Treasure washes up daily on the shores of Sanibel Island, and you can identify the seekers of the perfect shell by their bent-over posture, commonly known as the “Sanibel stoop.” The barrier island off Florida’s southwest coast is famous for its 15 miles of beaches, where more than 200 kinds of shells can be found. The island has a unique east-west orientation, which creates a long, south-facing beach that pitches gradually into the water. From there, the Gulf currents easily push their tiny treasures onto the shore. You can usually find shells anytime on Sanibel’s beaches, but the best time to go shelling is following a storm after low tide. Bring a scooper, a bucket and a net shell bag that allows water to drain.
If you go: Sanibel Island is off the coast of southwest Florida, just west of Fort Myers. Parking at Sanibel’s public beaches costs $5 an hour. sanibel-captiva.org
Runners-up: Tigertail Beach on Marco Island and Shell Island near Panama City Beach