One of the most relaxing pastimes in Naples is gathering seashells on the beach. The casual shell collector can enjoy the shelling year round on any of Naples’ sandy outer beaches. But we’ve pulled together a few tips here to make your shelling expeditions even more fun.
Best beaches to collect shells in Naples
Many Naples-area shell enthusiasts insist that Barefoot Beach offers shelling collecting that is superior even to the better-known Sanibel Island to the north of Naples. Barefoot Beach is quiet and secluded, but offers lots to do in addition to shelling on the long stretch of beach. You’ll find butterfly and cactus gardens, a ranger station with guided tours, and free-roaming turtles. Access to the beach is from a long road that serves private residences. The beach requires either an $8 fee per vehicle or a Collier County Beach Pass (note that a beach pass comes with your rental at Naples Florida Vacation Homes)
We also like to go shelling at the small beach that’s part of Clam Pass Park. Clam Pass has been rated as one of the top beaches in the U.S. It has a concession stand, beach equipment rental, and extensive boardwalks for easy access. You can find out more about Clam Pass and other Naples beaches from the Collier County website’s beach section.
Best times to go shelling in Naples
Experts tell us that low tides, and the times of the new moon and the full moon, bring the best shells. If you visit Naples immediately after a summer or fall storm, you’ll find that the rough waves and strong currents will dislodge shells in shallow water and toss them onto the beach.
What to bring for shelling in Naples
If you’re going to do any serious shelling collecting, be sure to bring a strong mesh or canvas bag to carry your finds — shells can get heavy very quickly. You’ll want sun protection and basic beach gear for yourself. It helps to bring along lightweight beach or water shoes to protect your feet so you can explore areas along the tide line where shells are arranged in thick bands.
Keep in mind that an inhabited seashell is a sea creature’s home! In Collier County, it’s against the law to remove an occupied seashell, or live starfish, from the beach. (If you find you’ve picked one up, don’t throw it into the water — place it gently, to avoid damage.) Abandoned seashells, of course, are fair game. You’ll find beautiful ones in gently-used condition along 10 miles of coastal beach in Naples, including arks, augers, bonnets, bubbles, buttons, clams, cockles, conches, cones, limpets, lucines, murexes, paws (from the tiny Kitten’s Paw to the giant Lion’s Paw), periwinkles, scallops, and dozens of varieties of snail shells.
Creative fun with your Naples seashells
You don’t have to be a conchologist (serious seashell collector) to enjoy seashells for years after you collect them. Combine shells with flowers to make beautiful centerpieces — or arrange with live plants in the garden. We’ve seen Naples shells used for a wide range of crafts projects, including clever shell-filled lamp bases.
If you plan to pack your shells, or use them indoors or for crafts, you will want to cook them to remove bacteria. To clean them, boil them gently in hot water for at least 20 minutes or soak them overnight in a weak solution of beach before rinsing and allowing to dry thoroughly.
Learn more about Naples beach shells
Can’t tell a Lightening Whelk from a Ponderous Ark? Don’t worry.
The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum (in Sanibel Island, just north of Naples) has a spectacular online photo guide to the shells of Southwest Florida. Browse their photo guide to find out more about the intriguing shells that you’re seeing and collecting.
Buying Naples beach shells
Spent the vacation lazing on your towel? It’s OK to work on your tan and outsource the shell gathering. Try the The Blue Mussel or Kelly’s Shell Shack (both on Fifth Avenue) — but be aware that not all of the pretty shells they carry are from Southwest Florida. For authentic Naples shells, you’ll need to stroll the beaches yourself!