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It’s one of the most common questions we get on Sanibel Island…people come from all over the world to collect the millions of shells that wash up on our 14 miles of Gulf shores, but they want to know where they can find the most and best shells? 

Did we mention that it’s FOURTEEN MILES LONG? And it’s all public property, though there are only five public parking lots to access the Gulf side.  There are also several “deed-restricted” spaces which would require a permit from the City, plus many public walking paths between properties. 

There’s no perfect answer as to where’s best to shell.  It sometimes depends on the weather.  In the summer, a strong storm can produce enough tidal surge to push large amounts onto various locations of the beach, almost creating new reefs on the coast.  Shelling is best one hour before and one hour after low tide.  Our Gulf-side condos are located through most of the coast, from near Lighthouse Beach to West Gulf Drive, some of which is less frequented than at the public parking areas, so you can find some quieter areas to practice “The Sanibel Stoop.”  

Bowman’s Beach is considered to be the most secluded beach on Sanibel, as there are no hotels and only one condo complex in the vicinity.  Also, there are no residences to the West, separated by Clam Bayou, so there’s an opportunity to find an abundance of shells.  Bowman’s Beach Road is located near mile marker 5 on Sanibel-Captiva Road (Look for the fire station on the left.).  This is also a public parking area ($5.00 per hour) with nature trails, picnic tables and playground, and a fitness trail.   

Please remember, you can take all the “dead” shells you can carry, but anything with the mussel is “live” and is illegal to collect and not advisable, as they decompose with a terrible stench that can ruin luggage and clothing. 

If all else fails, Sanibel Holiday has a collection of shells in our lobby, including “starter shells” at the Front Desk for the little ones to enjoy.  And be sure to let us know if you happen to find the ever-elusive perfect Junonia!