With the abundance of seashells found on Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, collecting them has become a favorite pastime. In fact, so many people go shelling when visiting the Islands; the bent-at-the-waist stance one takes when bending over to retrieve a seashell has been dubbed the “Sanibel Stoop.”
Sanibel Island Shelling and Captiva Island Shelling have earned their reputation as the “Shell Islands” honestly. The islands are littered with shells, like some magnificent work of shell art created over thousands of years. When islanders dig gardens in their backyards, they find conchs, whelks, scallops and clam shells often perfectly intact.
The best shelling is found on the beaches of Sanibel Island & Captiva. The islands rank tops in the world for shelling because of geography. Sanibel Island is shaped in a curve along the coastline among a string of other more orderly, straight-and-narrow islands. The east-west torque of Sanibel’s south end acts like a shovel scooping up all the seashells that the Gulf imports from The Caribbean and other southern seas. USAToday has ranked shelling on Sanibel Island as the 7th of Florida’s Best Attractions overall.
The incredible abundance and variety of shells have made Sanibel Island and Captiva shell-obsessed. People come from all over the world, drawn by the song of the seashell. They parade along the sands doubled over in a stance that’s been dubbed the Sanibel Stoop. Every March, they gather to compare and appreciate shell collections and shell art at the annual Sanibel Shell Fair & Show. Throughout the year, shell shops sell seashells by the seashore (and by the thousands). Shells are the dominant motif in island decor and boutique gifts. You’ll find everything from finely crafted “shell-igrams” to lucite toilet seats with seashells lacquered in. (No home should be without one!)