Florida Shell Guide

The beaches on Anna Maria Island are perfect for shelling and beach combing. The best times to look for shells are after a high tide, after a storm, in the morning, and during the winter months. Sand dollars are easily found during low tide on the beach nearby the Sandbar Restaurant.
The following shells are commonly found on Florida's beaches. The Junonia is more rare, and is considered a special find by beachcombers.

Conch Shells

Fighting conchs are the type of conch most commonly found on beaches. While alive, the seashell is a bright orange, but will fade under the bright tropical sunshine. Conch harvesting is now illegal in the state.

conch shell

Junonia Shells

This shell is greatly prized for its beauty and apparent rarity by collectors. Its milky chamber is covered with brown spots on the outside, and the animal that occupies the shell is likewise marked.


Lightning Whelk Shells

Large and distinctive, Lightning whelks grow up to 16 inches long. Lightning whelks were used by early island natives for boh food and tools, most commonly as lamps. This species has a left-handed or sinistral shell.

Lightning Whelk

Cockle Shell

The heart cockle is one the most common shells found, though a rarity in other parts of the world. The cockle mollusk is a footed creature that can jump several inches in a single leap.

Cockle Shell

Tulip Banded Shell

Banded tulips and their larger, rarer cousins, true tulips, frequently wash up on island shores to the delight of collectors and beach combers who revel in their intriguing patterns and delicately swirling form.

Tulip Banded Shell

Sand Dollar Shells

While alive, the sand dollar is thin, flat, brown, and bristled with tiny tubes that permit it to breath, move and camouflage itself. Exposed to the sun, Sand dollars will bleach to a beautifully white textured pattern.

Sand Dollar

Olive Shells

Named for its elongated oval shape, the olive comes in a variety of colors and variations, and often sports a glossy finish. Olive shells will sun-bleached white and rarely grow beyond three inches long.

Olive Shells

Murek Shells

The Murex can have various shapes with a long "tail" and spikes all the way down. They are hard to find in good condition because they are fragile and the surf usually destroys the spikes.

Murek Shells

Coquinas Shells

Coquinas are not much bigger than a dime, and come in many colorful patterns, stripes, solids, and even plaids. You will most likely see live coquina's digging their way into the sand when the waves recede.