There are certain things that come to mind when you think of the perfect beach experience. Sun, sand, surf and water are a given. But for me I also want the ambiance. Swaying palms, the pastel colored hues of the beach and sky, a light breeze and, like a cherry on top of a sundae, pretty sea shells.
A few years ago I took my first trip to Florida, to South Beach in Miami. There on the beaches, interspersed between the crystal blue waters, white powder sand and gorgeous South Beach models I thought I'd also find my pretty seashells. It just seemed like that's how it would be. Pretty things beget other pretty things right?
I scoured the beaches for shells and ended up finding just one tiny, lonely shell. I was thrilled to death when I found it so much so that we each (jokingly) took a picture with it! I had a great time in Miami. I partied, danced and slumbered on the beach, it was everything I thought it would be.....other than the missing shells that is.
Me and my one tiny shell in South Beach.
Last spring I saw a travel show highlighting Sanibel Island, FL on their "best beaches" list and I knew that I had found my bliss. White sand? Check. Crystal blue green water? Check. And most importantly...... seashells? Check!
Sanibel Island is known as one of the best shelling beaches in the world because of it's geographic placement. Unlike most islands that run north to south, Sanibel is situated east to west making the entire island act like a net, catching the shells along its beaches as the tides bring them inland.
Sanibel is also famous for it's signature "Sanibel Stoop" The "stoop" is the position that one takes when sifting through the masses of shells on the beach. Stooped over at the waist or crouched down peering into the sand and surf is how most people spend there time on its beaches.
There are very strict laws when it comes to shelling on the island. The State of Florida prohibits the taking of live shells. A live shell is considered one that is still inhabited by a mollusk, whether or not the mollusk is alive or dead. Sand dollars, starfish and sea urchins are also covered under this law. The most commonly found seashells on Sanibel beaches are: conch, junonia, lightning whelk, cockle, tulip and sand dollars shells.
With just one tiny sea shell in my fledgling collection, my hopes were to just to come home with a handful of random shells. After seeing the abundance of shells along the beaches I surprisingly became very picky. I started hunting for the biggest and most intact sea shells I could find and ended up walking away with several small conch shells! A newbie sheller, I wasn't able to find the elusive and prized sand dollar and junonia shells. That would have required wading out into the surf to the sand bar at the crack of dawn with a long handled net.....something I figured I'd leave to the pros. Nevertheless I was extremely happy to come away with what I did. Now that I know where to go for my prized sea shells I look forward to slowly adding to my collection over the years.