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Looking for seashells is a treasure hunt. You never know what you’ll find: a delicate angel wing, baby’s ear or even a Scotch bonnet (North Carolina's hard-to-find state shell). Wave-washed shells turn up all over the world, although some of the best beaches for finding them are in the U.S.
Shells aren't the only things you can collect at this state park on the Chesapeake Bay. Formed 10 to 20 million years ago, and once covered by water, these cliffs sometimes cave, iceberg-like, to spill shark teeth and other fossils onto the sandy beach.
This is also a good spot to hunt for scallop, clam and oyster shells, and you may even come across arrowheads and bits of smooth beach glass. Calvert Cliffs is a very popular park with limited admission, especially during the summer and around holidays, so plan ahead if you want to visit. Note: Walking beneath the cliffs is prohibited because of the danger of landslides.
Surfers come from across the globe to ride the waves in Jeffreys Bay, a small town on South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Those waves also wash in a rich variety of shells in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Winter is a good time to hunt for them; you’re likely to find cowries and Indo Pacific species. Save time to visit the Jeffreys Bay Shell Museum, which contains more than 600 shell species from around the world, including a rare paper nautilus and baby jam tart shells.
Do the “Sanibel stoop” on this small island west of Fort Myers, Florida. That’s what locals call the bent-over position visitors take as they search for coquinas, scallops, olives, tulips, conchs and lightning whelks.
Sanibel is shaped like a curve, so seashells are funneled onto its sugary-white beaches, making it one of the premier spots for collectors. Go at low tide or after a storm, when the shoreline is sure to be studded with shells, but leave sand dollars, starfish and sea urchins alone; they’re protected by law.
Cross the bridge at Turner Beach to continue on to Captiva Island, another great place for finding pastel-colored seashells.
Shipwreck Beach, on Hawaii’s Lanai Island, isn’t for swimmers. The strong currents, shallow reefs and trade winds around the island are treacherous, and, as you’d guess from its name, this beach, also known as Kaiolohia, has been the site of many shipwrecks.