For serious beachcombers, the most important thing about shelling is to know the Tides, as the best shells are found… just before low tide.
Another opportune time is after a storm – advancing cold fronts tend to push water away from the beach and tropical storms churn up the tides bringing shells ashore like Left Handed Whelks, Augers and Coquinas.
Go HERE to identify shells in our area.
Anna Maria Island
Below are three excellent locations for shelling:
- Park at the pier near Alamanda Road and North Shore Drive and walk counter clockwise around the tip of the island. Although shelling can be sporadic, it is a very short walk and you might enjoy seeing the numerous starfish.
- Park near the gulf front park at Gulf Blvd. and Palm Ave. This is the best…especially at low tide when a sandbar extends out into the Gulf a few hundred yards.
- Take the ferry to Egmont Key and pick shells until you can’t carry anymore!
If you see stakes in the sand with iridescent pink tape, it’s probably a Turtle nest. Mote Marine Lab enlists volunteers from May through October to assist with nest count and protection. More Florida turtle information can be found at the bottom of this page.
It’s referred to as “the private island” because public beach access is extremely limited.
One lone public beach means you can enjoy relative solitude by staking out a patch of sand that feels miles from your nearest neighbor.
The quietude of the Key allows wildlife to abound. Here you’ll find abundant shore birds including pipers, heron, egret, petrels, gulls, pelican, skimmers, and tropicbird. Comb jellies, king crab, miniature hermit crab, sand crab, and sea snails are common. It’s not unusual to spot pods of dolphin fishing in the surf and sea turtle nests protected by tape and stakes along the shore.
Shelling on Longboat is world-class. You’ll find everything from sand dollars and augers to spiny jewel box, lightning whelk, and olives.
In addition to Whitney Public Beach, there are Access Points along Gulf of Mexico Drive for parking the car and taking a stroll.
Extending from Sarasota Bay around Big Pass to the Gulf of Mexico is South Lido Beach Park. This oasis of natural beauty is prolific with wildlife, especially along the bay.
Shore birds nest on mangrove islands, manatees and their calves graze the sea grass beds (May through October) and dolphins enjoy the protected waters while raising their young. Caution should be taken if shelling in Big Pass as currents can be fairly strong.
While America’s #1 beach, Siesta Beach enjoys great popularity with a sand like confectioners sugar, it’s hard to find good shells.
The best places for shelling are at Turtle Beach and the public access on North Shell Road.
The beach at North Shell road faces Lido Key and Big Pass. It is here where sandbars produce sand dollars, augers, spiny jewel box, lightning whelk, and olives at low tide. Due to currents, caution is advised.
At the south end of the island is Turtle Beach where the shore is loaded with shells. Shore birds, dolphin and osprey frequent these fish laden waters and shells are quite plentiful.
The two public beaches and parks of Casey Key have strived to retain a natural setting for area wildlife. The Intra-coastal waterway is ideal for fishing, kayaking and making friends with “Beggar” the dolphin, who hangs out at Albee Bridge. Both beaches face the Gulf and are peppered with shells.
How about adding a few fossilized shark teeth to your collection? Venice’s Caspersen Beach is ideal for shelling and finding a few pointy Megalodons. Rocky outcroppings are interspersed with light gray to patches of nearly black sand at water’s edge. This is caused by fossilized material mixed with sand and shell. Storms frequently wash this sand into the ocean freeing the fossilized teeth to be scooped up by basket wielding beach-goers.
The pristine shore of South Venice Beach is only attainable by ferry. Passes are (now) available to day trippers for the four minute ride across Lemon Bay. Dolphin and Manatee are frequent visitors and shells and shark teeth are plentiful along this seven mile stretch of sand.
When asked where “Florida’s least crowded beaches” might be… enchanting Manasota Key comes to mind! Just off the coast of Englewood between Sarasota and Fort Myers on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Manasota Key is 7 miles in length with four expansive beaches.
Beach dunes covered with sea oats slope to the gulf waters. Behind the dunes, seagrape trees often grow in dense thickets. Easily recognized by their large, round leaves, the trees offer a bounty of edible fruit in winter for green parrots and other winged friends. Mangrove trees are abundant on the bay side offering refuge for shore and wading birds. Ospreys and brown pelicans are common and magnificent frigate-birds and bald eagles occasionally soar above.
Shell seekers walking the beach often find sharks’ teeth and skeletal fragments from ancient geologic times.
The highest concentration of sea turtle nests in the state of Florida is on Manasota Key. If visiting in summer months, Stump Pass Beach provides informative ranger-led turtle and nature walks.
Sea Turtles Found in Florida
Green Turtle – Named for the greenish color of its body fat, this turtle is listed as endangered in Florida. Most green turtles nest in the Caribbean, but up to 2000 nests can be found in Florida each year. For centuries, these turtles were hunted for their meat that was made into soup. Green turtles graze on the vast beds of sea grasses found throughout the tropics and are the only sea turtles that eat plants.
Hawksbill Turtle – This turtle is a relatively small turtle, and has been hunted to the brink of extinction for its beautiful shell. Once relatively common in Florida, these turtles now rarely nest here. They feed on sponges and other invertebrates and tend to nest on small, isolated beaches.
Leatherback Turtle – This endangered turtle is the largest and most active of the sea turtles. Up to eight feet in length, these huge turtles have a rubbery dark shell marked by seven narrow ridges that run the length of their back. These turtles feed on jellyfish and soft-bodied animals. Ingestion of plastic bags and egg collecting are reasons for mortality and population declines. About 200 leatherback nests are recorded in Florida each year.
Kemp’s Ridley – The rarest and smallest of all, this endangered turtle feeds on crabs and shrimp. They nest on a single stretch of isolated beach along the Gulf Coast of Mexico.
Loggerhead Turtle – This is the most common sea turtle in Florida. It is classified as a threatened, but not endangered species. Named because of its large head, that can measure up to ten inches wide, it’s powerful jaws crush clams, crabs and encrusted animals on which it feeds. As many as 68,000 loggerhead nests have been found in Florida each year.
- Florida beaches are home to 80% of Loggerhead turtles in the U.S.
- Turtles can migrate thousands of miles, but usually return to lay their eggs on the same beach where they hatched
- Sea turtles have existed for over one hundred million years
- It can take 15 – 50 years before a sea turtle is capable of reproducing
- Scientists estimate that only 1 in 1000 to 10,000 babies will survive to adulthood
- Sea turtles live their entire life in the ocean. The only time they come ashore is when the female lays her eggs.
- Sea turtles are reptiles. They breathe air, and can hold their breath for long periods of time.
- When its time to sleep, a loggerhead will wedge under a rock close to the shore, or take a snooze while floating on the surface of deep water
- Hatchlings weigh less than one ounce and are only two inches long. Adults can grow over 3 feet long and weigh 200 to 300 pounds!
- The nest temperature during incubation determines a sea turtle’s sex. Boys like it cool – Girls like it hot.
- Sea turtles have great underwater vision, but are nearsighted out of the water.
- Although sea turtles do not have external ears, they are capable of hearing low frequency sounds and vibrations
- Sea turtles use their strong jaws to crush a diet of crabs, shrimp, mussels, and jelly fish.