Pages Navigation Menu

Collecting seashells on the beaches of Sanibel, Captiva and the world

Road Trip For Seashells In The Florida Keys

Clark snorkeling the Keys

Clark snorkeling the Keys

The Florida Keys aren’t known for beachcombing since seashells just don’t roll up on their beaches like they do here in Sanibel, Florida but they DO have shells……you just have to know where to dive or snorkel for them. This was our first time shell collecting in the Keys so we were very fortunate to have wonderful shell-crazy friends MurexKen and MurexAlice (who have been shelling the middle Keys for over 20 years) take us out in their boat to show us there are shells to be found in those vast aqua waters.

MurexKen with Queen Conch

MurexKen with a Queen Conch

Within an hour or so arriving in the Keys, we strapped on our fins, mask, snorkel and grabbed our shell bags then splashed into the water to seek and explore throughout the weekend. MurexKen found a beautiful live QUEEN CONCH to point out the amazing colors and to show us how many there were living in the grasses. Since it was alive, he put it back and told us there is a big fat fine for keeping a live one. Good!

We found lots of AMERICAN STAR-SHELLS……

American Star Shell

American Star Shells


Long Spined Star Shell

Long Spined Star Shell

…and some WEST INDIAN TOP SHELLS or also called MAGPIE SHELLS…

West Indian Top shell

West Indian Top shell

Clark found some absolutely perfect MILK CONCHS (MK cleaned these up for us- they look so amazing!)….

Milk Conchs

Milk Conchs

We snorkeled around the grasses…..( I think I might have to rename MurexKen as MermanKen- he’s a fish!)

Aqua man MurexKen

Aqua man MurexKen

We snorkeled around bridges….

Bridge Florida Keys

Bridge Florida Keys

…where MurexAlice found a nice SEA URCHIN…

MurexAlice with urchin

MurexAlice with urchin

We snorkeled around CORAL REEFS alongside QUEEN ANGELFISH ….

Queen Angel with coral

Queen Angel with coral

We snorkeled around sandy sea bottoms to see this SHORTNOSE BATFISH……weird!……

shortnose batfish

shortnose batfish

I spotted a potential keeper shell… is it empty? Please be empty!

snorkeling for seashells

snorkeling for seashells

Oh YaYah- Nobody’s home! He’s a little beat up but I can try to clean it up…..

Empty juvenile queen conch aperture

Empty juvenile queen conch aperture

I was so happy to find an empty QUEEN but mine couldn’t compare to MerMan MurexKen’s Queen Conch with no mollusk inside! Since the lip was broken off they were going to toss it back…..then offered it to us. Of course we’ll take it!

Empty Queen Conch

Empty Queen Conch

I cleaned up most of the shells with 1/4 bleach and water solution except another shell MurexKen gave us…… This outstanding HORSE CONCH with the brown “skin” or PERIOSTRACUM still on it- I love that! I just let that soak in a bucket of water with just a tad of bleach so it wouldn’t take the brown off. After I took this photo, I put it back in the bucket to soak some more to get the white “freckles” to soften up even more so I can try to rub them all off. Hey, and take a look at that little conch I found that was so beat up….. I think it’s coming along!

Queen conch, juvenile queen, horse conch

Queen conch, juvenile queen, horse conch

We normally have shells roll up to our feet in Sanibel so this was a fun trip for us to work a little harder (snorkeling’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it! ;) ) at seeing different shells in a different environment. The drive from Sanibel to Big Pine Key was 5 1/2 hours and worth every minute of it to spend time with MurexKen and MurexAlice.  It was a trip to remember for sure- Thank you both!

Map Sanibel to Big Pine Key

Map Sanibel to Big Pine Key

I have to show you one more fascinating shell….. MurexKen found this QUEEN HELMET a few days before we got there. To read more about his finds, he posted a trip report on Trip Advisor CLICK HERE.  I don’t think it gets any prettier than this…..

Queen Helmet Shell

Queen Helmet Shell

I took some of the photos with a new Fuji underwater camera with a movie feature that was pretty good  until it opened up underwater and flooded the camera. Needless to say, I took it back. The good news is….  before it flooded, I got a nice video- Click HERE to see it! Also, click HERE to see the DEER COWRIES Clark found.

Fish in Florida Keys

Tropical Fish in the Florida Keys


  1. Sorry we missed you while in Sanibel. The shirt exchange went smoothly…thanks!(I wore it today-my BD) Your trip to the Keys looked memorable for sure!

  2. WOW!! thanx

  3. WOW!!! I couldn’t stand the keys years ago when I lived in SE Florida. I’m spoiled living so close to Sanibel. Maybe I should reconsider.

  4. WOW!! Those are beautiful shells! and beautiful waters, too! Glad you had such a wonderful time!

  5. It’s amazing what different shells are to be found just a short distance from Sanibel. Thanks for sharing Ken and Alice with us! And how amazing and fun is it that the Internet has brought people together like this!

  6. OUTSTANDING! Thank you for the great report. Nice finds all the way around. How deep was most of the water you were snorkeling in?

  7. Wow those shells are amazing!! Thanks for sharing your snorkeling trip with us!! I love your blog!!

  8. wow!! those were some nice finds love the huge queen conch shell. pretty photos.

  9. Hey Pam, thanks for the glimpse into paradise. I have never seen most of these shells. I’m going to have to learn how to snorkel now. Glad you had a good time.

