Georgia Island Shelling

Everything You Need to Know About Collecting Seashells in the Golden Isles

Are you a fan of collecting seashells? In the Golden Isles, seashell hunting and collecting is a favorite pastime for many visitors (alongside many other fun things to do). Read on to learn where the best seashell hunting takes place, the types of shells you can expect to find, and shell craft ideas for the whole family!

Where to Find Seashells

At low tide, beaches are significantly wider which is better for collecting seashells. Consult our tide table and plan your seashell collecting adventure for a low tide time. Then, visit some of our favorite shelling areas across the Golden Isles:

  • East Beach (St. Simons Island): Bike over to East Beach and hunt for a variety of shells. When you need a break, head to the shops and restaurants at nearby Pier Village.
  • St. Andrews Beach (Jekyll Island): This beach, located on the south end of the island, has an adjoining picnic area, making it the perfect place to share a meal.
  • Driftwood Beach (Jekyll Island): Known for its iconic driftwood that decorates the sand, this beach is also a prime spot for shelling.
  • Little St. Simons Island: With seven miles of unspoiled beach, this privately owned sanctuary is a sheller's dream.

Types of Shells

Did you know that the state shell of Georgia is the knobbed whelk (also known as the conch shell)? While it is a cherished state symbol, this beautifully formed shell isn't the only one you'll find on our shores. Some of our other favorites that you'll find in the Golden Isles include:

  • Coquina Shells: Smooth and colorful, these small shells almost look like they've been polished by the waves.
  • Moon Snails: These shells have a deeper opening than others and feature a spiral on one side.
  • Sand Dollars: These flat and circular shells are very recognizable.
  • Wentletraps: These beautiful, porcelain-like shells feature tightly wound whorls, creating a high, conical spiral.
  • Sharks Teeth: Look for three points - almost like a warped triangle - made of the root and the sharp tooth bottom.

Know Before You Go

Always remember that it is illegal to collect living specimen in Georgia as it can interfere with our local ecosystem. When collecting seashells, it's important to make sure that you're not putting the well-being of a creature or its habitat at risk. Use these quick tips to determine if your shell is one to collect, or return to sea:

  • Bivalve Shells: When a creature is still living inside a shell, both sides of the shell will remain connected and closed. Never collect a shell that is fully closed like this, or one that closes as soon as you touch it!
  • Spiral Shells: When you pick up a spiral shell, simply turn the shell around and check to see if there are any creatures inside or if there is a closed "door" blocking an opening in the shell. If so, return to sea - creatures who live inside spiral shells often use these doors to protect themselves inside the shell.
  • Sand Dollars: It's easy to tell if a sand dollar is alive. Living sand dollars are brown and have tiny, hairy bristles around the underside of their shell. If you encounter a sand dollar that fits that description, return it to sea. If the sand dollar is missing these tiny hairs or appears to be a very light gray or white color, it's safe to collect. Any easy way to remember whether a sand dollar is safe to take home is to follow this rhyme: If it's gray, it needs to stay. If it's white, hold on tight!

Start a Seashell Collection

It's always recommended that you wash any shells you collect, and leave them to dry for a few hours. Once cleaned and dry, shells make the perfect souvenir to remember your vacation to the Golden Isles or piece of beach house decor. Try these fun crafts the whole family will love:

  • Seashell Vase: Collect your shells in a clear, tall vase. Display on a fireplace mantle or end table. 
  • Picture Frame: Using a hot glue gun, affix your shells to a plain wooden picture frame. This also works well for mirror frames.
  • Centerpiece: Collect shells in a long, low vase or sprinkle shells into a flower arrangement.