If the weather's wet and cloudy on a Florida beach holiday, there's no need to fret. Sometimes there really is gold at the end of the rainbow. In the early days of the colonization of the Americas, many ships carrying valuable cargo were lost in storms and hurricanes along Florida's coast. Jewelry, precious ornaments and silver and gold coins are a few of the shipwrecks' riches that beachcombers and metal detectorists have discovered along the shoreline.

Golden Treasure on Florida's Beaches

Beautiful golden sand isn't the only treasure to be found on Florida's beaches. During the eighteenth century, 11 Spanish galleons ships heavily laden with coins, jewelry and other precious items were shipwrecked on the coast of Florida. Ever since then, the ocean has been washing the treasure ashore. The total value of the lost treasure has been estimated in the millions of dollars, and each storm that passes brings more of the remnants of the cargoes to the shoreline.

Regulations and Laws

In most cases, discovering ancient gold on a public beach in Florida is a lucky windfall to the finder. In the United States., finders are keepers when it comes to old coins and other antiquated "treasure trove" items. Additionally, under Florida state regulations, metal detecting and other forms of searching are allowed between the edge of the dunes and the high tide mark on public beaches. Searching the dunes and the water is prohibited, however. On beaches that belong to state or federal parks, sanctuaries, preserves or military installations, check with the park rangers or property managers before searching the sand. At the same time, ask who keeps any items found in case removing them isn't allowed. On private property, always ask permission of the owner before entering the land, or trespass laws apply.

Where to Look for Gold

The 11 Spanish galleons that were wrecked in the early 1700s went down in the area from Cape Canaveral to Stuart, making the east-central Florida beaches most likely to yield results. Sebastian Inlet is at the center of what's known as the Treasure Coast, and prime sites for searching for gold stretch several miles north and south. Vero Beach, Bonsteel Park, Melbourne Beach, Aquarina Beach, Wabasso Beach and Pepper Park Beach are places worth searching.

How to Search for Gold

Simple beachcombing might result in a lucky find, but most avid treasure hunters use special equipment like metal detectors to help them. Search after a storm, if possible, when the ocean may have delivered new riches, and investigate the soft sand at the high tide mark. Another good place to look for gold is areas of a beach that have thick deposits of shells, which may have arrived on strong currents running along the ocean bed. Look for the shine of metal, or dark, misshapen or unusual objects. Gold and silver coins could be inside a container made of silver or other metal that's oxidized and been crushed by water or sand.

Equipment that can help in the search for gold includes a simple garden scoop, a sand sifter, a pail and a metal detector. Basic model metal detectors sell for around $100, and top-of-the-range products cost more than $1000. When using a metal detector, hold the scanning part of the machine just above the sand and swing it slowly. Work methodically to avoid going over the same ground twice or missing areas. If the detector signals a find, dig a small hole with a garden scoop and use the detector to check if the find is still in the ground or the removed clump of sand. Break apart the sand to uncover the item or put it through a sifter. Fill a pail with sea water to clean the item, and refill the hole with sand to prevent it from becoming a safety hazard.

Respecting Others and the Beach

Respecting other beach users and the environment makes searching for gold on Florida beaches a pleasure for everyone. If metal detectorists are indulging in their hobby, they probably don't want to be disturbed, so wait until they're clearly taking a break before going over for a chat. Similarly, people playing sports won't appreciate absent-minded treasure seekers wandering into their games. As well as always filling in any holes, leave the beach as you found it, taking away any trash and keeping only the discovered treasures.