Sea Shelling on Anna Maria Island

| January 17, 2023

Have you ever been on a beach vacation and thought to yourself “I wish this would never end”? You’re not the only one. Unfortunately, those trips do have to end, but there are ways to keep those memories front and center. One of those ways is to spend some time sea shelling while staying on Anna Maria Island.

The gulf coast of Florida is world-renowned for its shelling. Sanibel and Captiva Islands, just to the south of Anna Maria, are usually named on any worldwide list. They are also home to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. Anna Maria Island, however, is also very highly ranked. Visit Florida, the state’s tourism agency, ranked Anna Maria as one of the top 5 choices in the state. USA Today agreed, also naming our island as a top shelling spot.

There is a Method

Shelling, sometimes called beachcombing, can appear to be just a random walk along the beach. For some, that is the case. More serious collectors schedule their times in accordance with tides. Many of us fall somewhere in between those two points on the scale.

In general, low tide is one of the best times to try your hand at sea shelling. Low tide gives you more area to search for your perfect keepsake. Times after storms are often productive. The best times are low spring tides during a full moon or new moon periods.

Knowing what you are looking for will help too. In any case, one of the fun parts about shelling is that each day brings something new. Each time the tide comes in, it can bring new and different species. Different shells and treasures move differently. While shells are often best found around the area where the sand and water meet, things like shark teeth tend to tumble and will probably be in the water portion.

There are Laws

It’s easy to think that you can pick up anything washing in along the beach, but that may not be the case. In many cases, these are living creatures and their conservation is important. Anna Maria Island is located in Manatee County. According to the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC), “in Manatee County, you may not harvest or possess more than two shells (includes echinoderms such as sand dollars and starfish) containing live organisms of any single species except for oysters, hard clams, sunray Venus clams and coquinas per day.” Some cities, counties or parks may have other rules or laws, so it is a good idea to ask if you are unsure about something.

In addition, there are some protected species. It is prohibited to harvest the Bahama Starfish anywhere in the state. Conch shells are highly sought by collectors, but care needs to be exercised. If the shell contains a live Queen Conch, it can’t be taken. See the FWC website for more information.

Cleaning is Needed

One thing that vacationers sometimes forget is that cleaning the shells may be necessary. You may not notice it right away, but in a few hours, you may start wondering “what is that smell”. It may very well be the result of your sea shelling adventure. Before just sticking them in a Ziploc bag and putting them in your luggage, consider cleaning them. It’s pretty easy. This blog gives some easy pointers on how to get your shells ready.

If you need more information about shelling or suggestions on beaches to try your luck on, contact us. Our local experts would be happy to help make your stay with us a memorable one.

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