Beachcombing for beginners

Beachcombing seems like a pastime of... well, the past. In fact, it dates back to the 1800s, when beachcombers actually sold their finds to make a living.

These days, you'd probably have to find the Heart of the Ocean necklace from Titanic washed ashore to make a living from beachcombing. But that doesn't you shouldn't partake in this peaceful and often surprising hobby.

Wait, is beachcombing legal?

Yes! In Australia, it is generally legal to collect shells from the beach provided they don't have any living creatures inside. In fact, you can't take anything living off the beach. But there also other restrictions, depending on the area (especially those with endangered species) and how many shells you take. Check with your local authority for the finer details.

And one more thing before you start...

Aussie beaches are beautiful but they're also home to some creepy critters. Don't stick your hands under any rocks, even to retrieve a gorgeous shell. Speaking of shells, be wary of cone shells, particularly in Queensland. Don't pick up cone shells in the water and even be careful of ones on land – there could still be a venomous cone snail inside.

Beachcombing for beginners: the basics

  • Be sun-safe. A beachcombing trip can easily stretch to hours in the sun. Make sure you are wearing sunscreen (with extra to hand), a hat and protective clothing.
  • Bring water. Dehydration is serious!
  • Safekeeping. A bucket or basket is the best place to carry and store your treasures.
  • Leave only your footprints. It's only right to take any litter with you.

Beachcombing: what to look for

There's a huge variety of hidden treasures on our beaches. The more you do it, the better you'll get at finding and identifying them. Here's just a few to keep an eagle eye out for:

  • Abalone shells
  • Cone shells (just make sure it's empty!)
  • Moon snails
  • Cockles
  • Scallops
  • Sea urchins
  • Driftwood
  • Sea glass
  • Coral
  • Starfish

Cleaning and decorating shells

Happy with your new collection? Now it's time to get rid of any remaining sand and gunk. Many people soak shells in a 50:50 solution of bleach and hot water, which can leave your shells looking pale. But personally, we like the faded look!

Dress up your shells with embellishments like glitter, gold paint and beads. Now they're ready to decorate your home! Think a statement conch on your coffee table, a vase of pretty scallops on your shelf, homemade windchimes signalling the sea breeze outside. The options are endless!

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