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Go Shelling in Clearwater With A Boat Day Boat Charters

flat lay on sand of shells a seahorse and seaweed

Finding shells while on the beach is a popular thing for people to do on a beach vacation but going shelling is a leisurely activity where the individual goes with the intent of finding perfect and unique-looking shells to bring back home as a souvenir, to add to their collection, or to use for jewelry making. 

Shelling is a fun activity that anyone can do on their vacation to Clearwater! If you are traveling with kids this would also be a great way to keep them entertained.

In this guide, we will share with you exactly how you can do so including the best areas for shelling, the types of shells you can expect to find, and the different types of shelling boat tours we offer. 

Why go Shelling in Clearwater?

up close of a hand holding an auger shell

In general, the beaches on the Gulf Coast are known as being some of the best shelling beaches in all of Florida. This is for a few different reasons, one of which is that the waves are gentle making it easier to see and find shells that are intact and haven’t been damaged by the waves. The area also has very diverse shell species because the warm waters make an ideal habitat for many marine organisms. 

I must give a brief mention to Sanibel Island near Fort Meyers because they are famed for having some of the best shelling in the state. This is because of the placement and shape of the island. The island is shelf-like to thousands and thousands of shells continuously drift in with the currents and find their place along the beaches here.

That being said, the Clearwater Beach area has a string of secret uninhabited barrier islands which are also excellent for shelling because they are a more sheltered location than the exposed coastline and as such they won’t experience as much of a direct impact of the waves. 

Types of Shells Commonly Found in Clearwater

As I mentioned before, the Clearwater area has the perfect ecosystem for a huge variety of different shells but if you are a first-timer or new shelling you might not know what you are looking for so below I’ve listed some of the most beautiful yet common shells that can be found in the Clearwater area along with a few that are a bit more rare. 

Fighting Conch

florida fighting conch

The shell of this sea snail is characterized by having around 7 spiraled whirls and a pointed spire. They can be orange or yellow in color and have a glazed-looking finish. They have thick shells and full-grown fighting conch can reach up to 3 to 4 inches long. 

Calico Scallop Shells (aka colorful scallops)

a close up of food

Can you spot the bright yellow scallop shell?!

Hinge shells found in coastal waters. They are renowned for their stunning and vibrant patterns, resembling a calico fabric with a combination of colorful spots, lines, and swirls. The shells often display a range of colors, including orange, pink, yellow, brown, and white. Calico scallop shells are cherished by collectors for their striking beauty and are commonly used in crafts, decor, and jewelry.

Broad Ribbed Cardita

hand holding broad ribbed cardita shells


A strong oval shell with around 15 thick ribs and typically has chestnut-colored bands. Adult shells are about 1.5 inches long. These shells are very common to find.

Giant Cockles

giant cockles flat lay with other various shells

One of the largest shells that you can find in Southwest Florida along the Gulf of Mexico (a max of 5.2 inches) and are typically they are found in shallow sandy waters. They are cream oval ribbed shells with either tan or cream marks. 


a row of auger shells

Sharp, glossy cones with smooth ribs and short, distinct siphon canals. The American Augers found on the Gulf Coast are gray or orange-white with beaded spiral bands. They have a max size of 2.4 inches.

Chestnut Turban

various sizes of chestnut turban shells on beach

These common gastropods are colored chestnut and cream with a beaded rounded turban-like appearance and a gaping circular opening at the bottom. Chestnut Turbans graze on the algae that is found on the leaves of seagrass and they can grow up to 1.5 inches.

Florida Spiny Jewelbox

a hand holding a sandwich

A hinged shell species with a compact, rounded shape with distinctive spines covering its surface, which give it a unique and textured appearance. The shell’s coloration can range from white to yellowish-brown, and its interior often displays a pearly iridescence.

Olive Shells (aka Olividae)

a bunch of ripe bananas sitting on top of a wooden cutting board


Marine gastropod shells with a distinct elongated shape and smooth, glossy surface. They derive their name from their resemblance to olives, with a cylindrical or oval shape and a pointed tip. Olive shells are usually characterized by various shades of brown, ranging from light tan to dark chocolate. They are highly sought after by collectors for their elegant form and rich coloration.

