Seashells by the Seashore

Family Travel Friday

Destination: Florida Beaches

Book: The Magic of Seashells  (rev. ed. 2002) by Fredlee, Illustrated by Cissy Gray

By Jennifer Close

Have your kids ever found a shell and wondered what its name was? Do they want to know what might have lived in the shell before it was washed ashore or why the shell is faded in color? Magic of Seashellsby Fredlee answers many of these questions for your children.

Kim and Jeff wake up bright and early in the morning long before their parents while on vacation at a seashore resort. They get up and head to the hotel dining room to eat breakfast where they meet Stafford, who lives nearby and is also vacationing with his family. When Kim and Jeff mention that they had never been to this resort, Stafford suggests that they go collect shells on the beach.

Kim, Jeff, and Stafford wander up and down the beach collecting shells. The first shell they find is a large horse conch. Stafford tells Jeff how the conch is a univalve snail and uses a single foot to move itself. They continue to search for shells into the early afternoon. They find cowries, cones, and more.

Shells found on Pensacola Beach
Shells found on Pensacola Beach

The first third of The Magic of Seashells is the story of Kim, Jeff, and Stafford. The second part of the book is a collection of shell pictures and descriptions. Each type of shell can be found in different areas of the seashore. You should look for conchs in shallow and muddy water. There are several different kinds of conch shells like the queen conch, the lamb conch, and the crown conch. The pictures show the shell and give the name, scientific name, and approximate size of the shell.

While looking through the pictures, my children and I discovered that the shells that we commonly find washed up on Pensacola Beach are scallops and cockles. These shells are typically found washed up on the beach and we are pretty sure that we have also found the rough scallop and Tyron’s scallop, though we aren’t positive! We think that we find the cut-ribbed ark and oyster shells as well. They were excited to learn that the giant shell that sits on the counter of their beachy bathroom is a whelk. We found that shell while we were in Virginia a few years ago. We aren’t sure what kind of whelk it is but they think it is a channeled whelk. After reading this story, we are now on the lookout for a Florida rock shell, which is a univalve bonnet. We do live in Florida after all so we just might find one!

The last part of the book has a couple of coloring pages to familiarize yourself more with the different kinds of shells.

Hunting for shells after a storm
Hunting for shells after a storm

Do you want to go shell hunting?

  • You can collect shells all day long but early morning and just past low tide is the best time to look. Another good time to collect shells is after a storm.
  • Bring a bucket and a shovel. Some of the shells bury themselves in the sand. The kids will have great fun digging in the sand.
  • Shells can be found in the sand, on top of the sand, in the water, on rocky flats and in crevices so keep your eyes alert as you wander. If you find a cone shell, be careful because they can sting. We have found cone shells in the past and this was not something that I was aware of.
  • Know the rules and laws for removing items from the beach you are visiting. Some allow it and others don’t.
  • When you are finished collecting your shells, you can clean them by soaking them in bleach according to Stafford although we have never done this. We usually just clean our shells out with water. To help the shells maintain its natural beauty, you can rub the shell with a coating of cooking oil.

And, although the pictures here are of Pensacola Beach, don’t miss three other outstanding Florida beaches for shelling:

The photos of seashell hunting are the property of Jennifer Close. Please respect her copyright.  It is the policy of A Traveler’s Library to tell you about affiliate links.  If you click on the book cover or book title, you will be able to shop at Amazon and A Traveler’s Library will earn a few cents for each purchase. Thank you.

Jennifer Close  is the Family Travel expert at A Traveler’s Library, and as a contributor, regularly fills us in on books that enhance travel with children. You can find more of her family travel adventures at Two Kids and a Map.


NEXT MONDAY, A Traveler’s Library features a wonderful new historic novel that takes place on Sanibel Island. Seashells play a prominent part in the story.

About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

6 thoughts on “Seashells by the Seashore

  1. It is so true that all things cast up by the sea are stuff of dreams…it is such a mysterious place, even with all the exploring that has been done.

  2. shells, beach glass, driftwood, parts of nets, weather worn stones — all the things cast up by the sea were the stuff of dreams for me as a kid. still are! thanks for letting us know about this book, Jennifer.

  3. Soaking overnight in a weak bleach solution is a good idea with older shells that have acquired a microbial growth that discolors them or leaves them with an unfortunate odor.

    Every family should have a Field Guide for birds and sea shells. Leave them at the summer house or take them with you to the shore. Also a rocks and minerals guide: show kids that the natural world is not just a bunch of stuff, but actually makes sense.

    And don’t forget beach glass. Some of it is quite beautiful.

    And please, leave occupied shells alone. Life is hard enough for the little critters as it is.

    1. Very true, Davis…leave occupied shells alone. I need to invest in a field guide for birds next. We have so many great birding trails and it would be great for my kids to be able to identify the birds we do see. I have never come across beach glass in our adventures because it isn’t found much in our area but my sister has a lovely collection from a beach in Virginia. We also love our rocks and mineral guide to help my son figure out what kind of rocks he has found during our travels.

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