Introduction: Guide to Beach Combing

Picture of Guide to Beach Combing

I know it seems simple, you go to the beach, look for shiny things, put them in your pocket, then continue on your merry way. You could do it that way, but if you follow my Guide to Beach Combing, you will get the most out of your experience.

*These are all my own photos.
*This Instructable was improved thanks to suggestions from other members of

Step 1: Gear

Picture of Gear

You will need:

Proper foot wear
Flip flops will suffice, but I wear my felt bottomed scuba booties because they provide excellent protection against sharp objects, plus they grip slippery surfaces.

I try to take two bags with me. One plastic shopping bag and one canvas bag. You'll see the reasoning behind this later.

Sun Screen or protective clothing
Just do it. It won't kill you to wear it. It could kill you to not. This holds true even if you don't live in the tropics or sub-tropics.

Camera (optional)
It needs to have a neck strap or fit in your pocket. You don't want to drop it while you're bending over to pick up your treasures.

Metal Detector (optional)

Step 2: The Rules

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Rule 1: Absolutely NEVER should you kill or take a live animal with you. This includes starfish, crabs, fish, turtles, etc. If it's already dead, then go ahead. Also, be aware of your state's endangered species restrictions. If you're not sure what it is, then don't mess with it. This includes some plants. THIS is why you brought your camera along.

Rule 2: Exercise caution! Please be aware of wild life, hazardous trash,slippery surfaces, weather, the sea condition, etc...

Rule 3: If you're going to take something, please make sure that object isn't someone's home. You'd be surprised at what crabs like to make their little houses out of. I've even seen them use plastic sports bottle caps. (I did NOT have my camera on me, sadly.)

Rule 4: Do you remember that plastic grocery bag I mentioned? While you're digging for treasure, you will most likely come across some trash. If you simply pick up whatever garbage you find, you'll be leaving that beach more beautiful and safe than it was when you got there. What a nice feeling!

Step 3: When?

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Ideal conditions for beach combing are as follows:

during the winter
early in the morning
a low or receding tide
right after a storm

I know it's not always possible to combine all 4 ideal conditions. The most important of these guidelines is that you get there first. It's like going to the flea market. If you get there before everyone else, you've got the best selection. If a storm happened to pass the night before, it probably churned up a lot of interesting and rarer things for you to see. During low tide, there is much more sand to scour, plus you've got a "fresh" selection to choose from. When the weather is least desirable in the winter months, you may happen upon a spot that hasn't been perused by humans in days or weeks.

Safety Reminder: When beach combing after a storm, use caution and common sense. If the ocean looks rough, don't go anywhere near the water. Even if you think you're keeping a safe distance, you never know when a rogue wave can come along and knock you into some rocks, or worse, drag you in. Please check your local weather forecast for the sea condition if you're unsure. I know that if you live near the ocean, you probably know this already, but for the tourists, I want to make it clear that the ocean is extremely powerful.

Step 4: All You!

Picture of All You!

The rest is all up to you. It's preferable that you "take only pictures and leave only foot prints", but so long as you abide by "the rules" and come prepared, you're in good shape.

Personally, I'm attracted to Sea Glass. It's technically trash, so I don't feel bad for taking almost every piece I see. I have also been known to grab various shells, drift wood, urchin skeletons, and I recently found my first dead starfish. One of these days I'll make something out of my collection and post an instructable on that too. I promise no glitter and googly eyes.

If you have any projects featuring your finds from the shore, or any other tips, please post them. I may eventually post a "how to" for cleaning my little treasures.


DavidB1128 (author)2016-12-01

Will you take contract Jobs, Last Friday 11-25-16 I lost my Iphone in a water proof bag in 1.5 feet of water on a lightly traveled beach north of Jaco Costa Rica. there is a cool Hundred bucks US to the finder.

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It is time to take the adventure to the next level, call us today!


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Jet Ski Rentals
JulianP2 (author)2015-05-17

best tip I have from years of beach combing is focus your efforts on the strandline . . . . .marking left by the high water mark of ordinary tidal action . .. . and is typically composed of the majority of debris left by high tide

lynn.hixson.5 (author)2015-02-14

A few years ago, I saw on television where a couple had used sea glass to tile their snack bar. It was beautiful!

zombie101 (author)2013-08-25

Sea glass Is very abundant in the outer banks of North Carolina, especially topsail island.

