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

Gulfside City Park Low Tide Seashells

double jewel box

Magnificent seashell treasures can be found on Sanibel when so much of the beach is exposed during very low tides like this morning at Gulfside City Park.

seashelling sanibel

Shelling at a really low tide gives you several beach combing options as well. The high tide wrack line can produce new shells to sift through but I always feel like I  can look through those shells on my walk back since it will take some time for the tide to come back in to cover those up.

high tide wrack line sanibel

So I search the tidal pools and areas of the beach that are newly exposed at the shore line which will be covered up quickly when the tide starts to come in. That’s where I found an ANGEL WING and DOUBLE ATLANTIC GIANT COCKLE..

angel wing double cockle

Oodles of juvie FIGHTING CONCHS…

seashells to collect on Sanibel

During these low tides, shells (MOLLUSKS) may still be alive or have live HERMIT CRABS in them so you have to look very carefully not to take any shells with live creatures in them. So when I saw this upside down SHARK’S EYE , I still had to check to make sure there was no live animal inside. Nope! Nobody was home! A keeper!

sharks eye seashell

Along with the SHARK’S EYE, I kept this gorgeous multicolored CALICO SCALLOP, double JEWELBOX and a pretty orange-ish TRUE TULIP…

pams favorite seashells of day

Speaking of SHARK’S EYES, Jeanne from South Carolina found this aaawesooome one…

sharks eye moon shell sanibel

She and her daughter Rachel were finding their shell loot by combing the tide pool.

rachel jeanne seashelling sanibel

These were Rachel’s faves she found…

assorted seashells sanibel rachel

Did you spot that orange JINGLE near the tip of her finger? It has both valves! Yes, it’s a double JINGLE! She said it was just laying in the very shallow water in the tidal pool not attached to anything. I rarely see both sides together without having to pry it off a PEN SHELL. Cool! Here’s a better view…

double jingle shell sanibel

I also met Shannon from new Hampshire who collected a whole bag of goodies…

shannon new hampshire seashells

Her favorites included a PAPER FIG…

seashells shannon sanibel

Further down the beach, I met Mary from Charlottesville, VA …

Mary seashells sanibel

I was super excited to see she picked up part of a FULGURATOR OLIVE. She had no idea what it was but knew it was special enough to keep it. The same goes for the THORNY OYSTER (the bivalve with the orange around the edge). I rarely see those shells.

seashells crab shell

If you want to see exactly what it looked like on my shelling walk this morning,  clicking the next video image!


  1. Very nice finds…

  2. Wow, some great finds! I’ve never seen a double jingle before; excellent!

  3. THANKS for the video ! so cool !

  4. Hi Pam,
    Awesome variety of shells on the beach! Did you pick up the first conch you showed in the video? It looks a bit distorted – concave on the right side with some interesting ridges – and it would be neat to see it from the underside. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Janet, im so sorry but I didn’t keep that first fighting conch… Or any of them. As much as I love them and admire their beauty I have to be very selective on what I bring home now – I have just enough to make me happy. If I bring too many home, I feel too guilty since I have so many already. Fighting conchs have been my guilty pleasure since most of them are so unique but I enjoy seeing somebody else find them to admire them much more than letting it sit with the hundreds of others I have. Yes, some days I still can’t help but bring one home but I am really much happier with quality instead of quantity. But that doesn’t keep me from snapping of photo of those awesome ones like today! Lol see? There was more than one person that got to enjoy that conch beauty! :)

      • I had a feeling you didn’t pick it up because you are so generous, but I had to ask. I recently re-read the book “Sanibel Kaleidoscope” which has great photos of the Fighting Conchs that the author, Harlan. E. Wittkopf, has collected. I think I saw the book for sale in one of the Sanibel bookstores not too long ago. Very cool!

  5. Thanks for the relaxing two-minute vacation! :)

  6. We were at Gulf Side City Park late this morning, and based on all these pictures now I know why we didn’t find any shells, they were already found! Of course it didn’t help that we arrived several hours past the low tide…. We started chatting with a woman about shelling, and naturally the conversation made it’s way to and it turned out we were talking with Susan H. It was such a pleasure to meet her, and just like you Pam, she very generously shared her time and knowledge with us (and at one point even her reading glasses so that I could see the micro shells she had gathered)!

