Shelling, Shopping and Lunch Along the Shore

Hunting for shells at Sarasota County beaches is among the unique pleasures visitors and locals alike enjoy year-round

Hunting for shells at Sarasota County beaches is among the unique pleasures visitors and locals alike enjoy year-round. Sarasota County is known for its beautiful beaches filled with a variety of nature’s treasures. Ask any shelling enthusiast and they’ll swear on a stack of sand dollars that there’s nothing more relaxing and enjoyable as the hunt for a perfect shell.

“If you come to my house it’s like a shell museum. Shelling is like therapy,” says Mary Frances Abel, who lives in Venice and enjoyed a recent shelling outing in Nokomis with her friend Caroline Foreman of Port Charlotte. The two women enjoy shelling in Nokomis often and use their shells for a variety of crafts. “I’m always trying to find something nice that I don’t have,” Caroline said.

Die-hard shelling fans could probably spend all day scouring Sarasota County’s beaches like the locals, but visitors and vacationers may prefer to set some time aside for shelling and combine the excursion with lunch at a restaurant near the beach then some shopping nearby. It’s a perfect Sarasota County day and easy to plan. Here’s how:


Where to look: The beaches in Nokomis along Casey Key are among the best local beaches for shelling. Right next to the jetty at North Jetty Beach, which is at the south end of Casey Key, a huge pile of shells and shell fragments often forms along the rocks and shoreline. Grab your pail or bag and enjoy the hunt!

North Jetty Beach on Casey Key
(Photo: Amy Bentley)
North Jetty Beach on Casey Key
(Photo: Amy Bentley)

What to do nearby: After shelling, enjoy a lunch overlooking the water at the Crow’s Nest Restaurant, Tavern & Marina, or drive a few minutes south to Dockside Waterfront Grille in Venice. Both eateries offer lovely water views and are located just a few minutes’ drive from the beaches in Nokomis. Another lunch option in the Nokomis area that specializes in healthy and organic food is Café Evergreen. Or, drive a few miles to Sharky’s on the Pier in Venice. After lunch, head to Historic Downtown Venice to browse the many boutiques and round out the day. Your shelling adventure can be completed by looking for some unique shells at Sea Pleasures and Treasures, one of the many souvenir shops in Downtown Venice’s shopping district. The store also offers an array of shark’s teeth and fossil shells in case you didn’t find any on the beach in Nokomis, which is known for having shark’s teeth.

Sea Pleasures and Treasures (Photo: Amy Bentley)
Sea Pleasures and Treasures (Photo: Amy Bentley)

Lido Beach

Where to look: Lido is one of Sarasota County’s most popular beaches and is walking distance to Sarasota’s renown St. Armands Circle shopping district. Start the day by shelling at Lido in the morning. Arrive early enough to beat the crowds.

What to do nearby: After your bucket is full, drive or walk over to St. Armands Circle where scores of shops offer just about everything imaginable, from clothing to beach-themed souvenirs to display with your shells. Enjoy lunch with a Florida island vibe at the Tommy Bahama Restaurant, or eat at the Columbia Restaurant, a Florida favorite well-known for its authentic Spanish and Cuban food. Next door to Columbia is the casual Cha Cha Coconuts, which offers plenty of outdoor sidewalk seating. If shelling and beach combing put you in the mood for a seafood lunch, try Crab & Fin, also in St. Armands Circle.

A Dozen Shells Found in Sarasota County

Different types of shells found in Sarasota
County (Photo: Amy Bentley)
Different types of shells found in Sarasota
County (Photo: Amy Bentley)
  • Lightning Whelk
  • Calico Clam
  • Spiny Jewel Box
  • Scallops, in colors from pink to white to gray to orange
  • Common Fig
  • Atlantic Slipper Shell
  • Cat’s Paw
  • Florida Fighting Conch
  • Auger
  • Cross-barred Venus
  • Giant Heart Cockle
  • Turkey Wing

Shell Like a Pro

  • Early morning and before or after low tide are often the best times to go shelling. Lots of shells will wash ashore overnight. Try to find an area that isn’t crowded and picked over by other shelling enthusiasts who arrived earlier.
  • Hit the beach after a storm in the Gulf. Storms churn up the Gulf and often leave many shells washed on up Sarasota County beaches. Comb through piles of seaweed or other washed-up debris to look for shells that were caught in the muck.
  • Bring bags, a bucket or container to hold your shells. Also, consider bringing a metal or plastic wire basket to sort and rinse your shells and a small shovel or trowel to help you dig.

  • Make sure there aren’t any living creatures inside the shells you find by inspecting each one. If you find a shell with anything living inside, please place it back in the water!

What To Do With Your Shells

There are scores of crafts and home décor items to make using shells. Here are five ideas:

  1. Arrange shells in decorative jars, bottles, glass vases, wine decanters or crystal bowls.
  2. Use shells with a sturdy craft glue to decorate boxes, flowerpots, mirrors, photo frames or vases. Visit a craft store to find small wooden birdhouses, frames, and other items on which shells can be glued in a pattern.
  3. Make shell mosaics and decorative topiaries.
  4. Use shells in the garden to mark a path, fill a pot or to accent flowerbeds.
  5. Make a shadowbox highlighting your favorite shells.