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3 Important Tips for Finding the Best Seashells

Hello beach lovers!  Is beachcombing one of your favorite pasttimes?  Do you find it challenging to find seashells that are whole, and unique when visiting your favorite beach or vacationing?

Here are some tips that have helped me over the years to find bigger and better seashells!

Time and Tide: 

The time of day is important, because it can make all the difference in whether you find whole or broken shells, or no shells at all. I’ve always noticed that it is best to go shelling early in the morning rather than the afternoon, however, there are factors that can go against that. Early morning tends to be the best time because “the early bird gets the worm”.  Most people on vacation tend to sleep in a bit, and/or spend those hours preparing for their day, therefore, less people walking the beach, more shells that have not been already claimed!  Some beach dwellers will even go shelling into the early morning hours before the sun rises, and “flashlight” for shells.  I personally, however, have not had much luck shelling in the wee-early hours of the morning.  I usually make a point to go right as the sun is rising.

Have you ever noticed that you tend to see more seashells as the tide is going out, or right as it’s coming in?  That’s due to the waves pushing smaller shells back into the ocean when the tide is going out, while also revealing shells on the sand that were previously covered by water.  When the tide comes in, the waves can push shells back to the shore, but will also cover up more of the shells that were previously displayed on the shore.

I’ve found some of my best seashells during low tide, and also as the tide was first coming back in. If you happen to be visiting a beach that is not inhabited, then it may not matter at all what time of day it is!


Location, Location, Location! 

Now, as I mentioned earlier, you want to go shelling at times when less people are on the beach.  The same goes for where you choose to look for them!  You want to comb in places where fewer people venture. For example, if you’re on vacation, there are known tourist spots where the majority of people visit, right?  So take a trip down the “beach less travelled”.  Find an area where tourists aren’t typically visiting.  Also, it doesn’t hurt to ask a local, or check out reviews online to see which places hide the best treasures.  You may or may not find this online if they are best kept secrets or if they are undiscovered as a “Shelling Haven”.

As for when you do find that beach, where should you look?  I’ve found my best shell finds to be right by the water, right as they are revealed by the waves.  Usually, you will also see a line of shells where the tide was previously, if you’re on the right beach. Just to caution you, I have spent countless hours looking through that line only to find nothing but broken shells.  But if you are on a beach that is more-so covered in shells, you may have better luck with this!  I will say some of my smaller beauties and shark’s teeth have been found in that line.


This can be tricky, as mother nature seems to never reveal her true intentions. I’ll tell you about a recent visit to one of my favorite shelling beaches, in Ocracoke, NC.  In the past, I have had much success finding amazing shells on this beach, however, during the last visit, I was all out of luck.  I thought I was brilliant with my timing, but later found that I could not be further from it.  I decided to visit right after a tropical storm had passed through the night before.  I thought, “Wow!  The beach should be covered in shells!”……   WRONG.  This time the beach was completely empty.  All that was left were small, broken particles to go along with my broken heart. I later found out why this happened.

The storm that came through came up from the South West, and North Carolina, of course is on the East coast. Here’s what happened. The wind from the storm had pushed everything back into the ocean since it was coming from the West. It was also so windy that sand was piled up on the beach, covering anything that would have been leftover.  So, this was a big lesson learned.

The best time weather-wise could very well be right after a storm, as I’ve seen in the past on other beaches, however, keep in mind which direction any wind will be coming from.  If the wind came from the West on the East coast, then you’re probably out of luck, but if the storm and wind came from the East, then you’re bound to come across some good finds!  That also goes to say for the West coast.  If the wind is coming from the East, then it will probably push everything back into the water, but if it’s coming from the West, then you’re likely to find bigger and better shells!




If you’ve happened to have all three of these on your side (time, location and weather), then you’ve hit the beachcombing trifecta!  Keep in mind to be respectful of any creatures you find that are still living.  If you see a large shell or sand dollar buried in the sand, it’s very likely to still be alive, and you can help by putting it gently back into the water, preferably beyond where the crashing waves cannot damage it.

Happy Shelling!




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