The Beginner’s Guide to Shelling in Southwest Florida

In case you missed it, Sanibel is known as the shelling capital of the world. Located on the Gulf side of Florida is this beachcomber’s paradise. What makes Sanibel so unique? Its beaches are protected by an underwater shelf creating gentle currents that wash ashore some of the most beautiful shells you will ever lay your eyes on. Essentially, these shelves scoop the shells (say that 10x fast) and deliver them to you almost in perfect condition.

People from all around the world come to Sanibel and Captiva specifically to give shelling a go. The current is constantly presenting new shells from the Gulf and the Caribbean.

Best time to shell

Okay so now you’re ready to book the trip to discover hidden treasures of the ocean. Like all destination activities, there is a season to go to experience it to the fullest. For shelling in Sanibel and Captiva Islands, the best month to go is January. Book your excursion according to the tide too! Low tide is when the seashells are more visible. Don’t forget to pay attention to the moon, after all that is what changes the tides! Full and new moons are rumored to produce an abundance of shells. Another good time to go is after a Gulf storm- when the current and the waves are so strong the shells can’t help but be washed to shore.

Ft. Myers

How to shell

Shelling is easy! Bring a bucket, net bag and scoop. Or, if you’re like me, ditch the scoop and just use your hands to uncover hidden gems on the beach. A scoop is better for when you’re shelling in shallow water. Pro tip: wear shoes when shelling. I learned the hard way. Some shells are sharp making it uncomfortable to walk.

Please be conscientious when shelling. Shells are an important part of the ecosystem here, so important that Florida State Law prohibits the shelling of live shells. You may be thinking “but it’s just a shell.” And while yes it is a shell, there might still be a living organism inside. Sand dollars, starfish and sea urchins are also protected under this law.

Sanibel Island

Shell types

Shells come in all shapes and sizes! Keep your expectations low and you will be pleasantly surprised with what you find! There are so many different types of shells you can stumble upon including: Conchs, Lighting Whelk, Scallops, Coquina, and the coveted Junonia. Coveted? Yep. If you find one of these rare, deep-water loving shells you’ll get your name and photograph in the local paper! Unfortunately, I didn’t find one of these. But I did find conchs, mollusks and so many other kinds of shells!

Fun fact: seashells come in two types: gastropod and bivalve. The gastropods are categorized by having on sell, these are conchs and whelks. Bivavlves have two hinged shells that act as doors or walls to protect the organism, these are clams and scallops.

Florida Fighting Conch

Cayo CostaAn assortment of mollusks and conchs!

Cayo Costa

Shelling locations

Fort Myers Beach
Lighthouse Beach, Sanibel
Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel
Captiva Beach
Cayo Costa


This post is written in partnership with The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel however, as always, all opinions are my own.

California Coast Road Trip: 7 Must See Stops

When I read that Big Sur, perhaps the most popular stop along the Pacific Coast Highway, was closed due to a landslide I was upset. For me, when I used to think about California this is what I would think about. Dream about. Research. Alas, there was nothing I could do and the road trip had to go on. I’m happy it did. And, I’m sort of happy Big Sur wasn’t an option because I was able to see so much more. My focus wasn’t on getting the iconic shot of Bixby Bridge or McWay Falls, it was on the experience and all of the beauty that lies within the rest of the PCH.

The drive started all the way in Lake Tahoe. Yep. From there, we made our way south.

Stop 1: Shark Fin Cove

I have to be honest, I didn’t even know this place existed. Or, that a place with so much beauty could ever exist. I didn’t have the chance to see Shark Fin Cove during the day, only at sunset. And let me tell you, this is when you should be there too. The contrast of the cliffs and the golden light made for a picture perfect scene.

Shark Fin Cove


Stop 2: Santa Cruz

If you made it to Shark Fin Cove for sunset, base yourself in Santa Cruz for the night. A quaint seaside town about a half hour (ish) away from Shark Fin Cove. Wake up early for sunrise to get your day started. Head to Natural Bridges State Beach- the rock formations cast the most beautiful reflections on the wet sand.

Santa Cruz Santa Cruz

Stop 3: Monterey

Big Little Lies fan? You should stop here if only for an hour. Which is what I did. Walk the pier, and grab a coffee or tea from Water + Leaves and enjoy it on the outdoor patio.

Monterey, California

Stop 4: 17 Mile Drive – Pebble Beach

For $10 per car you can drive the 17 Mile Drive. It’s 17 miles of straight coastal views. The water is turquoise, the flowers are blooming, and the tourists…well they’re there too. Luckily there are a number of pull off points sans tourists. You’ll be able to take in all the beautiful views in peace and quiet with nothing but the sounds of the waves.

17 Mile Drive 17 Mile Drive

Stop 5: Pismo Beach

There is more to this beachside town than meets the eye. While yes the beach is beautiful, especially at sunset and you can camp on it, a bit further down are the sand dunes. Yes. Endless sand dunes. This is what I envision Morocco to look like. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a dune buggy or four wheeler and ride off into the sunset. If not, frolic the dunes, bring a bottle of wine and good company. Don’t forget to bring a blanket and a sweater, it gets chilly once the sun sets!

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach

Stop 6: Santa Barbara

When I think of California, this is the type of town I think about! Terracotta buildings, palm tree lined streets and local coffee and juice shops. Spend the day wandering the streets a shop with local artisans.

Santa Barbara

Stop 7: Malibu

Queue Miley Cyrus’ new song. Chances are you don’t need me to tell you about this place. Celebrity and surfer central. Traffic is rough but make it a point to pull over and snap some photos of this iconic California spot.



Over to you! What are your favorite spots along the PCH? If you haven’t been, what is your favorite road trip you’ve ever taken?