Best Shelling Beaches on Sanibel Island

Bring a bag and scour this Florida shoreline for seafaring treasure.


It may surprise you, but Sanibel Island is actually made of shells-Mother Nature’s creation over thousands of years. When gardeners start digging and planting they often find whelks and clam shells. The east-west stretch of the island’s southern shore is like a shovel scooping up imports from the Caribbean and other southern waters, making all of the Gulf-side beaches excellent places to find seashells galore, especially at low tide. Here are five beaches from east to west where you can start your hunt.

Lighthouse Beach

Sanibel “stoopers” comb the island’s shores for seashells.  Photo: Lee County

Sanibel “stoopers” comb the island’s shores for seashells. Photo: Lee County

Sitting on the narrow tip of the island’s eastern end is Lighthouse Beach. Its shore wraps from San Carlos Bay to the Gulf of Mexico and is known for its abundance of smaller shells. A functioning historic lighthouse, plus a fishing pier and a nature trail through native wetlands, are more reasons to visit this beach.

Gulfside City Park

For a public beach, Gulfside City Park is usually not crowded. Walk a mile or so in each direction to look for shells, and if you’re lucky you’ll even find a sand dollar or two. Wooden boardwalks make it easily accessible, and the adventurous can follow the bicycle path to an old hidden cemetery.

Tarpon Bay Road Beach

Located mid-island, Tarpon Bay Road Beach has high sands, giving the beach a different look. A walk along the shore will turn up an assortment of seashells, as well as hotels and condos. However, keeping with city codes only low-rise buildings are allowed, so don’t expect any towering condominiums to cast shadows on the sunny beach. It’s also a dog- friendly spot so Fido is welcome to dig for shells too—as long as he’s on a leash.

Bowman’s Beach

A day’s bounty for the serious shell hunter.  Photo: Dave Meardon

A day’s bounty for the serious shell hunter. Photo: Dave Meardon

Pristine and quiet, this secluded white beach is sans hotels. Shuffling and digging through piles of shells is the major pastime here, followed by sunset viewing. Located up island on the northwest end, Bowman’s Beach offers a wider stretch of sand that lends itself to power walking if you can ignore all those gorgeous shells that seem to scream: “Pick me up.”

Blind Pass Beach

Considered the best spot to find larger shells, Blind Pass Beach is a favorite with serious shell seekers. You might even want to take a long-handled net or shell scooper and wade knee-deep into the water to scoop shells off the bottom. This usually turns up an interesting bounty, including an occasional live shell that has to be returned to the sea. The beach sits on the northwest edge of Sanibel, where a bridge crosses over to Captiva Island.