Cape San Blas Shelling: Everything You Need To Know

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I love shelling and that’s no secret.  If you’re following me on Instagram (if you’re not, you should!) you’ll know I spent a week on Cape San Blas in Florida at the beginning of March.  Before you come at me, this was literally right before everything with the virus really happened in the US.

I drove down to Florida with my parents and we basically spent a week on shelling on Cape San Blas and I loved it.  It’s a sleepy little cape in the panhandle still recovering from damage from Hurricane Michael in 2018.  While it doesn’t have any hotels, it does have plenty of vacation home rentals with fun names like Island Breeze and Hilton Hideaway.

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There, admittedly, isn’t tons to do on the island, but there are a few hiking trails at the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park and a couple of boardwalks at/near Salinas Park Bayside.  The highlight for me though, was definitely the shelling.  I found more than I thought I would and would love to hear your suggestions on what to do with shells.

The Internet may make it sound like this isn’t a great place to find shells, but it is, as long as you’re in the right place and aren’t looking for huge shells.  Once you’re out there for a bit, you start to get the hang of it.  So, here is everything you need to know about Cape San Blas shelling.

Where is Cape San Blas?

Cape San Blas is in the Florida panhandle, not too far from Destin.  The closest town on the mainland is Port St. Joe.  It’s about two hours from Tallahassee and an hour and a half from St. George Island.

The best time to visit Cape San Blas

Winter, for sure!  It may not be ideal temperatures for swimming, but it’s perfect for being outside.  It’s also the busy season, so more businesses will be open in the winter.  It was pretty warm when we went, but got cool in the evenings and mornings, especially with occasional wind.

What to bring shelling

You really don’t need to bring much, but there are a few things you’ll want to have with you.

Mesh shell bag – We just used grocery bags we got on the trip, but this would be soooo much more convenient.  This will help loose sand fall out and you could even dip the whole thing in the ocean if necessary for a little rinse.  We rinsed them all off with the hose anyways because they collect so much sand in them.  Buy the mesh shell bag here.

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and maybe humid and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Neutrogena a lot, but if you’ll be swimming, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – This is a must, especially with the wind.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  It was a little rainy on our visit, but it also got a little windy a couple days.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

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Types of shells on Cape San Blas

These are just some of the types of shells on Cape San Blas.  I found some of all of these, but there are more I haven’t found that are more rare I’m sure.  Some of these are hard to find not broken and some just plain old hard to find, but it is possible!  Just keep your eyes peeled and pick up everything to check, even if you think it’s broken because it just might not be.  You can see more types on the pictures below the list.

  • Fighting conch
  • Whelks
  • Augers
  • Scallops
  • Jingles
  • Kitten paws
  • False drill
  • Scotch bonnet
  • Coquina
  • Shark’s eye
  • Olive jar

Where to go shelling on Cape San Blas

I tried to make a map showing everywhere, but it’s not all on Google Maps, so explaining it is best.  This is where you’ll find the best places for shelling on Cape San Blas and what kind of shells you can find where.  I’ll give all directions like you’re coming from the mainland working my way to the far end of the cape.  I’ll also be describing the island with beach side (left) and bay side (right).

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Salinas Park

This isn’t on the main part of the Cape, but closer to the mainland.  This is the first stop on the way onto the island.  There is the main Salinas Park parking area on the right (bay side) coming in from Port St. Joe and that’s where we parked.  There is also parking on the beach side.  Wherever you park, go over to the beach side and there will be a path or two leading down to the shore.

We walked a little ways both directions on this section of beach, but didn’t find much as far as big shells.  There were a lot of scallop shells and little colorful ones (coquina) that looked like fake fingernails to me.  This is also where you’ll find a couple of boardwalks on the bay side.

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The Rock Wall

This sounds extremely vague, but I promise, it’s not.  The rock wall will be on the left.  I think there are kind of two sections of this though.  The first you’ll see a small parking area on the left.  We walked around here for a bit but didn’t find too much.

We could really on walk left on the beach from here because the wall went right to the water on the right.  This is still an interesting spot to stop though because of the stumps and things on the beach.

If you drive a little further down, there is a rock wall (it could all be connected, I don’t remember 100%) where you can pretty much see the sand on top of it.  I think this is the “official” rock wall.  We didn’t look here, but I bet it had some good stuff.  This is before a lot of the houses start.

The Elbow

I’m not sure if this is before or after the rock wall, but it’s where the road turns to Cape San Blas Road, the corner kind of where the pin is on the map above.  You may have to walk a little more to get to the beach here, but it’s rumored to have good shells since there aren’t tons of people visiting this part.

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Public Beach Access

I would guess maybe halfway between the elbow of the cape and the state park entrance is a public beach access area on the left.  We didn’t look here, but if it’s anything like near our condo, I would highly recommend.  The best places to find the shells, I think, was in this middle area, not by the wall but not in the park either.  I’m sure this can change all the time, though.

By Your Rental Condo

This was the absolute best place that we found shells on Cape San Blas.  The best.  On the dune right outside of our condo I found like, twenty olive jars (a type of shell).  A short walk to the left of the condo wee hit the jackpot and found a place right where the tide hit that was a literal shell mine and everytime the waves crashed, more were washed up.  To the right we had to walk further and didn’t have as much luck, but still found a lot of great ones.

Wherever you’re staying, if it’s on the beach side, definitely go walk around outside of it.  You never know what you’ll find.  If you are walking around in your condo area, just be aware of where you are and if there’s any private property.  There are people that live here year round and you should be respectful of that.

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St. Joseph Peninsula State Park

Way at the end of the peninsula is the state park.  You can look for shells here bay or beach side, depending on what you want.  Beach side will have more variety, and I think bay side will be more scallop shell type.

I had some luck walking along the water line here in certain spots, but also had luck further back by the fence, so I would really just check it all out.  We only walked to the right from the entrance area.

Apparently, if you walk alllllll the way down to the end you might be able to find some of the bigger shells since no one really goes down there.  I didn’t test this tough, since it’s like, eight miles of beach walking.  If you have done this, let me know how it was and if this is legit!

Other things to know about Cape San Blas shelling

  • If you want the best chance at the best shells, go at low tide or first thing in the morning.  Or both.
  • If you find a really good spot, find a landmark to remember it and check back there everyday, but keep in mind that these hot spots can come and go and may shift around a bit.
  • You can dig for shells, but if you dig any holes, you have to fill them in before moving on.
  • A good place to find shells is in sand shelves.  This is just kind of a small sand wall (like, six inches maybe) usually where the water comes in, like, the far point the water reaches before proceeding.  Find yourself a good, scoop shaped shell and dig along the edge of the shelf.  When you start to hear a gravely scratchy noise, keep an eye out.  I didn’t have tons of luck with this method, but a lady we met swears by it.
  • Don’t take any shells with living critters in them.  Make sure to leave those behind.
  • I would recommend rinsing out all of your shells when before packing them up to go home.  The conch shaped ones really hold a lot of sand inside of them and it gets messy.
  • If you’re on the beach near the condos and houses, make sure you’re not too far back and on anyone property.  There are people that live here all the time.

Well, there you have it!  All of the best spots for shelling on Cape San Blas.  This is one place in Florida I would love to go back to, for shelling of course, but also because there is so much other cool stuff to see in the area.

Have you been to Cape San Blas?  What did you think of it?  Did you do any shelling?  Find anything good?  Anywhere I missed and need to check next time?  

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