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If you enjoy beachcombing, you might want to plan your next vacation around one of these amazing beaches around the world.
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Lincoln City, Oregon
The wild and ruggedly picturesque Oregon coast is a world-class destination for beachcombers and treasure hunters alike, with a wide variety of driftwood, fossils, jasper and agate. Lincoln City is one of the best places to start, located along the central part of the coast. It also offers a unique opportunity daily October through May, when colorful hand-blown glass fishing floats in a variety of sizes, each signed and numbered by a local artist, are set out above the tide long along the 8-mile stretch of beach by designated “float fairies.” If you find one, you get to keep it. There are also genuine Japanese glass fishing floats that occasionally drift ashore.
Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California
The town of Fort Bragg, located in Northern California’s beautiful Mendocino County is home to Glass Beach. The beach is made up of hundreds of thousands of small, smooth, colored pieces of “sea glass.” The site was once the city dump, where from the late 1800s through the 1960s, people tossed their trash. Over the next several decades the pounding waves cleaned the beach, breaking down everything but glass and pottery, resulting in those colorful tiny pieces that cover it today. While it’s often been called a “mecca for sea glass collectors,” technically, it’s illegal to remove it, although with so many coming to look for those sparkling treasures, there isn’t near as much as there used to be. Still, it’s certainly worth a look – and the surrounding area is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. In addition to beachcombing, visitors can ride horses along the sand on nearby beaches and in the redwood forest, kayak, hike and more.
White Park Bay, Ballintoy, Ireland
Situated along Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast, White Park Bay is one of the most stunning beaches, flanked by ancient sand dunes and lush grasslands dotted with wild orchids. The fossil-rich sandy beach is also home to limestone and bivalve fossils, while Neolithic tools have been discovered in the rivers that run down to the Irish Sea. The world-famous Giant’s Causeway, a landscape of dramatic cliffs, with the coastal area made up of about 40,000 basalt columns that were created by a volcanic eruption that took place some 60 million years ago, is nearby, as well as the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. If you dare to cross it and look down, you can look for passing dolphins and even the occasional basking shark.
Sand Dollar Beach, Big Sur, California
Sand Dollar Beach, set along Monterey’s Big Sur coast, is absolutely breathtaking. It’s a popular place for picnicking, fishing, surfing, beachcombing, and searching for jade, fishing, and surfing, although the rough waves and strong rip currents make it dangerous for wading or swimming, but that’s not why people come. Nearby Jade Cove is a favorite with treasure hunters that search for nephrite jade, which can often be found here. If you hope to find some, plan to arrive at low tide, but remember, regulations require that an individual can only take what he or she can carry, and no tools may be used except a hand tool to maneuver and lift the jade out, or scratch its surface to determine if it that’s what it really is.
Sanibel Island, Florida
Sanibel Island is a shell lover’s mecca, where you can find beautiful Junonia, a twisted cone shell with markings similar to a giraffe’s spots – if you spot one, you can even get your picture in the local paper. The best shot at finding the coveted shell is said to be at Bowman’s beach, on the northern end of the Gulf-facing beaches. This wildlife refuge-dominated barrier island on the Gulf Coast is home to numerous pristine white sand beaches filled with shells, but if you don’t spot what you’re looking for, you may want to check out the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, which hosts more than 150,000 specimens. Blind Pass beach is popular among shell collectors due to the strong currents in the waterway and occasional storms that bring a rich harvest of shells. Other highlights on the island include the J.N. (Ding) Darling National Wildlife Refuge, home to endangered mild-natured giant manatees and 30 other species of mammals, and the USS Mohawk CGC Veterans Memorial Reef, home to many species of fish and other marine animals.
Shell Beach, Shark Bay, Western Australia
This over 68-mile stretch of beach on L’Haridon Bight in Western Australia’s Shark Bay is made up entirely of seashells. There are billions of tiny coquina bivalve shells that were deposited more than 4,000 years ago, create this long, snowy white beach that’s lapped by an aquamarine-hued sea. They’re piled up to 33 feet deep, making what must be the No. 1 beachcomber’s dream on the planet. This stretch of coast also features a variety of colorful seashells and a surprisingly low beachcomber density. It’s also ideal for sandboarding, snorkeling, swimming and surfing, although it will take you a while to get there – it’s a nine-hour drive from the closest major airport in Perth. But few would say it wasn’t worth the effort.
Okracoke Island, North Carolina
The outermost island of the Outer Banks, Ocracoke is a remote isle that was settled in the mid-18th century and houses the oldest operating lighthouse on the east coast – the second oldest in the entire nation. It can be seen throughout the village of Ocracoke, offering postcard-perfect photo opportunities from the land and the sea. Okracoke also hosts wild and unspoiled beaches that are sparsely populated, even at the peak of summer – and at North Point, you can discover everything from Scotch bonnets and sand dollars to tiny, butterfly-like coquinas. Beachcombing here is especially exciting the morning after a big squall. The island is also home to wild ponies and more than 250 historic structures, most using materials from scuttled ships.
Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, Florida
The Gulf Islands National Seashore is home to aquamarine-hued glistening waters and pristine white sand beaches that stretch from Cat Island, Mississippi for 160 miles east to the Okaloosa Area near Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Just after a big storm, the strikingly white sands uncover a treasure that’s exclusive to this area: hurricane balls. The egg-shaped objects are created by the crashing of the waves during a storm, with palmetto grass, seaweed and straw wrapping tightly around a small stone or shell before being tossed onto the sand. If there hasn’t been a storm, there is still plenty to find, including prehistoric shell middens that were left by early settlers. There are also sand dollars, augers, coquinas, alphabet cones, common nutmegs and more. The 12 areas of the National Seashore host campgrounds, trails, picnic areas and historic forts as well.
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
The South Padre Island National Seashore stretches for about 70 miles along the Gulf of Mexico in Corpus Christi, Texas. Not only does it offers all sorts of fun on its beautiful beaches, in the warm waters of the Gulf, but it’s a true mecca for shells, driftwood and sea-beans, which are seeds and fruits carried into the ocean from freshwater sources. As this area is a major thruway for ships, it’s also a great spot for locating man-made objects that wash ashore, like old boat parts like buoys and fishing nets. But be aware that as the National Park Service regulates the barrier island, beachcombers are required to limit their haul to whatever they can fit inside a five-gallon bucket. Other popular attractions here include dolphin watching, fishing and simply relaxing or strolling the sand.
Lunan Bay Beach, Scotland
Lunan Bay, on the Angus coast about two hours north of Edinburgh, is home to one of the most beautiful, yet lesser-known, beaches in all of Scotland. The stunning east-facing beach with pink sandstone hues is backed by sand dunes and framed by low cliffs to the north and south. The two-mile stretch is overlooked by Red Castle, built for King William the Lion of Scotland to defend against Viking invaders in the 12th century. It’s a great beach for surfing, horseback riding, and fishing – in fact, traditional fishing is still practiced here with nets strung on poles dug into the sand to trap fish in receding tides. Search through the piles of little pebbles on the sandy beach and you might just find agate nodules too. These colorful, banded, Devonian-age volcanic rocks, are locally referred to as “Scotch pebbles.” It’s not exactly easy to get here, however, you’ll need to drive or walk from the nearest town of Arbroath and then cross the massive sand dunes, but it’s all part of the adventure.