You may be wondering what’s been up with all of these sudden new National holidays, and guess what! You’re about to be the first to hear about one more! National Seashell Day is happening on June 20th, and for all you seashell lovers, #mermaidlife-ers, and ocean dwellers, that means you’ve got something massive to “shellebrate”!
There’s no better place in the world to shellebrate National Seashell Day, than in the very place that’s considered one of the world’s top locations for collecting seashells; Sanibel Island, Florida. Sanibel is just off the southwest coast of Fort Myers, and is joined by a cluster of several other small and beautiful islands, such as Captiva Island, Cayo Costa, and Boca Grande Key. These little yet lush Florida islands are unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the U.S. before; with miles and miles of white, pristine beaches, that act as a collection net for the thousands of beautiful seashells that wash ashore from the Gulf.
Shelling, or the act and art of collecting seashells, is of course extremely popular in Sanibel, and the hobby itself attracts people from all over the world who want to add to their collection, or simply relax on the tropical beaches. Since National Seashell Day is about celebrating all things beachy, here’s a few ways you can “shellebrate” in Sanibel!
Everyone has their personal favorite type of seashell, even if you didn’t know that seashells had a type! Do you like the spirally ones that look like they’d make noise if you blew on them? Or the cute little ones that would make the perfect top for The Little Mermaid? You’ll probably automatically collect your favorites on your own, but to make things interesting, try taking a look at all of the different types of seashells that Sanibel has, and attempting to find a few unique ones!
Seashells don’t just appear out of thin air (or water)! They were all once living animals, that start as babies, with little baby shells, and grow into bigger animals with bigger shells over the years. The seashells that you find on the beach are typically there because another animal (including other seashells!) ate the animal inside, so the shell washed up on shore. Interesting, right? You can learn more facts like that one at the National Seashell Museum in Sanibel, where they have some awesome marine biologists, and a touch-pool where you can actually see and hold the living bivalves and mollusks (AKA living seashells).
A word of caution, the Roman Fighter Conch seriously puts up a good fight if you pick him up!
After you’ve spent some time collection seashells on the surface, and learning about what’s going on under their surface, try your luck at a little more intense version of shelling. Actual shelling is much more than just picking up pretty seashells on the sea shore like Sally did for her uh, store. Oh, and that’s a real store by the way, it’s located in the little market area on your way into Sanibel Island. To find the really cool seashells, many of which are large and undamaged, and potentially thrown in with a sand dollar or two, you have to dig deep in the sand with a shovel, and then use a net to sift and rinse in order to find the shells!
You can also try your luck by grabbing a snorkel and scanning the shallow coastline, but be careful! Sometimes the seashells you’ll find still have a living animal in them, and it’s illegal to remove them from the beach!
As a world traveler, I can honestly say that cruising around the islands near Sanibel felt like I was cruising in another country. I could definitely feel the Florida vibes from the cheery crew onboard the Captiva Cruises pontoon, but with a pod of dolphins playing in the wake of the boat, and spotting bits of islands that looked like Palau, I was seriously considering why I was still living in California.
The cruise took us to Cayo Costa to go shelling, then to the infamous Cabbage Key Restaurant for lunch, which is said to be where Jimmy Buffet first sang the lyrics, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. If that’s not shellebrating National Seashell Day, I don’t know what is!
Speaking of cheeseburgers in paradise…well…I’m a vegetarian, so nevermind about my opinion of a burger, but my opinion of the fish that I had in Sanibel, Captiva, and Cabbage Key is that it’s more on point than a protractor. Macadamia nut-crusted MahiMahi, Coconut Shrimp with orange and apricot salsa, STONE. CRAB. CLAWS….technically not a fish, but still delicious anyways, and all of which were oh so fresh and delicious and making me wish I wasn’t writing about food right now!
Balloons are for celebrating right? So if you’re “shellebrating” you should technically have a balloon that takes you over all of the seashells! Get your adventure pants on and get out to Sunny Island Adventures for a parasailing session that will not only give you a birdseye view of Sanibel and the surrounding islands, but a ton of sea life too! Our group could see dolphins and sting rays jumping, and I’m pretty sure someone snapped a photo of a shark too…
I’m just going to throw it out there that as i was kayaking to the mangrove jungle, I saw a little dolphin jumping around in front of me, and a super rare pink bird that looks like it should be on the cover of National Geographic or something. Going through the mangrove jungle is literally how it sounds…like you’re kayaking through a jungle, and it becomes even more fun if you start to sing songs from Pocahontas, or TLC’s “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”.
Oh, and prepare to have your mind completely blown and boggled when you start wondering where the end of the trail is, and where the people in the opposite direction, asking “How much longer?”, are starting from.
Nothing says “shellebration” like a sunset happy hour cocktail, especially when it’s at a beautiful pool with a beautiful ocean view. The dual-pools at South Seas Island Resort come complete with a massive tiki bar, towering palm trees, and an ocean sunset that will make you wonder if your life is actually a movie (see what I did there?).
Got kids? Cool, there’s a separate pool with WATERSLIDES and a pizza and ice-cream shop behind the two main pools. If not, and if that still sounds awesome to you, don’t worry, I totally went down the slides and ate a ton of pizza too!
After you’re all worn out from your day of shellebrating, head to South Sea’s Harbourside Grille for some awesome land or sea food! The best part about it is that after you’re done grubbing down on delicious delicacies (my mind is still on the stone crab claws, sorry) you can walk right outside on the boat docks and potentially spot a manatee! Florida is the only place in the world that you can see a wild manatee, and I was lucky enough to see about seven when I was in Sanibel!
So everything that I previously mentioned was ONLY in the Sanibel Island area, BUT there’s still the entire Fort Myers area for you to explore too! If you head to Fort Myers Beach there’s a massive boardwalk that takes you straight out into the ocean, and back on the shore is nothing but white sandy beaches, and cute little shops and restaurants! The “downtown” area is actually super relaxed, but has been built up in the recent years and now boasts some amazing restaurants and bars.
There’s also the Thomas Edison Museum nearby, which I like because of the jungle-esque atmosphere, and a peak into Old-Timey Florida!
Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with The Beaches of Myers and Sanibel, however all photos, opinions, and content are my own!