Shell, yeah! I had the best shelling experience in Southwest Florida earlier this year and it was with Treasure Seekers Shell Tours in the Ten Thousand Islands.
Beachcombing Kice Island with Treasure Seekers Shell Tours
The February 2021 trip was to Kice Island. Within the three hours or so of beachcombing, I found dozens, and dozens of beautiful seashells. It was an outgoing tide which meant more gorgeous treasures from the sea were exposed.
The shell piles probably contained millions of seashells and honestly, it was a little overwhelming and I wasn’t sure where to start.
“Find cones near the shore,” Treasure Seekers Shell Tours guide Capt. Jason Fullerton told us shell-seekers.
As I spotted a gaudy nautica rolling in the outgoing tide, Capt. Jason handed me another one. A matching set!
This part of Southwest Florida is a good place to find an elusive Junonia shell. It’s a white cone with dark chocolate spots. Finding a whole one is rare because unlike some of the other shells, like Florida fighting conchs or Banded Tulips, the Junonia sea shell lives miles offshore in deeper water.
Shell, Yeah! Cones, Olives, and Tulips. Oh My!
I focused on finding one but came up empty handed. However, I found three nice alphabet cones. Sometimes, patterns on the alphabet cone represent letters. I see “S,” “K,” and “D” (see below), in the shells I collected.
Others I gathered included banded tulips, lightning whelks, calico scallops, lettered olives, lace murex, shark eyes, and an Atlantic fig snail.
If a Shell is Occupied, Let it Be
Along the shoreline were rows of dead trees and their roots serve as hideouts for sea critters and they distracted me from gathering shells. An important note about collecting seashells, if there’s something living in it, either the mollusk, snail, or hermit crab, leave it.
I found a gorgeous red Banded Tulip and it was alive so after a photo, I carefully placed it back. Speaking of banded tulip shells, atop a Florida fighting conch were tulip egg casings with each casing holding a baby tulip! I spotted several hermit crabs including one stuck in the stand and other occupied shells. Seeing numerous nine-armed sea stars, brittle stars, and sea stars in the shell beds was fascinating, too.
When I had questions about the beach or a shell, Capt. Josh was there to answer them. As he pointed out, each day shelling is different. Tide, time of year, and weather conditions impact the shelling opportunities.
The four-hour trip flew by. It took about 20 minutes to reach the island so once it was feet on the sand, it’s more than three hours of shell-tastic exploration!
Nuts & Bolts About Treasure Seekers Shell Trips
Book your trip in advance to ensure your preferred date. Tours accommodate up to six people and have a cooler with water and light snacks. The trip is appropriate for those who can handle walking a rough terrain and withstand Florida’s warm and sunny weather for four hours. Families, novices, and conchologists (shell collectors) have all enjoyed the trip.
What to bring: Treasure Seekers’ website offers a list of what to bring and I recommend:
- Bucket or bag for collecting shells
- Insect repellant
- Sturdy water shoes (flip-flops and sandals won’t cut it)
- Hand rake (to comb through shell piles)
- Clothing you don’t mind getting wet.
- Snacks if you have dietary restrictions
- Backpack to carry any items with you.
- Sense of adventure
- Cash to tip your guide
You can book online but give them a call and they’ll answer your specific questions.
Treasure Seekers Shell Tour
Tel: (239) 571-2331
- Four-Hour shelling tours (up to six people per boat) $125 per person, any age
- Private four-hour ($750) and six-hour tours ($950)
- Private three-hour eco-tour ($450)
Rates: Accurate as of Feb. 14, 2021
An O’Dark-Thirty Wakeup Call Was Worth It
Flying solo and keeping my weekends free, even during a pandemic, means flexibility and spontaneity. Days before the trip, Treasure Seekers Shell Tour posted an offer in a Facebook Group. It was serendipitous, I’ve been eyeing their tours for months. They specialize in small (no more than six people) shelling tours in Southwest Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands. With a special offer, taking the trip was even more attractive and after a shell-aficionado gave me a nudge to do, I booked it!
The trip departed at 7:30 a.m. from the Goodland Boat Park, a Collier County Park in Goodland. Although free, parking is limited (cars/trucks with boat trailers pay for parking). I planned to arrive by 7 a.m., which meant waking up at 3:30 a.m. If I did not have dog to walk, I would have slept another hour. As it turned out, after showering and grabbing the leash, my dog looked at me like I was crazy asking him to get out of bed at 4:30 a.m. for a walk. After some coaxing, we briefly walked. I was on the road at 5:30 a.m. Because there was little traffic, the drive took 90-minutes from my North Port home to the Goodland Boat Park.
I’m embarrassed admitting having lived in Florida since the ’90s, I can honestly say I’ve never heard of Goodland. It was easy to find, even in the darkness of an o’dark-thirty morning drive. It’s just before the bridge heading into posh Marco Island.
Goodland is a commercial fishing town where white rubber boots are in style and I suspect brown pelicans outnumber the year-round residents. The vibe was laidback and a bit funky. If there was a traffic light, I didn’t see one. I did see independently-owned waterside restaurants and an occasional empty crab trap along the roadway. A stream of riders on motorcycles were coming in as I was leaving and I can see why Goodland is a popular daytrip destination for motorcyclists. It’s also a great day trip for those visiting Southwest Florida.
There are several eateries and I ended up at Crabby Lady Restaurant for lunch. Sitting outside and next to the dock, I had a free show watching fishermen clean their catch and brown pelicans hoping for handout.
Now that I’ve found my first alphabet cones yet came up emptyhanded with a Junonia, a drive inside me is gnawing at me to go back and find more. Oh, you can bet your bottom sand dollar I’ll be back.