If you spend much time at the stunning beaches of Sanibel Island, it probably won’t be long before you find some fellow beachgoers bent over at the waist, peering intently at the sand. This is the famous “Sanibel Stoop”, a position assumed in the hopes of finding some of the island’s most beautiful shells.
In fact, shelling is so popular on Sanibel Island that it even holds the Guinness World Record for the most people looking for shells at the same time – over 470 in October 2012. There’s also a special shell fair that is held every year in March called the Sanibel Shell Fair and Show, which attracts shell enthusiasts from far and wide.
So, what makes looking for shells such a popular past-time on Sanibel Island?
The beaches of Sanibel Island and Captiva Island are considered some of the world’s best destinations for shell collectors, thanks to their geography. Owing to the way the island curves east to west in the Gulf of Mexico and the strong currents around it, it acts like a shovel, meaning hundreds of thousands of beautiful shells wash up on the beaches.
It’s not just your run-of-the-mill clams and cockles, either. Many of the shells that wash up on Sanibel Island’s beaches are beautiful and unique types that are rarely found elsewhere – such as beautiful and ornate conches which can be modified into wind instruments, or the coveted speckled Junonia, named after a Roman goddess.
There’s no doubt that Sanibel Island’s beautiful shells make an ideal souvenir of your stay, and few people leave the island without picking up at least one.
If you want to try out the Sanibel Stoop for yourself, you are best to head to the beaches on the south of the island, which positively teem with seashells (especially during low tide between December and April). Lighthouse Beach, Bowman’s Beach and Blind Pass Beach are especially well-known for their gorgeous shells!
To get your pick of the most beautiful shells on the beach, try to arrive early – it’s also a great excuse to catch a stunning sunrise over the sea. Don’t be afraid to dig a little in the sand (especially near the water’s edge) to discover the best shells.
Just make sure that you don’t pick up any that still has a mollusk inside – if the shell is closed, or unusually heavy, leave it on the beach!
Of course, if you don’t manage to find the perfect shell on the beach or don’t fancy trying out the Sanibel Stoop for yourself, you’ll find plenty of stunning shells for sale at local shops such as She Sells Sea Shells or visit the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum for a one of a kind experience. Either way, you’ll take home a beautiful reminder of your time on the island. If you are ready to learn the “Sanibel Stoop”, give us a call at Select Vacation Properties, and we can find you a perfect Sanibel Island vacation rental!