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National Seashell Day 2018

It’s fast approaching – National Seashell Day. This shellabration started in 2016 and it always falls on the first day of summer, which this year, is June 21, 2018.

As an avid sheller, this holiday makes me very happy. I don’t need a holiday to go seashell hunting, but since there IS a holiday, well, that’s a great reason to visit ‘Tween Waters and get out on their world-class shelling beach! You can even book shelling charters onsite at the marina.

Need a few tips to make the most of your shellebration? I’m your girl. I passed my exams with flying colors and am officially a Shelling Ambassador for the Bailey-Mathews National Seashell Museum. If you haven’t been, make it one of the first places you visit while on island. You’ll learn so much – and it’s just a few minutes from ‘Tween Waters.

  • Best time to shell: One hour before low tide till an hour after. Look online for the tide times for the days that you’ll be visiting or visit the onsite marina.
  • Where to look for shells: Walk the high tide line. If you can, walk in the water, too. Many shells don’t make it up to shore and are resting just a few feet away.
  • The moon matters: A full moon and a new moon make for a greater tidal event, which brings more shells.
  • The rules: In Lee County, it’s illegal to take ‘live’ shells, so if there’s a critter in a shell that you’ve found, gently put it back. (I always have my phone with me in a waterproof case so I can take a photo of the live shells I’ve found.)

I hope to see you on the beach for National Seashell Day! What a great way to kick off summer!

Beautiful shells found on my morning walk on Captiva Island.

 

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Seashells on Captiva Island — Treasure at ‘Tween Waters Inn

Having now lived in Florida for seven years, one would think I knew a little more about the largest attraction to SWFL — the seashells — but in fact, I have kept myself fairly blissfully ignorant. I say, “blissfully ignorant” because I know that if I would ever learn the names of the shells, which shells were rare, which shells to look for and how to find the best ones, I could never simply walk down a Southwest Florida beach again without a bloodthirsty search for perfect hidden treasure.

IMG_2667-1But alas, it was time I take the plunge, stoop on Sanibel, crouch on Captiva, and educate myself on this treasure from the sea. I enlisted the help of a friend to help identify some of what is said to be 250 species of shells on these barrier islands, but if you’re not as lucky as me to have a local shell-educated friend, ‘Tween Waters Inn, Captiva Island and Sanibel Island boast a variety of local experts willing to take guests on shelling expeditions in search of knowledge and the perfect souvenir (for a small fee of course).

I learned five of the easier shell names to remember and identify, including angel wings, kitten’s paw, shark’s eye moon shell (my favorite, not only for the name but the stunning swirl of colors), calico scallop and lighting whelk — only 245 more species to remember!

Innsider Tip: If you’re the type the usually wins the a raffle or lottery, then be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the prized Junonia shell — it is not only fairly elusive, but also considered lucky if you should unearth one.

With an abundance of shells, it should be easy work to find a small souvenir to fit in your suitcase, but if you’re seeking the full shelling experience, I also picked up a few tips on digging up the best of the best in crustaceous treasure:

  • Make certain to have a container to keep your shells in as you search: As an inexperienced “sheller,” my pockets and hands did not have nearly the capacity necessary.
  • Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen: Typically, you have to get up early in the morning around low tide, to snatch up the perfect shell before your competitors, but it’s still hot and still sunny.
  • Pay attention to moon phases and tides: It’s amazing what a difference a full moon can make on the extremity of the tides!

But the best recommendation I can give to an inexperienced sheller is simply to stop and enjoy the experience. There is no better sound than the tinkling give and take of the shells being pulled into the ocean by the waves!

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Sunrise Walks at ‘Tween Waters Inn

Beautiful shells found on my morning walk on Captiva Island.
Beautiful shells found on my morning walk on Captiva Island.

It’s no secret that moms don’t get much time for themselves, so I wanted to share how to sneak in some free therapy while you’re staying at ‘Tween Waters Inn with your family. These magical moments of solidarity happen early in the morning but are so worth getting out of bed for. Before the sun rises, slip into your shorts and water shoes and head to the beach. Behold the beauty! Stars are still twinkling in the pre-dawn sky, the beach has no footprints but yours, and the seashells are waiting for you to scoop them up. You can walk left or right, it matters not. You could potentially walk for miles. (One morning, I walked two miles to Blind Pass and found a rare lion’s paw shell on the high tide line!

The early bird gets the lion's paw seashell!
The early bird gets the lion’s paw seashell!

Sunrise walks are not only an easy way to sneak in some exercise, but are simply good for the soul. And for those who are nature-lovers, keep your eyes and ears open! You can see all kinds of birds including ospreys, egrets and herons; dolphins hunting for their breakfast of baitfish; and the pink hues that paint the sky are spectacular.

You'll love having the beach to yourself in the early morning on Captiva.
You’ll love having the beach to yourself in the early morning on Captiva.

If you’re on the hunt for manatees, walk to the marina. They tend to hang out there, especially in the winter months. The winter months also bring in more seashells, if that’s possible! I recommend getting a mesh, shelling bag to hold all of your treasures. You can purchase one at the marina or any local grocery store. I hope you get to experience a sunrise walk at least once while you visit. If you do, post your photos to our Facebook page! I’d love to see your morning memories.

You never know what you'll see on your sunrise walk.
You never know what you’ll see on your sunrise walk.
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