Who among us, when strolling a sandy beach, can resist the urge to bend down and scoop up a tiny souvenir? Beachcombing, also known as shelling, has been around as long as humans have walked the oceans’ shorelines.
Once you’ve settled into your luxury loft-style condominium at 88Hundred Collins, you’ll likely be drawn into this ages-old pastime yourself. And you’ll be in luck because, according to the travel guide Frommer’s, one of the best beaches for shelling in the Miami area is Bal Harbour beach, at 96th and Collins Avenue, well within meandering distance.
Surfside, Florida, is known as a place with a more laid-back pace. And shelling is not unlike a walking meditation. When you’re scanning the beach for that perfect find, worries are miles away.
You’ll want to focus your hunt between the high-tide line, marked by the seaweed-laden debris known as “wrack,” and the water’s edge. This is where you’ll find such treasures as seashells, driftwood, and the highly prized gems known as sea glass. This is nothing more than the remains of broken glass bottles which has been sanded and polished by years of endless churning in the ocean, but these days it is used by artisans to craft all manner of jewelry and artwork.
The best time to look for shells and other treasures is after a storm and at low tide. If you’re an early riser, you’ll have your pick from a whole night’s worth of shells surrendered by the ocean. No special equipment—other than a sharp eye and a slow walk—is needed for beachcombing, though you might want to bring along a small shovel and a bucket or bag to hold your finds.
The most highly prized shells still have the living animal inside, because they tend to be shiner than dead shells. If you’re shelling as a hobby and not for a living, you might be inclined to toss the live shells back into the ocean. In Florida, you need a recreational saltwater fishing license anyway to take living shells, so why not? Also note that in Florida, the taking of live Queen conchs, sand dollars and Bahama starfish are prohibited, license or no.
But never fear: There are a host of other treasures awaiting you. Such shell specimens as the Banded Tulip, Lightening Whelk, and the Florida Fighting Conch, as well as the more common cockles, scallops and clams can be found. Then there are the sponges, shark’s teeth, devil’s or mermaid’s purses (actually discarded skate egg cases), seagull feathers, conch egg cases, and bleached coral, among so many other offerings.
Once home, you’ll want to rinse your finds, preferably in a diluted bleach solution to remove any lingering odor, and allow them to dry in the sun. Then the opportunities to display them are almost endless. Glass-bodied lamps, seashell-studded picture frames, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination!