It's no secret that kids love seashell hunting. Ours did when they were little. Heck, I still do!
There's always that anticipation - what will turn up this time? Beautiful whelk shells? Perfectly formed conch shells? You never know what you'll find when on an expedition searching for seashells.
Jekyll Island's 10 miles of beach and outlying sand dune ecosystem provide families with an opportunity to start a shell collection together. Arm yourself (and the kids) with buckets - that's all you need for hunting seashells.
Seashell Hunting Reveals Beauties
Photo by Leonardo Aguiar
Jekyll Island's Sea Shell Smorgasbord -
Although you won't find the number or quality of shells on Jekyll Island you'll find on the seashell hunting Mecca of, say, Sanibel Island, Florida, there are plenty of shells for you and your kids to collect and enjoy.
What kinds of beach shells can you find? Maybe some wave-and-sand polished Olives. Or some exquisite Coquinas.
You might unearth a fossil sharks tooth - sharks teeth can be found on Jekyll Island's beaches, both on the Atlantic side and on the bay side. Other shells that you might come across are Heart Cockles, Ark shells and Moon Snails.
Sand dollars are more common than you might think, but I've only found a few that weren't broken. Our last trip to Jekyll, I was seashell hunting and ran across 2 beautifully shaped small sand dollars, which I promptly retrieved.
Look for Knobbed and Lightning Whelks, and keep a sharp eye out for the twisty, drill shaped form of the Atlantic Auger.
Others are the Incongrous Ark, Cross Hatched Lucina, and the Disk Dosinia. Razor and Hard Clams are other specimens you might encounter hunting seashells. And of course, oyster shells are everywhere (they look best on your plate, with maybe a dozen steamed oysters lying in them...).
One sea creature I haven't yet encountered on Jekyll Island is a star fish. I've seen them on other beaches, but not on Jekyll. Maybe you'll find one - check those isolated tidal pools left behind after the high tides have receded.
Be alert for other treasures, too. I once found a delicate crab shell about the size of a silver dollar, completely intact. And on another trip to the beach, a fellow fishing with a drag net gave Martha a perfectly formed horseshoe crab shell. It was half dollar size, and polished translucent by the sea.
Beware Stinky Seashells!
Kids are exuberant shell hunters, and sometimes don't make the distinction between empty shells and those with animals still in them.
It's a good idea to check their shells for living creatures, and have them return those shells to the sea. Of course, some shells may have "deceased" sea creatures still in them. Those are the ones that could give you trouble, say, a few days after the kids found them, and they've been lying around your vacation cottage for a while.
Believe me, in the heat of an August summer, you'll know if the kids have brought home any of those goodies!
After seashell hunting, make it a family policy to clean any beach treasure you find. We clean ours, dry them on paper towels, and store them away in plastic Zip-loc bags for the trip home.
Martha then adds them to our collection. We keep them in clear lamp bases, where they really look good as decorative pieces.
The Best Time for Seashell Hunting -
Finding sea shells, whether conch shells, whelk shells, or others, is a snap with the right conditions.
What are the right conditions? The best time is at low tide, right after a coastal storm has come through, usually from late August to early spring.
Storms push water and sand towards the beach. The nicer shells are probably in this offshore sand, and the storm will deposit them on the beach proper.
Get there at the earliest low tide to beat the crowds and take your pick of the best shells (good luck dragging the kiddies out of bed that early, though).
Where's the Best Spot on Jekyll Island for Searching for Seashells?
Possibly the most productive beach is the South Dunes Beach, or St. Andrew's Beach. They're wide and mostly uncrowded, even in the high season.
Sharks teeth are sometimes buried in the muck at extreme low tide on the marsh side of the island. Sharks Tooth Beach is a good spot for hunting them.
Of course, the truth is that any time you want to go to Jekyll Island is a good time for seashell hunting - or for enjoying any of the myriad activities available for your own unique Jekyll Island Family Adventure!