especially early in the morning. Some suggest beginning before dawn to avoid the tide washing shells away and some friendly shelling competition.

Materials and Care

For a day full of shelling, you’ll need buckets, nets and scoops, which you can find at many nearby shops. Remember it is illegal to keep live shells, starfish and sand dollars, so if you accidentally catch one, gently return it to the water. Once you’re home, you’ll want to clean the shells with a 50/50 beach-water solution, and remove any unwanted material with a toothbrush or toothpick. To make shells shine, simply apply a little mineral or baby oil.

Sand dollars require a little different treatment. First, make sure it is not alive – if its tentacles move when gently touched, place it back in the water. If you find one that is no longer living, soak it in fresh water, changing it out regularly until it comes out clean, then soak in the 50/50 solution for no longer than 10 minutes. Once rinsed, let it dry in the sun for the perfect white coloring.

Shelling Trips

If you’re interesting in a professional experience, book a shelling tour with one of the area’s charters. Around a dozen fishing charters host half-day private shelling excursions that take you to the remote places only locals know. The tours provide groups hours of fun exploring, but check with your charter for specific details. Happy shelling!