KatieAnne (author)2012-01-16

Some people like to 'throw back' the living creatures they find. PLEASE DON'T!!Doing so can dislodge the tennant and kill them. If you want to put them back in the water that is fine, just be gentle. walk them in as far as you can and set them down gently. Thank you!

glorybe (author)2008-03-08

There are people with metal detectors as well as other devices and techniques that earn quite a living on beaches. Hard core beach hunters can take in $30,000 per year or more on average. Rest assured there are very, very few people who will talk about this and books will be of limited use as well.

ann3angels (author)glorybe2010-06-27

glorybe, Please fill me in. Why won't beachcombers talk about it? Income tax? And why won't the books be helpful? I am a serious scavenger at heart. I don't limit myself to the beach, but like you, when I am at the beach - I go for the beach glass. I don't have as many opportunities as I would like to do any scavenging anywhere, but I love it. Have you seen that show on cable? "Cash & Treasures"? There are organizations and places where you can go to 'comb' for the items left by early settlers, pioneers, that kind of thing. Sounds like a blast. But anyway what's the story with the secrecy of the combers? Thanks. Ann PS - I am very jealous that you live on Okinowa. I lived in the Philippines for three years when I was a teenager and loved it. It really was paradise. When I see things on TV about Corregidor and the action there during WW ll, I wish I have been more mindful of the treasures to be found on those beaches and in those tunnels. I don't mean live ordinance, but artifacts from the American soldiers who had been there. It is probably more restricted now, but when we used to go to the Corregidor in the early 70s, we had complete freedom to wander the island.

aqwiz (author)ann3angels2010-12-26

Heh, competition. You don't want to increase the number of people in your area that are beachcombers. if anyone is profiting from finding stuff it's kinda like getting something for nothing, and when you come upon a benefit like that it's best not to let others know.

yoshi_in_black (author)2010-07-07

Like this.^^ Went to Malta (a small country between Italy and Afrika) many yrs ago and found much sea glass. ^^ And your pics made me wish travelling to the beach and especially to Japan again.

GorillazMiko (author)2008-03-06

Awesome Instructable! Bringing a metal detector could also be great help. You took amazing photos, and that fish looks really sparkly! And the last image... sea glass. What's that? I don't think I've heard of that.

Very Keri (author)GorillazMiko2008-03-06

Thanks!! The metal detector idea popped in my head about as soon as I clicked "publish". I figured I would get some good suggestions in my comments, so I'll add that to the instructable later.

Sea Glass (also known as Beach Glass) is the result of a piece of broken glass being tumbled in the ocean for many years (50 to a 100 to be precise). The sand, salt and motion of the sea grind it down until the edges become smooth like a river stone and the whole piece has a frosted look. I think it's awesome. People make all kinds of things out sea glass, but jewelry is one of my favorites. I would make my own, but I don't have a diamond drill bit.

Here's some more info on Sea Glass
You can also go to and do a search for people' s beautiful sea glass creations.

Lintballoon (author)Very Keri2008-03-29

You can get a diamond drill bit at McMaster Carr for about $60. They also have diamond files, and generally deliver next day

Very Keri (author)Lintballoon2008-03-30

I ordered some online a few days ago, but I only paid 20 bucks (plus shipping) for a set of a few different sizes. I needed some very small ones for jewelry making, which may be why they were so cheap. They're from a reputable company, so we'll see how good they are when I get them.

Dragonbone (author)Very Keri2010-07-03

If you ask your dentist he might give you his used diamond bits for nothing - they get through quite a few and most are still OK. And if the idea of using a drill that's been through someone's teeth doesn't appeal, ask him for the address of his supplier because they are actually quite cheap. Also they are real professional quality. I once got some pricey diamond burrs which were sold in a DIY store for use with high speed mini-drills, and I wore out three trying to trim a bathroom tile.

Lintballoon (author)Very Keri2008-03-31

That's exciting! Good luck, post some pictures of your designs (or link if you are doing Esty)

Lintballoon (author)Lintballoon2008-03-31

Etsy I mean

Very Keri (author)Lintballoon2008-03-31

Thanks! That was the plan! I opened an Etsy shop about 2 weeks ago, but there's nothing in it yet...guess I should have planned that out a little better :P

GorillazMiko (author)Very Keri2008-03-06

That is so awesome!
I want to get some sea glass. :-(

jtobako (author)GorillazMiko2008-03-06

It only takes about a week to make in a rock tumbler. If you can't drill it, you might want to consider wire wrapping or epoxy to glue a fitting onto it.

thecrimsonmaster (author)jtobako2009-10-19

if you plan to sell any "seaglass" you made, it must be identified as imitation. believe it or not there is a seaglass association, and they will black list anyone they find selling rocktumbled glass as genuine sea glass.

jtobako (author)thecrimsonmaster2009-10-19

Blacklist me from what?  It's an organization that doesn't have any legal backing to it (unlike, say, claiming something is 'native american')?

Very Keri (author)jtobako2009-10-19

I agree with you jtobako about the blacklisting thing, especially if you're not a member. The scenario that thecrimsonmaster is describing is fraud. I wouldn't be worried about the sea glass association, I would be worried about the legal aspect. It is doubtful that you'd get into much trouble if you're a small time seller, but it is still illegal and punishable if you get caught. You weren't suggesting anyone does that anyway, just that you could make your own if you wanted to.

jtobako (author)Very Keri2009-10-20

It's only fraud if you specifically state that it is natural and it isn't (or the other way around), not for using the term 'sea glass' unless someone can point to a law that requires differentiating (for example, hallmarking laws, which require marking how much precious metal is in a sold piece and who made it or documenting when a piece of ivory was originally taken-pre '72 to be legal if I remember right).

