Dear Crabby: More Advice from the Beach

tips for beachcombing

How do I find a good beach for sea glass and pottery?

It’s a little like dating, so you have to go where there’s a good chance of finding what you’re looking for. You probably won’t find that soft-spoken introvert at the club, and you won’t find the party animal at the local poetry reading. You might, but odds are better if you choose your destination more thoughtfully.

Many cities and towns used to dump the trash into the local waterways, so if you are looking for wave-worn glass and pottery, head to a spot near the water or downstream from where the town dump was located 100 years ago. Rivers, lakes, and ocean beaches are all possibilities. Harbors are a great place to find everything that was tossed off boats and ships, including broken bottles and plates. Was there a glass factory, pottery works, or company that made industrial glass parts in town in the 20th century? Check the beaches in the area.

Where are you not going to find glass and pottery? On that beautiful white sand beach with the swaying palm trees and pristine waters, home to sea turtles, covered in beautiful sea shells, and silent except for the lapping of the waves. No one ever thought that would be a good place to throw the town trash!

Which is better for beachcombing: high tide or low tide?

Well, first off, not all beaches have tides. The Great Lakes and many seas and rivers don’t have tides, though they sometimes have higher or lower water levels, mostly due to rainfall. In general, the high water and waves bring in the goodies and the low water leaves them exposed so you can pick them up.

Want to get first crack at the best stuff? Arrive just after high tide or a storm and walk the beach as the water recedes. If low tide is early in the morning, or a storm hit during the night, be the first to hit the beach at sunrise and you can collect everything left by the waves between the high tide line and the low waterline!

Where’s the best place to find stuff on the beach?

Every beachcomber has their own special routine. In places with tides or after a storm that pushed the water up the beach, you can scour the high water line, following the waves out and seeing what the water leaves behind. Other beaches hide treasures just below the water line, so you’ll need to wait for low tide and/or get wet to find the best goodies. Piles of pebbles on rocky beaches are great places to dig for rocks, shells, sea glass, fossils, and more.

The best place on the beach to avoid? Directly next to, right ahead of, or just behind another beachcomber. Either they just picked up the best stuff in front of you, or they are going to get mad at you for picking up the best stuff right in front of them.

How do you decide whether to bring something home from the beach?

Unrolling your sea glass color chart, whipping out your shell identification cards, or thumbing though your rock and fossil book on the beach might feel like a cool way to decide what is worth bringing home. In addition to looking super nerdy, it might be a big waste of your beachcombing time. Spend your time on the beach enjoying the adventure and searching for your favorite treasures, and leave the geeky identification for when you get home. Besides, all those books and cards are taking up precious room in your bag that could be filled with more awesome stuff!

Is it ok to trade with beachcombers on the beach?

Not everyone is looking for the same thing on the beach. If someone beachcombing next to you just found something you’d love to have, you can offer to trade an equally awesome piece you just found. Don’t pressure anyone to swap, because they may want to keep what they just found. And, no cheating little kids or beachcombing newbies by swapping your really cool piece of brown sea glass for that sweetly frosted red piece they just found!

What should I do with pieces that aren’t “done” yet?

If you find a piece of glass or pottery that isn’t fully frosted yet, feel free to throw it back in the water, provided it’s not as sharp as a weapon. Grab those shanks and recycle them.

Can you recommend any exercises or stretches before beachcombing?

Unless your beachcombing involves truly athletic feats, you probably don’t need much of a pre-beachcombing routine. Maybe a couple of arm or back stretches just to limber up. If you decide to do any extreme stretches or lunges, please do so somewhere other than along the tideline. This area is where most beachcombers are searching for treasures. And looking up and seeing your (no longer) private parts in our faces is not our dream find.

What are best snacks to pack for the beach?

You can’t go wrong with Jack Daniel’s minis or an entire cake to share with your fellow beachcombers. However, a bottle of water, some protein snacks like nuts or jerky, and finger foods like grapes, crackers, or cookies might
be a more practical choice.

Speaking of which, how early is it appropriate to have a mermaid cocktail?

Days at the beach are always special occasions, however, if you have lots of beachcombing ahead of you, not getting sloshed before getting splashed is probably a good idea. Keep yourself hydrated with water or juice and leave plenty of time après-plage to make merry!

Etiquette, manners, tips, and tricks

More answers to your burning questions about beachcombing manners, tips and tricks, and more. 

Send us your Dear Crabby questions or advice ›

No live shelling: Be sure shells are empty and sand dollars, sea stars, and sea urchins are no longer alive before you bring them home.

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