Best Places to Find Seashells on the Beach
Published: 02/15/2013  Updated: 08/08/2019
A receding wave reveals a Sand Dollar left on the beach.
A receding wave reveals a Sand Dollar left on the beach.  Photo by Gary Hayes

Coast Explorer publisher Gary Hayes answers questions from travelers as Travel Oregon's Oregon Coast expert for the Ask Oregon program.

Q: What's the best spot for seashell collecting?

A: I would suggest the Oregon Coast's beaches would be the best spot for collecting seashells. :D Okay, please excuse my smart aleck response. I can't necessarily recommend one beach over another along the 363 miles of Oregon Coast, but I can offer some tips and suggestions for beachcombing for shells. You will find seashells along most sandy stretches of the Oregon Coast. The variety of shells may vary with the surrounding environments. You are more likely to find snail shells and cone shaped limpets near rocky shores or off shore reefs, clam shells near bay openings and sand dollars and scallop shells along beaches that border shorelines with sandy offshore bottoms.

For best success, I would suggest choosing less busy beaches, beachcombing during the offseason, being there at the right time (as the tide recedes) and concentrate your searches on areas where deposits are left as the waves recede. I like to beachcomb right at the edge of receding tide, weaving in and out with the waves, always keeping my eyes on the tide and being prepared to move quickly in the event of a sneaker or rogue wave that may come in faster and higher than the average waves. For shells, I would begin searching an hour or two after high tide since most heavier shells aren't deposited on the beach until closer to low tides (but you want to be the first to discover the freshly revealed prize). As you scour the beach, look for deposits made up of ground bits of seashells. Look close because common finds include sand dollars and scallops that can be smaller than a dime. You can also look in areas of small rocky deposits where snail shells can be mixed in.

Be careful when beachcombing in tidepool areas. Footing can be slippery and you should only walk on sand and bare rocks to avoid destroying the life in these amazing ecosystems. Never remove a living creature from its home. Often that snail shell you discover in a tidepool is actually a hermit crab that has taken up residence in a stray shell. Never remove sea stars, snails or other creatures from their rocky holds. Those that do remove sea stars end up with a rotting, stinking mess that quickly gets thrown in the trash, so let these creatures live for all to admire in their natural habitat. I would additionally add that many of the best tidepool areas are protected areas known as Oregon Marine Gardens and the removal of ANY materials in these areas is punishable by significant fines.

Those are my best tips for beachcombing for seashells. Enjoy your search. I find beachcombing and being in tune with the rhythm of the waves to be a very relaxing activity.

Happy exploring and let me know if you find a great spot I should know about!

Best Places to Find Seashells on the Beach