I’ve got 5 of the best shelling beaches in Florida to share with you today. I’m also going to throw in a few tips for finding shells. All of the photos included in this post are from my shelling adventures while traveling in my RV.
One of my favorite beach activities is shelling. I’m not good at sitting still or working on my tan. Having spent a fair bit of time in Florida during my RVing years, I have a few favorite spots for shelling.
Keep in mind each beach will offer up whatever it wants to on any given day. I’ve been shelling and found so many beauties, I had to go to the car and dump my shelling bag because it was full. I’ve gone back to that same beach the following day and found nothing but sand.
Shells are washed out to sea just like they are washed onto the beach. Shellers are at the mercy of tides, wind direction and speed, and many other factors.
1. Blind Pass Between Captiva Island and Sanibel Island
Number one on my list of best shelling beaches in Florida is Blind Pass. Blind Pass runs between Sanibel and Captiva Islands. The islands are just off the west coast of Florida in the Fort Meyers area and can be accessed via a toll bridge.
I have never seen so many shells in my life. Sometimes there are literally mounds of shells more than two feet deep with more rolling ashore on each wave. It’s truly something to behold. On a good day, you can literally plop yourself down in a pile of shells and sift through looking for treasures.
After crossing the toll bridge you’ll make a right on Periwinkle Drive and follow the main road to the end of the island where you can cross a bridge and continue to Captiva Island. There is paid parking on both sides of the bridge but it fills up fast. In general, parking on the island is difficult to come by so arrive early.
The only RV park on Sanibel Island is Periwinkle Park and it does not allow pets. I’ve never stayed there and cannot recommend it for that reason. Each time we have visited the area, we stayed in Bonita Springs at Sanctuary RV Resort. I have heard great things about Red Coconut in Fort Meyers as well. There are a lot of RV parks and resorts in the area.
You’ll need to make reservations far in advance. These parks fill up a year in advance. The article below contains helpful information to help you plan your RV trip to Florida.
2. Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island
Number two on my best shelling beaches in Florida list is Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island.
Sanibel Island lies in an east-west direction and is exposed to winter weather fronts from the northwest. This allows the island to catch all of those lovely shells.
I was fortunate enough to shell Lighthouse Beach the day after a big winter storm. The sea churned up some incredible treasures that day.
After you cross the toll bridge and arrive on the island, turn left. Follow Periwinkle Way to Lighthouse Beach at the east end of the island. Lighthouse Beach has more than 150 parking spaces in their paid lot with the beach just steps away. Other amenities include;
- Handicapped Accessible (Free Handicapped Parking)
- 152 Parking Spaces with Limited RV parking spaces
- Bike Racks
- Outside Showers
- Drinking Fountains
- Picnic Areas
- Barbecue Grills
- Shade Pavilion
- Information Kiosks
- Fishing Pier
I highly recommend The Island Cow for lunch. It’s casual, has outdoor seating, and great food.
3. Pensacola Beach
Number three on my list of best shelling beaches in Florida is Pensacola Beach. Pensacola Beach is located on the Florida panhandle just across Pensacola Bay and the Santa Rosa Sound on Santa Rosa Island. There are miles of white-sand beaches here. Fort Pickens and the Gulf Islands National Seashore bracket this barrier island.
There is ample parking and in some areas, you can park along the road. Just use caution because the sand is deep and people do get their vehicles stuck. Shelling locations, beach access, and parking information can be found here.
The closest camping is Fort Pickens Campground which is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Each of my visits to these beaches were while we were camping in Alabama which is less than an hour’s drive. There are many RV parks, resorts, and campgrounds in the general area. Again, book early as they fill up far in advance.
I found my prized Lion’s Paw shell on Pensacola Beach.
4. Navarre Beach
The fourth spot on my best shelling beaches in Florida list goes to Navarre Beach. Navarre, Florida is a bedroom community of Pensacola located on Santa Rosa Island. Navarre Beach is east of Pensacola and has 12 miles of pristine, white-sand beaches.
One of the things I love about Navarre is easy beach access along Gulf Boulevard. The parking lot numbers are literally painted on the road so you can find them easily, especially in the dark. It’s just a quick walk on the walkway, over the dunes and you’re on the beach.
When I’m shelling, I often arrive at the beach way before sunrise because of the tides. Knowing exactly which lot I’m parked in makes it easier to let someone know where I am just in case. It also makes it easier to find my truck when I’m finished shelling.
One morning I was lucky enough to find dozens of flat scallop shells on the beach. This was one of my bucket list shells.
There are many places to camp in and around Navarre. My last stay in the area was at The Hideaway Retreat. It’s rustic and small which are things I like in a campground but some of the sites are really small.
Navarre is fairly close to Pensacola, Destin, and the Gulf Island National Seashore. Not to mention so many great restaurants, fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, and much more.
5. Lover’s Key State Park
Rounding out the top 5 best shelling beaches in Florida is Lover’s Key State Park. This beautiful state park offers 2.5 miles of pristine, white-sand beaches. It’s not far from Bonita Springs where we normally camp. Amenities include;
- Trams to the beach.
- Elevated boardwalks to the beach.
- Beach wheelchairs are available for free. Inquire at the ranger station.
- Trail wheelchairs are available for free. Good for use on trails or the beach. Inquire at the ranger station.
- Lovers Key Adventures offers food and equipment rentals.
- Picnic facilities with tables and grills.
Lover’s Key State Park is located on Estero Boulevard in Fort Meyers Beach, Florida. This area can have heavy traffic so plan accordingly. Again, arrive early as the parking lot gets filled up quickly. It’s a long walk to the beach with all of your gear but they have a tram to shuttle guests between the beach and parking lot.
On the day I went to Lover’s Key, the shells were coming in with the tide but not overly abundant. The reason this beach makes my list is the quality of shells I found there. There were some unusual species and they were in pretty good shape. The beach is positioned well for accumulating shells and the amenities make it well worth the visit.
Shelling Tips for the Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
- Keep it legal. It’s illegal to remove a living animal or occupied shell from the beach. No matter how tempting, never take a shell with a living animal inside. Gently put the shell back where you found it and move along.
- Low tide is best for shelling. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes or so before the lowest tide prediction.
- Bring a shelling bag. These are generally a mesh bag and make it easier to carry your treasures. An over the shoulder shelling bag will keep your hands free.
- Bring along a small bottle with a lid (like a pill bottle) for those mini shells. They get crushed or lost very easily.
- Wear water shoes to help minimize the risk of cuts and stings. There are numerous types of bacteria in the water that can cause serious infection. Additionally, some shells have living animals inside and some of those creatures can deliver a venomous sting. One of those is the cone snail family. You should also avoid jelly fish and the Portuguese man o’ war as they can deliver a very painful sting.
- If low tide is before the sun comes up, wear a headlamp to keep your hands free.
- I have a waterproof pouch I put my phone, a car key and my ID into before I hit the beach. Again, I like the hands free feature but it’s safe too.
- Don’t forget to make note of where you park so you can find your car when you’re finished shelling and exhausted.
- Pay attention to warning flags at the beach. These alert you to water conditions and closures.
10. There are several places to look for shells. Of course, the surf is the first place everyone goes but the wrack lines are often hiding some beauties. The wrack lines are areas where the surf deposits debris during high tide.
While you’re out there RVing, visit some of the best shelling beaches in Florida. You may just get hooked.
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