Island famous and know for The Sanibel "Stoop"
Island and Captiva Island have earned their reputations as the Shell
Islands. The Islands are actually made out of shells, like
some magnificent work of shell art created over hundreds of
thousands of years. When island residents dig gardens in their backyards, they
find conchs, whelks, scallops and clam shells often
shelling, of course, is found on the beaches of Sanibel
Captiva Island. The islands rank tops in the world for
their shelling because of their unique geography. Sanibel
Island does the twist
as it twists along the coastline among a plethora of other
more orderly, straight-and-narrow barrier islands. The east-west
shape of Sanibel Island's south end acts like a shovel scooping up
all the sea shells that the Gulf of Mexico imports from the Caribbean and
other southern areas. The abundance and variety of shells
have made Sanibel Island and Captiva Island shell-obsessed.
Visitors come from all over the world, drawn by the amount of
sea shells. Visitors gingerly walk along the sands doubled over in a
stance that's been dubbed the Sanibel Stoop. Every March,
visitors and Islanders gather to compare and appreciate shell collections and
shell art at the annual Sanibel Shell Fair & Show.
Throughout the year, shell shops sell seashells by the
seashore (and by the thousands). Shells are the dominant
motif in island decor and boutique gifts. You'll find
everything from finely crafted "shell igrams" to lucite
toilet seats with seashells lacquered in. (No home should be
Where to Shell
All of the
Gulf-side shelling beaches from the Lighthouse to North
Captiva. Many people say that the best shelling is closer to
Bowman's Beach (Western End of Sanibel Island) as there
aren't as many resorts or hotels making that area less
When to Shell
Typically at low tide
when the seashells are more exposed, especially at low
spring tides (at full and new moons) and after Gulf storms
have driven the shells up the Gulf onto our shelling
How to Shell
a bucket or net bag and scoop. Wear water shoes and shuffle to
expose partially hidden mollusks and to scare away rays.
Stingrays are easily frightened and rarely sting "shellers"
if they follow the simple "shuffle rule."
What to Expect
many types, sizes and varieties are found on the Sanibel
Island and Captiva Island shelling beaches. As a
general rule the smaller seashells are found on the
Lighthouse end of the island chain and the larger ones
nearer Captiva and North Captiva. Conch, Junonia, Lightning
Whelk, Cockle, Scallops, Murex, Tulip, Olive, Coquina, are
among the species you may expect to find.
Please note that it is
illegal to take live shells on Sanibel Island and Captiva
the privacy of non-public shelling beaches. Use your scoop
to dredge deeper sections and drop-offs.