You can find a treasure trove of shells on local beaches
Bring back more than a tan from your beach vacation on Florida's Paradise Coast. Join a shelling excursion and your souvenirs can include starfish and fighting conch shells.
The southwestern part of the state benefits from the offshore currents piling up sand dollars and other seashells on the many deserted islands. And there are plenty of local businesses that can take you to those islands on nature cruises that are fun for the whole family. Just remember -- it's against the law to take live creatures, so only pick up the starfish, sand dollars and shells that are no longer living.
So grab the gang and start combing. Here are a few of the many shelling excursions out of the Naples area:Bahama Joe's Charters
sets sail with an excursion for groups of up to six people to deserted islands around Marco Island and Cape Romano. "It's always best to go shelling after a good storm ... good surf piles the shells up on the beach," says Captain Dana Land. Half-day or full-day trips are available. Multiple-boat beach parties can also be combined with shelling excursions.
If you'd like to learn more about Florida wildlife during your shelling excursion, check out Sweet Liberty
. Owner Len Wassmer says that the highlight of their excursions is the captains, "who are very good about giving local nature narration." Get a glimpse of Florida's fauna and flora on a three-hour trip to the remote Keewaydin Island, with over seven miles of shell-filled beaches. The Sweet Liberty can hold up to 49 people.
Nature lovers also have the choice of combining a shelling excursion with an eco-tour on Stop's Marine Charters, which tours the western Everglades, the Cape Romano area and Naples. You can set sail on a three-hour trip.
Looking for a private jaunt? Cruise on over to Off The Hook Adventures
, which features a six-person catamaran for a day of shelling on Marco's barrier islands. You can take the time to hunt down that lightning whelk, but you'll find a lot more than shells on your trip, according to Captain Corey Yuskaitis. "We see sea turtles, a pelican in its nest...," Yuskaitis says of the trek. "We want to educate people about the environment. And shells are living creatures in the water, so we only keep the dead seashells."
For another relaxing catamaran cruise, consider Marco Island Ski & Watersports
, which sails the 45-foot Calusa Spirit, for its two-and-a-half hour shelling excursions. Hop aboard the 49-person catamaran.
For more shelling excursions and other tours, see our Tours listings