Where is the Best Place to Collect Sea Shells?

Very few people would argue that the best place to collect sea shells is Florida's Sanibel Island. At least in North America. Thanks to...

Very few people would argue that the best place to collect sea shells is Florida's Sanibel Island. At least in North America. Thanks to its rather unusual for barrier islands east-to-west orientation, thousands of shells wash up to the island's beaches each day. While shells come mostly from warm tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea, people come from all over the world. Among different types of shells, the most desirable ones are the sand dollar and the Junonia shell.

Many wealthy Americans chose Sanibel Island to retire, so it's a rather quiet community with no hustle and bustle of neighbouring Sarasota, Fort Myers or Naples.
The island's official web sites says that the island has 250 kinds of shells, 230 kinds of birds, 15 miles of beaches and 0 traffic lights.
Over half of the island is devoted to preserving the nature and its inhabitants - birds, reptiles, plants - through wildlife refuges. There is even one crocodile living on the island with a population of alligators.
Sanibel Islands offers some of the finest beaches I've seen in Florida. Endless stretch of white sand means beachgoers can barely hear each other.
Water temperature during the winter months is a bit chilly - in lower 70s F / lower 20s C, but can still be enjoyable, especially if you like playing with waves.
Huge pelicans hanging on an Australian pine tree.
 The island is connected to the mainland by a single toll bridge. Parking is very limited and quite expensive - $ 4 per hour. But the joy of collecting shells outweighs all possible expenses on the island.
To be honest with you, I felt a bit uncomfortable to collect shells, because I've always been taught by various parks and refuges across Canada and the US that collecting shells is prohibited. It turned out that unless you do it at one of the island's refuges it's totally legal. However you cannot take a shell with you if it's not empty, i.e. something lives there.
Shell Museum prepared a nice sheet with shells that can be found on Sanibel Island and nearby Captiva Island. Within a couple of hours we were able to find about 15-20 different types of shells. 
These are mostly conchs and murexes.
Many of these are scallops, cockles and semeles.
Horn snails and ceriths.
Although we didn't find a sand dollar or a Junonia shell, we really liked the activity and appreciated the opportunity to bring home something unique and memorable - sea shells.

When to go
Many people prefer visiting Sanibel Island January to April, because it's not too hot and humid.

Sanibel Island is located 18 miles / 29 km southeast of downtown Fort Myers.

GPS coordinates of the Sanibel Causeway (bridge):
26°28′35″N / 82°01′32″W

Additional Information
Great resources on shelling in Florida:
The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

My other posts from the trip to Florida and the Bahamas

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