For top quality seaglass it needs a minimum of 30 years and waves that are a foot high and can travel for 25 kilometers straight. those are ideal conditions, so small lakes would need a lot longer time(closer to the 50 - 100 you said). i've found quite a bit of sea glass around lake ontario, and as for jewlery, you could do wire wrap jewlery, really easy to learn. 

It's been quite a while since I wrote this Instructable. At the time, I was dabbling in jewelry making, and now I have a quite a collection. I don't specialize in beach glass jewelry, but I have made a few pieces. I'm very aware of the wire wrapping technique most people use, and it is beautiful, but it's really not my aesthetic. I allow myself to drill one tiny hole so I can attach the glass to my jewelry.  Here is one of my recent creations. I don't usually work with brass, I prefer Sterling Silver, but I felt that this one looked better with an antique look.

ikeike40 (author)2010-06-30

over here in florida we have one of the best spots but beacause of the bp oil spill it will be ruined soon. (author)ikeike402010-07-01

its a pity about losing all that oil though...

ikeike40 (author)mr.space2010-07-01

yeah its a loss of oil and wildlife

Bluemini (author)2010-06-29

I like to beach comb the Spaceballs way...

mr.break_it (author)Bluemini2010-06-30

Bump, Lol

Kwitmeh3 (author)mr.break_it2010-06-30

bump, bump

iMakeItHappen (author)Bluemini2010-06-30

you just made my day :) thank you

jellyfishattack (author)2008-08-10

I've found lots of 'seaglass' in Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay in Lake Huron. I've found some rarer colours like cobalt fairly often. It's much nicer to beachcomb in Florida though ;).

Where are you beach combing in Florida? I never find anything, lol! I have to go out when it's raining or blazing hot to find things, otherwise the tourists have already snatched it up. I even drive as far away from the ocean front hotels as I can. I did get lucky and find an itty bitty piece of cobalt the last time I was home, it made my day! :)

thanrose (author)Very Keri2010-06-30

Sanibel FL is known for shells. Your Okinawan beach pic closeup of all the shell frags is very typical of southwest Florida, too. Only on Sanibel and Captiva Islands you might be standing on banks of whole shells, with almost no coral sand visible. Of course, they have sandy and mucky beaches too. In fact, the mud flats and tide pools are also rich with interesting things to photograph or collect. There are plenty of beaches in FL where you can find shells, coral bits, driftwood, feathers, and lost metal bits. I keep track of specific kinds of things and where I found them. I look at USGS quad maps for coastal anomalies that might be good for combing. Mermaids tears or beach glass is seen most often where there are beach picnickers as opposed to beach bathers and surfers. So near fishing spots, bridge abutments, inlets, etc. Rougher surf and jetties will grind that glass to nothing. Also really cool to beach comb adjacent to dredging sites. Maybe not right away, but in the same few weeks you'll find stuff washed ashore that reward your interest. Fossils, too. Good luck, everyone!

mr.break_it (author)thanrose2010-06-30

Hey, I've been to Sanibel! its really nice and its a treat to be in an ocean beach. in Ontario we only get lake beaches (and lots of them)

zleebme (author)Very Keri2009-07-12

i do it in destin, BIG tourist city you would be quite supried what vacationers leave behind found a twenty dollar bill more than once not to mention 4 "tobacco" pipes in one sitting (was right after spring break)

Very Keri (author)zleebme2009-07-12

Destin! My husband and I are trying to get stationed in Ft. Walton beach when we finish our tour in Okinawa. :D I'll have to take your word for it, however, since I'm really only familiar with the south eastern coast.

not any more :( stupid BP ruining the beaches....

Ceiling cat (author)2010-06-30

I did this on in Galveston Island, TX after the hurricane hit there and I found tons of shells, a whole glass bottle/w cap, and an oxygen tank. I wanted to keep it but my dad wouldn't let me. He thought it might be dangerous.

smalltinyperson (author)2010-06-30

Nice photo

Shad0w-H0und (author)2010-06-30

cool fish :)

Dragonothe (author)2010-06-29

I was stationed in Japan (NAS Atsugi) and me and my friends would load up my big florescent green van and spend the weekend at a tiny park about 6 hours up the coast. We would find all kinds of things! The first thing we did would be to de-trash the beach. The park rangers would watch us and then thank us by taking the trash away. We found sea glass, floating glass balls, even found some rings and necklaces. We went because it was peaceful and quiet and a great place to recharge and finding the jewelry wasn't bad either!

Ricardo Furioso (author)2009-08-03

There is a Glass Beach in northern California that is beachcomber's paradise.

Where is this?????!!!!! I would love to go!

Seriago (author)blueberrychicken2010-06-28

Do a Google search for ; "Glass Beach near Fort Bragg, CA" 'blueberrychicken' Which I was closer. :] PS; some more images here;

It's in the town of Fort Bragg. You have to walk a ways to get there, but it's worth it.

That is insane! There is a small beach in Okinawa where I can go during the winter and get a whole trash bag of glass at one time, but the glass still isn't as concentrated there as it is in these photos.

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