Coquina Shells

flat lay of coquina shells organized by color in clearwater florida

They might be common but the different colors of coquina shells are so pretty!

Small, oval-shaped shells with vibrant colors, ranging from pastel pinks to blues and browns. They have a smooth and delicate texture, and their abundance along sandy beaches makes them a popular find for collectors and beachcombers.

Scotch Bonnet

a hand holding a glass of water

a hand holding a small body of water

The Scotch Bonnet is actually a rare find so we were proud when we found it on one of our most recent shelling tours! The name of this egg-shaped shell comes from its resemblance to a typical Scottish Bonnet or cap.

When alive, this shell is home to a sea snail that typically grows from 1.5 to 2.08 inches in length. They live in fairly shallow water with a sandy bottom or in tide pools because this is where they can find their prey which includes sand dollars, sea urchins, and sea biscuits.

Note: It is illegal to collect a shell if there is a living organism inside of it. Make sure to check the backside of your shells before adding them to your shelling bag.

How to go Shelling on Clearwater’s Barrier Islands

barrier island near clearwater

You might be wondering how in the world do you get out to these barrier islands that I’m talking about? Well, that’s where A Boat Day Charters come in!

If you’re visiting Clearwater our private shelling boat tours are the easiest way to be taken to these hidden areas that tourists won’t know about or have access to. Not only are they a great opportunity to discover some awesome shells but they will also provide a day of fun out on the water where you can go swimming, look for dolphins, and connect with your friends or family. If you book one of our Funships you can also make use of the upper deck slide! 

Some people are really passionate about shelling and will scout out the best shelling beaches known for having an abundance of shells. Serious shellers will be sure to wake up early (right before sunrise) so they will have the first pick at the shells for the day before they are taken by other shellers.

On our shelling tours, you won’t have to face that early of a wake-up call because there is no rush to get to these untouched areas! The shells will be waiting for YOU! 

Our captains are super knowledgeable about shelling so even if it’s your first time going they will help you get started!

Our earliest departure doesn’t leave until 9 am and we also have an afternoon departure that leaves at 1:30 pm or 2 pm. On select days we also have a 6 pm time slot for our deck boats but you’ll need to call to confirm availability to be able to book this one.

If you’re interested you can browse our 7 available boats and see our availability and boat options here!

Shelling Day Boat Charter Options

a boat on a beach near a body of water

At A Boat Days, we offer 4, 6, and 8-hour shelling excursions. 

We have several different types of private boats that you can choose from depending on your group size and desired features.  

Our smallest and fastest boats are our deck boats that can hold up to 6 people. For larger groups of up to 10, you can book our double-decker funship boats that come complete with a tanning deck and water slide.

The best part about our shelling tours is that you don’t have to spend the entire duration of the tour shelling! Mesh shelling bags will be provided but besides that, you can do as little or as much shelling as you like at each of the barrier islands your captain anchors up at. 

You’ll be free to roam around the shoreline looking for shells, go swimming or snorkeling, snack on the boat (must bring your own food), or even just relax and tan on the beach! It’s up to you how you want to spend the day. 

The boat ride in between stopping at the barrier islands is also very scenic and it’s likely that you’ll see dolphins – they are such fascinating creatures to watch!

If you have any special requests for the tour just be sure to let your captain know before departing and they will be sure to try and accommodate you! 

Cost of Booking a Private A Boat Day Charter 

a woman standing in front of a body of water

Prices range depending on the length of the tour, the amount of people in your group, and the size of the boat you select.

For example, a 4-hour tour in one of our 6-seater deck boats costs $600 USD whereas a 4-hour tour in our larger funship would cost $800 USD for groups of 7-10 people and it would be $100 less if you have between 1-6 people.

You can see all of the booking variations here.

Anchors aweigh!

Thank you so much for reading! Shelling is such a fun thing to do in Clearwater for families and going on a shelling tour with one of our A Boat Day captains is sure to be a memorable experience. Who knows what treasures you’ll find on our beautiful barrier islands!

If you’re visiting the Clearwater area and would like more insights here are some other guides that you might find helpful:

Things to look for in an Eco Tour

Types of celebrations you can have on a boat

Reasons why you should hire a boat captain


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shelling boat tour in clearwater florida with a boat day


a person swimming in the water