    • Hi Sue S and Ken S! It was very nice to meet you and… to say hello again this morning (Saturday)!

      As you know, I found a neat little live chiton that I showed to Sue yesterday, and I found another live one a little bit bigger this morning:

      I also got to see all kinds of really amazing other live sea creatures: two different species of sea cucumber, a couple of different cool sea worms, amazing sand-dwelling anemones, as well as small live tellins moving around.

      Riding the hotel’s “free” bike from Blue Dolphin to Gulfside Park is not bad, it takes a little more than 30 minutes.

  7. Hi

    I just got back from a vigil in my town in CT & thank you Pam for blogging today. It helped….a lot.!


    Mary Ann

  8. Loved the jewel box . But I must say that it reminded me of the infamous Three Stooges bit with
    Curley eating the soup that kept chattering away as he lifted the spoon. It kind of trembled in your hand like it was chattering. Haaaa! but I give away my age to remember that one. :) I always love hate the severe low tides. I find beaties, but they are always occupied by the hermits, and I have to pass them up.
    great finds!

  9. Hi again Pam! We are finally in gorgeous Sanibel as of yesterday afternoon. Feels like paradise. Went shelling this morning and found amazing shells! I was really proud of my worm shell (mostly because you always say you like these) and my alphabet cone! Can’t wait to see what else the Gulf holds in store for us!

    ~Marielle (NJ)

  10. Pam – you passed up a beautiful pen shell-do you realize I have to wait for a -4 or -5 tide to even find these. have several in collection from babies to hugh. I spend hours cleaning them. some are gtransparent and some have loads of wonderful barnacles. At last I see someone in a jacket and it looks cold today. I thought you lived in continual sunshine (l)
    We go b ack to Puerto Penasco on 12/27 , but I think our shelling days are over. the fisherman are bringing in boat filled to the brim with shells. Police try to stop and give tlckets to them, but here the ocean is free and there is no control. So sad.
    your emails are a highlite to my day. Thank you.
    Janet in AZ

    • HI Janet, I have been here for 10 days so far and it has been very nice, with highs in the mid to high 70s and low 80s, sometimes humid, sometimes dry. We had a couple of storms at night, but no rain during the day.

      The reason you see someone in a windbreaker is that the shellers often get up before dawn and hit the beach at first light, and that early in the am it can be cool enough to need an extra layer. It can get a little cool here at this time of year at night. When I say cool I mean too cold to go out in shorts and a tank top! :)

  11. Love this blog, makes the PA winters almost bearable til my next Sanibel trip !

    Can I get suggestions for the best shelling book for the Sanibel or Florida region. I learn so much from Pam but would love a reference book to refer to as I hunt Thanks !

    • Hello Parker. Unfortunately there is no one book available that has all the Sanibel shells in it, although there are several that cover the Florida region. However, southeastern Florida has a little bit different fauna from southwestern Florida

      I usually recommend the illustrated database on the BMSM website:

      I know this is not a book exactly, but that database has in it every shell that you are likely to find in your searches in Southwest Florida, even the teeny tiny ones, and the illustrations are very nice.

      There is a good, not very expensive little book for Florida bivalves, written by Trish Hartmann, that does not include every species but is nonetheless pretty good:

      So far no-one has published an equivalent book for the gastropods.

      Of course, which book out there you might really like depends on how much info you want. Pam is coming out with a really nice shell identification sheet which covers some of the most interesting shells. I will let her tell everyone about it when she is ready to!

  12. Hi Pam,

    The drill we were talking about yesterday? You mentioned Tampa drill but I think it’s the Gulf Drill:

    Tampa drill:

    Gulf oyster drill:

    I have found quite a lot of the Gulf oyster drill but I haven’t found any Tampa drills at all. Have you found any?

    By the way, I had a great time this a.m. at Gulfside City Park beach! I came back loaded with micros! Tell Clark thanks!

    I Intend to go there tomorrow am too, but I hope there will be some fresh new material up on top, as I have picked the current material more or less clean! Ha ha. :)

    Also, Pam, if you have any bivalves you would like me to ID, or any thing else I could do for you or help you with, please let me know. I am leaving this coming Friday morning, and I am seeing Jose on Thursday morning.

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