Shelling On Anna Maria Island

Shelling On Anna Maria Island

It’s a great way to make your beach walk feel purposeful, focused, and for the more competitive and driven types – like a fun scavenger hunt right here in nature! Sprawled out generously across miles of our beaches and nestled into our white powdery shoreline, unique and beautiful shells are found in an abundance. So grab your bucket and let’s get shelling!


First things first, an important reminder to check your shells before taking them with you. There are many living creatures inside of shells. Only pick up ones that are empty! Finding sand dollars on our coast is absolutely possible but please remember to only take dried white ones. The brown sand dollars are still living animals and deserve to stay safe in their Gulf home!

The biggest tip is to go in search of shells during low tide, in the morning, and after a storm. This helps push some shells closer to shore for you to find more easily. Also, begin your search in tidal pools and flats, sandbars, and around the AMI piers. This is where shells will get caught and will be easy for you to snatch up.

Here are just some of the more popular shells you can find here on Anna Maria Island beaches. Feel free to look up some photos for clarification so you can know what to keep your eyes peeled for especially.

Olive (Snails)  – These are smooth, shiny, elongated oval-shaped shells. The shells often show various muted but attractive colors, and in this area especially can be found as “lettered olives” most commonly.

Lightning Whelk – Almost like a conch, they’re long and cone-like with a fractal shape radiating out. This species has a left-handed or sinistral shell.


Cockle Shell – The distinctive rounded shells are bilaterally symmetrical, and are heart-shaped when viewed from the end. They have been compared to looking like a small clam.

Coquina Shell – These tiny, cute looking shell are what we call coquina shells. They are not any bigger than a dime and will come in a variety of colors and patterns. You can see thousands of them burrowing into the sand as the waves return to the shoreline.

Junonia Shell – This shell is one of the rarest that you will come across on the island. This shell is cream-colored with brown spots. The shell is spindle-shaped and swirls itself into a point.

Shark’s Teeth — Though not technically a shell, we couldn’t do a list for your beachside shell scavenger hunt without telling you to look for shark’s teeth! These small, black teeth reflect the sunlight well and are an awesome souvenir!

Next time you’re on a beach walk on AMI, see how many of these different species you can find! If you want to take up shelling on your next Anna Maria vacation, be sure to call our team and we can point you to some of the best spots on the island to spot some goodies! Main Office: 941-778-4800 

Photos courtesy of