  10. Great pictures. Sounds like you had an amazing adventure with the “Dynamic Duo” :- ) MK and Alice are so nice and fun to be around. My claustrophobia won’t allow me to snorkle, so I’ll just experience it vicariously thru your photos. Thanks for sharing.

  11. What a great weekend….those shells are gorgeous! I love the queen conchs withe their graceful curves. I have a juvenile one I got in the Bahamas many years ago, but the lip doesnt compare to the ones you’ve found.
    That batfish is pretty wierd looking for sure.

  12. Awesome

  13. Pam, As always, your pictures are beautiful, and your comments are gracious. Alice and I very much enjoyed our time with you & Clark. Thanks for the nice post.

  14. Beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing again!

  15. Wow! Those shells are great! I love all of the different shells. Looks like it was a wonderful trip! Thanks for sharing the great photos.

  16. That helmet shell is so pretty. I have a piece of one found after a storm last winter on Caspersen Beach up in Venice. It’s gotta be awesome to go with shelling pros like MK & MA. Do you know if there are any sunrise tellins to be found in that area?

  17. AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you!!!

  18. It is so interesting to see how different the shells are on the other side of the state! Beautiful and amazing post as always! Did you know MurexKen & Alice before you started your blog? Wonderful, fun, interesting people from your post! Thanks again for sharing your experiences with us!!!

  19. Those American Star shells are so CUTE! I love them…maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to find one! Thanks for the wonderful post, Pam. Looks like you had a wonderful time with MA and MK. Thanks again for all the educational, fun info and pictures!

  20. Thanks for letting us tag along on your trip! I have always wondered what shells one could find down in the Keys. Those conchs are great and I just love the wonderful texture and creamy color of those American star shells! Thanks again for taking the time to do this. I know how much I look forward to your posts, and I’m sure many others do too. It’s like having that feeling of really being there for a few moments!

  21. Pam,
    Between you and MurexKen (via Trip Advisor) I’ve seen so many beautiful shells and learned so much. My granddaughter will be itching to see these pictures. She’s 15 and is wanting to be a marine biologist. I’m backing her all the way!! Thanks so much for all your posts.

  22. Love those American Star shells!

  23. Wow, great finds and great trip. One of those American Star Shells looked like a little wedding cake.

  24. I agree, the star shells are beautiful, not to mention the conchs! What a treasure trove! Thanks for sharing.

  25. Loving the photos of Keys shells! Here in the Dania Beach/Hollywood area of Florida we see a lot of those shells, too. No milk conchs, though, lots of hawk wings. I found a zillion milk conchs in Eleuthera in the Bahamas. I still love Sanibel more than any other place in the world and can’t wait for my next sneaky trip across the swamp! :-D

  26. We love the Keys, the snorkeling there is great…I do more fish watching than shell collecting but it’s always a fun time….

  27. Wow – amazing. I am speechless. In all my trips to The Keys, I never knew there were shells. I have to send you a email as I am very curious on how deep that water was. I have a house right near Big Pine Key – in Summerland Key. I want to try and go shelling next time I am down. That looks so exciting. What a wonderful trip you had!!

  28. The Keys is a fun place to spend on the water…thanks for sharing!

  29. soooo jealous! but glad you had a wonderful time….

  30. Glad you captured such great photos for the rest of the world to see. I grew up in south Miami and went to the Keys all the time, so these waters are home to me. A fun tidbit: there used to be an old beat-up sign on Card Sound Road just before Alabama Jack’s that read, “Slow Boat Ramps.” What it meant to tell you was to slow down, boat ramps ahead. With salt water running in my veins, I could never leave Florida. You’ve reinforced my love of this wonderful state. Thank you!!!


  32. Enjoyed reading your trip report. The American Star Sells are beautiful–great texture. Like I always say… the best shells are in the water!

  33. Hi Pam, I was trying to identify a shell I’d found on Sanibel years ago and I had confused it with a Scotch Bonnet. Turns out it is a junvenile Queen Helmet, just over a inch or so long. According to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum these young shells are rarely found on the Sanibel beaches! Kinda cool to have found one. Love your shelling blog, it’s a fantastic escape during the work day. T.

  34. I’m thinking of taking my son (who loves to go shelling) to the Florida keys this coming summer. We have been to Sanibel a couple of times and love it there but would like to try something new. Do you have any good suggestions for where we can go snorkeling and looking for shells?
    By the way, we always enjoy reading your new posts. Especially the junionia finds this past year. We have fun shelling here in Hawaii but there definitely isn’t much around here to find. Thanks for your time!

  35. Question folks. in the ISLAND of key west which beaches are best for sea shelling? I have only been on the Fort Zachary taylor beach. I just bought complete snorkeling kit and want to snorkel I shallow waters for seashells. Ideas anyone? Thanks Would be willing to go ‘up the road’ at least 10 miles from key west if necessary. Is Bahia Honda any good? Thanks

    • I would suggest Bahia Honda. We found shells there when we went and I just saw pictures of great shells from someone else that shelled there recently. Good luck and let us know how you do!

      • My husband & I found some wonderful shells at Bahai last January. The prize find being a sea biscuit!! We also found a really old bottle.

  36. We are spending 10 days on Sugarloaf Key starting March 3. Where would We find the best shelling in shallow waters or who would be the best boat to hire to go shelling with ?? Thanks so much for any help

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This