Seashells and Florida beaches go together like hands in gloves. Seashells and sand dollars regularly wash up on beaches with the tides. At times, beaches on both of Florida’s coasts will be covered with shells, although some beaches have different shells from others. That means, of course, that every time you go shelling, you’ll likely be rewarded with something different.
The Ark of the Space Coast
One of the most common seashells in Florida is the Transverse ark shell. These distinctively shaped, nearly square-ribbed shells are the remnants of an edible clam and are in a variety of colors and sizes. A beach where the ark shell is common and plentiful is Cocoa Beach on Central Florida’s Space Coast on the Atlantic Ocean. On days when the surf is small and relatively calm, these and other shells can cover wide stretches of the beach, particular in the early afternoon during low tide.
Don't Expect Change With These Dollars
Sand dollars are marine creatures closely related to sea urchins that creep along the ocean floor seeking food. They are on nearly every beach in Florida. They are most abundant on the Gulf coast where ocean conditions are relatively calm. That makes the sugar-white sand beaches of the St. Petersburg Tampa Bay area a perfect place to go shelling. Beachcombing through the sand and the shallows of the beaches from Clearwater Beach all the way south to Fort DeSoto Park will net a bounty of not only sand dollars but seashells such as the tube-shaped variable worm shell, the spiraling cone-shaped Florida Cerith shell, a variety of ark shells, surf clam shells and many others.
Shell Key Isn't Just a Clever Name
A 10-minute boat ride from Passe-a-Grill beach near Fort DeSoto takes you to the unspoiled beaches of Shell Key, a long, narrow barrier island. Shell Key Beach is a part of the Shell Key Preserve. It’s an unpopulated island that features no amenities – not even water or restrooms – and parts contain inaccessible wildlife preserves. But on the sandy stretch of beach that is accessible, shell hunters can find a treasure trove of everything from sand dollars and arks shells to conch shells in a variety of colors and sizes.
Diving for Dollars
Shells and sand dollars are plentiful on a barrier island at the mouth of Tampa Bay called Egmont Key. This uninhabited island is home to Fort Dade, a long-abandoned Spanish-American War fortress. There are two methods of shelling popular on the island: beachcombing and snorkeling in the shallow waters just off the sandy beach. On the beach are sand dollars, clam shells and conches among others. But in depths of no more than 8 feet, you might also find an assortment of shark’s teeth. Egmont Key is only accessible by boat; boats regularly depart from Fort DeSoto.