Beach combing on Nantucket
Exploring Nantucket Insider Tips


by Corinne Muffly

This summer season, you are sure to spend lots of time on the beach. My family likes to stay busy while we’re on the beach, so we always come prepared with plenty of activities. One of the easiest and most enjoyable activities is beachcombing. I’m sure you do this without even realizing it.

Beachcombing is simply searching the shores for items of interest. I find myself collecting seashells each time I go to the beach. There is always a shell or two that piques my interest and I just have to bring it home.

There are countless beaches on our little island and they all have treasures just lying out on their shorelines waiting to be found. My favorite beachcombing spots are along the North Shore. The north shore beaches are protected by the Nantucket Sound and are typically calmer shallower beaches. Walking along these shorelines reveal assortments of shells, smooth stones, and even colorful sea glass. Beachcombing along the South, Western, and Eastern Shores are possible too. If you search near the water, the waves may present a bit of a challenge so I’d stick to the dry sand for searching. But if you like a challenge, please be cautious of the waves.

While beachcombing, it is important to be prepared. It may sound easy enough to just walk along the beach and stuff seashells into your pockets or carry them by the fist full, but there are better ways. A bucket and shovel are the most useful tools while combing. Let’s be honest, these are beach going essentials you can find almost anywhere on Nantucket. It’s helpful to put a little ocean water into your bucket and drop your treasures into a salty bath as you go. This helps keep the sand off and makes taking the shells home much easier. Water shoes can be very handy too incase you want to wade in over rocky areas or step on some sharp shells. It would also be helpful to bring a plastic zip-lock bag to allow the travel home clean and fragrant free. Remember to wear sunscreen!

I recently took my three-year-old nephew beachcombing down on the Brant Point beach. This isn’t really a swimming beach, but it has tons of shells. Perfect for some combing. It is called Brant Point beach because of the Brant Point lighthouse, which happens to be the second oldest established lighthouse in North America. Most people go to Brant Point for a little fishing or to watch the boats ebb and flow into the harbor. As my nephew and I methodically collected seashell after seashell, we discussed potential projects to create once our beachcombing was complete. I mean, what are you really going to do with all those fantastic finds once you get them home? I suggested making a sailor’s valentine. Him, only being three, naturally had no idea what I was talking about, but happily agreed.

A sailor’s valentine is an ornate and detailed design made entirely out of seashells. They were brought home by sailors and given to their loved ones. There are examples of these beautiful creations in the Whaling Museum and in shop windows throughout town. While beachcombing, in order to create a sailor’s valentine, it is helpful to have an idea or potential design in your head when you begin your collection. Keep in mind: when you are combing with young children, there is no plan! Go with the flow. Which is what I had to do with my little guy as he threw everything and anything into his bucket. Once our collection was complete, we went home and washed, sorted, and dried our shells. I cut out an octagonal shape out of cardboard and we began carefully placing our shells onto the surface. After squeezing many of the shells onto the sailor’s valentine, with no rhyme or reason, I went back and carefully glued the seashells down using a hot glue gun, but any superglue would work. It honestly did not look all that bad! I may have to try this again with some older children and see what creative designs they come up with.

So the next time you spot something special while wandering along the ocean shores, comb away and get creative with your kids. Something as simple as collecting shells at the beach can turn into a fun event ending in a homemade souvenir and make meaningful memories with your family. Happy beachcombing!

Articles by Date from 2012