Sanibel Island Shelling

Shelling on Sanibel Island - The SanibelIsland.comSanibel Island famous and know for The Sanibel "Stoop"

Sanibel 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 perfectly intact. 

The best shelling, of course, is found on the beaches of Sanibel Island and 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 without one!) 

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 populated.

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 beaches.

How to Shell
Bring 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
Shells of 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.

Shelling Tips
Please note that it is illegal to take live shells on Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. Respect the privacy of non-public shelling beaches. Use your scoop to dredge deeper sections and drop-offs.

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