Shelling & Shark Teeth

Shells and shark teeth are quintessential Sarasota. People come from all over the world to search for sacred shells and shark’s teeth found in the beautiful white sands of the beaches.

Shelling & Shark Teeth

The warm climate and gentle waves of the SunCoast create a perfect environment for shells along with shark teeth from inhabitants of the deep blue waters. Mollusks have external skeletons known as shells and when they die, the nutrients that created the hardened shell are left behind as a symbol of these creatures who live in the waters. Visitors can enjoy looking for the teeth left behind that are shed from sharks or appear after the sharks die, drifting into the sand as treasure to be found. Find out why so many people love shelling and finding teeth, the best places to visit, and even some tools of the trade.

Types of Shells

Common shells found in and around the area can include:

  • Auger
  • Cockle
  • Turkey Wing
  • Coquina
  • Fighting Conch
  • Olive
  • Whelk
  • Cat Paw
  • Sunray Venus
  • Jewelbox


A guide book can help visitors identify what Florida shells are and even how to date them as to how old they might be. A handful of shells can bring lots of variety and interesting colors and striations. Check out local bookstores that will have guides for shelling.


Shelling Tips

Going out shelling is quite an experience. Amateur sleuths can find just about any shell lying in the sand. The key is knowing how and when to go looking for the best shells out there. Try these tips to get started:

  • Shell early. Shells wash up overnight and leave fresh ones for beachcombers. Also helps to avoid crowds to get on the sand bright and early to avoid crowds of others competing for shells
  • Go after a storm. Storms bring in lots of shells and corals and other things that might be treasures
  • Go the extra mile. Literally, walk slowly but take time to walk a ways for shells. The more people walk, the more likely they are to find what they want
  • Follow tide reports. The best time to go is an hour before and after low tide
  • Don’t be afraid to look around boulders, by piers, and other spaces. Just be mindful not to disturb any nesting turtles or other animals who might be near these spaces
  • Get off the beach and into the water. Grab snorkel and fins to skim the water where shells accumulate that haven’t washed up yet. It’s a fun way to explore the water also
  • Bring buckets and shovels with sifters to help collect the finds

Places to Shell

Some key things to keep about when shelling. Look for sandbars or tidal islands. These areas are rich with sand dollars. Think of Siesta and Lido Key where Big Pass is located. Several sandbars exist north of Longboat Key, also. Look for less crowded areas with fresh shells. Don’t grab one with a living creature inside, only empty shells.


Barrier Islands

The Barrier Islands are a great place to look around Sarasota for some shells. Think about Crescent Beach in Siesta Key with large deposits of shells. Turtle Beach towards Casey Key is another hot spot. Lido Key is great, but focus on North Lido Beach to find more shells and fewer crowds. Longboat Key is a great place for shelling with driftwood for photos as a bonus. 

To keep shells clean, wash with fresh water or soak overnight. For discolored shells, use a Clorox solution of ¼ clorox and ¾ water. Shells can be arranged and placed in vases, lamps, boxes, or used to display in creative ways the many treasures found on a vacation. It is fun to think of ways to bring home some of the sand and shells from a trip to Sarasota.


Shark Teeth

There is nothing cooler than finding abandoned shark teeth in the sands of Sarasota. All across the city’s eponymous beaches lay dormant some of the oldest shark teeth anywhere in the world. The Gulf beaches in and around Venice are known for fossilized finds of shark teeth, bringing collectors from all over to find their treasure. Other beaches include Casey Key and Manasota Key. Take a moment to find the best places to find shark teeth, how to collect them, and what to do with the finds afterwards.


Tools of the Trade

Looking for shark teeth isn’t easy. It might take a little bit of digging. Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for tools:

  • “Florida snow shovels” are used to scoop and sift sand and shells. This is a great tool for shark teeth. Venice Beach Pier has rentals. People can buy them also or a small fee at local tourist stores
  • Creative people bring colanders from their kitchen to search the sands. A mixing bowl and cooking pot make great uses also. 
  • Rakes are great ways to grab shark teeth. Try a sand flea rake, made from durable materials that is large and scoops sand and sentiment. This wedge shaped basket is spacious for many teeth. A shark tooth sifter goes through the sediment in water and gets rid of it through the mesh. The sifter has a 3-6 foot lanyard to attach to your arm
  • Other rakes include a sand dipper, shaped like a hiking pole, to scoop up teeth. It is fully collapsible and folds for easy packaging and is lightweight
  • Use mesh bags to grab the interesting stuff like teeth or shells and let the other stuff go

Timing is Everything

When searching for shark’s teeth, it helps to look at the time of day. Early morning is a great time to go out and after a storm has passed. Head underwater with some scuba and snorkeling gear to look for some interesting teeth further under the water. There are many different types of fossils that lived millions of years ago.


Book a Charter

Charter cruises with scuba and snorkeling for shark teeth hunting can be a fun way to drift off course from the usual spots to find some nice treasure. Several companies in Sarasota host shark and shelling tours to look for teeth and other things on sandbars off the coast.


Best Beaches For
Finding Shells and Shark Teeth

Hit up Caspersen Beach, Venice Beach and Casey Key or Manasota Key for optimal spots for finding teeth. This ‘shark tooth capital of the world’ offers the best teeth around. Also check out  south of Venice Jetty. The Venice Fishing Pier at Brohard Park is a great place to find teeth, as well. Stroll the shoreline at Venice for fast finds. Walk where the waves break down and scoop up shells and sand. Check out the Venice Shark Tooth Festival that provides opportunities to buy good quality fossils. In prehistoric times, 10 million years ago, Florida was under the sea. Sharks were in the water and dropped thousands of teeth per shark over that time, which built up on the beach.