Can You Find Sea Glass In Florida?

Broken bottles & glass turned into smooth sea glass by the churning of the ocean

Beachcombing is one of life’s little pleasures. The beaches in Florida make for excellent hunting, and beachgoers often find shells, bones, shark teeth, and other exciting things in the sand and surf. But what about sea glass — can you find sea glass in Florida?

Florida is a great place to find sea glass. Some of the best sea glass spots in Florida include the Keys, Navarre Beach, Siesta Key, and Jacksonville. Anywhere that you’d find shipping lanes or coastal human activity is likely to have good sea glass. 

But is sea glass really glass? Is it legal to take it from the beach? Do you need special equipment to find sea glass? Just keep reading, and you will learn the answers to these sea glass questions and more!

Sea Glass: Man-Made Ocean Gems 

Finding sea glass at the beach is always a delight. Plucking one of these colorful pebbles from the surf brings a smile to everybody’s face. Admiring these lovely glass gems in the gorgeous Florida sunlight can become addictive: before you know it, you’ll be heading to the beach every weekend with your treasure bag to see what you can find.

But what’s so special about sea glass that would make you want to collect it? First, it’s very beautiful: it catches the light in a unique, pretty way, and the imperfect shapes of the glass make every piece unique. Second, it’s an easy and free collectible that you can use to remember your day on the beach in Florida. Finally, many people love to make jewelry out of sea glass.

Starfish carved into sea glass pendant

So which beaches in Florida are the best for finding sea glass? Let’s start at the northwestern tip of the state out in the panhandle. 

Navarre Beach, which is just southeast of Pensacola, is a renowned sea-glassing beach. The busy shipping lanes and abundance of humans in this area make it a great place to find sea glass. Plus, the loop current pushes treasures like sea glass towards Pensacola and Navarre.

Traveling south along the Gulf coast, our next sea-glassing beach is Siesta Key. Like Navarre Beach, Siesta Key is on a barrier island. The plentiful shipwrecks off the Gulf Coast and the Florida Keys have created a lot of sea glass, which tends to wash ashore in the Siesta Key and Sarasota area. Nearby Manasota Key is a great place to find shark’s teeth as well as sea glass.

Another splendid sea glass finding location is the Florida Keys. The area’s long and storied history of maritime trade, piracy, storms, and shipwrecks makes it one of Florida’s best locations to find sea glass. So head to the beaches, bring a sifter, and keep your eyes peeled for these iridescent treasures hidden in the sand.

Perhaps you prefer Atlantic-side Florida. The mighty Atlantic has been churning up shipping for centuries, and it’s common to find sea glass along many of Atlantic Florida’s beaches. Jensen Beach in Port St. Lucie is known as one of Florida’s best sea glass spots: the beach sits on a barrier island that enjoys good wave activity, making it common to find neat stuff in the surf.

The final stretch of sea glass friendly beaches begins in St. Augustine and extends up to Fernandina Beach. Much like the keys, this area has seen a lot of historical shipping and human activity, meaning there’s a good amount of sea glass out there. The beaches are beautiful, and many are secluded or less popular, which makes for better beachcombing.

Variety of shells washed up on Siesta Key Beach

Is it Illegal to Collect Sea Glass from Beaches in Florida?

Unless specifically indicated, it is legal to collect sea glass in Florida. Florida is a very beachgoer-friendly state, and they want people to be able to bring their collectibles and treasures home with them. In certain historical sites, there may be restrictions on collecting items from the water, which would include sea glass. But unless you see a specific sign indicating not to take items from the beach, sea glass is fair game here in the Sunshine State. 

Phenomenal Florida Fun Fact: The most sought-after sea glass colors are red, blue, and turquoise, these colors of glass were uncommon for many years, making them rare finds on the beach.

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Is Sea Glass Really Glass?

Sea glass is man-made glass that has ended up in the ocean. Over time, the shattered glass is smoothed out and refined by saltwater and waves. The ocean effectively acts as a tumbler to smooth and polish the glass into the colorful ocean gems that are so much fun to pluck from the beach. 

The glass that forms sea glass can come from many sources. Irresponsible beachgoers and revelers may hurl glass bottles into the ocean, where the shards eventually tumble into green, brown, or white sea glass.

Some sea glass may originate from old dump sites near the ocean, where antique glass bottles and other debris ended up in the sea. Still more might come from shipping losses: tumbled containers, shipwrecks, and so on. 

Man walking the beach looking for treasure

Is Sea Glass Hard to Find?

Some beaches are better for finding sea glass than others. Some beaches, like beautiful Clearwater Beach, are not likely to have much sea glass: they are heavily trafficked by tourists and locals, so the rare treasures that do wash up are often picked quickly.

The best sea glass beaches are near populated areas, docks, shipping ports, piers, and landfills. The Florida Keys can be an excellent place to find sea glass, as the area has a long history of shipwrecks.

What is the Best Time to Find Sea Glass?

The best time to find sea glass is going to be around low tide. As the tide recedes, the treasures of the waves end up washing onto the shore. Also, thunderstorms and hurricanes drive a lot of churning motion in the water, which often washes up debris trapped in the seafloor. So low tide on the day after a large storm would be an excellent time to find sea glass.

You’ll want to make sure to time your hunting for a bright time of day. You want to plan for the sun to be at your back, so you don’t have to worry about squinting all day long.

Sunglasses can dampen the reflection and color of sea glass, so it’s best to take them off when you’re hunting. A wide-brimmed beach hat will keep your eyes shaded and keep the sun off your ears and neck so you can enjoy beachcombing longer. 

What Equipment Do You Need to Find Sea Glass?

Finding sea glass is a very budget-friendly beach activity. All you need are your eyes, your hands, and some patience. Because sea glass is not metal, you don’t need a metal detector or any fancy equipment.

There are a few items that you may find helpful. If bending or stooping is troublesome for you, a mechanical grabber can make beachcombing easier. Many people also like to use sand scoops when finding sea glass. Finally, having some kind of pouch or bag to collect your treasures in is very helpful when you’re on the hunt for sea glass.   

Metal sieve used for sifting beach sand

How Can You Tell if Sea Glass is Real?

Maybe you found an interesting trinket: it’s red, shiny, and translucent. Is it really sea glass? Sometimes, things such as plastic, porcelain, or beads can look a lot like sea glass. To test if it’s sea glass, compare it to a rock. Both sea glass and rocks have a very firm, substantial, smooth, and cool texture. Plastic tends to have a different feel than glass, and ceramics are usually not translucent. 

At the end of the day, sea glass is a collectible that has value to the person who finds it. So even if you find something that’s not “authentic” sea glass, if you like it and decide to keep it, that’s great! 

Beachcombing is about enjoying the beach by looking for treasures from the ocean, regardless of whether those treasures are glass, shells, bits of plastic, or other odds and ends that turn up. 

Is Sea Glass and Beach Glass the Same Thing?

Sea glass and beach glass are often used interchangeably to describe glassy objects found on the beach. Some people say sea glass comes from the ocean and has a frosted appearance, where beach glass comes from fresh water and is transparent.

Florida isn’t a place where you’d be likely to find freshwater beach glass, so for your purposes in the Sunshine State, beach glass and sea glass are considered the same thing.  And let’s face it, it doesn’t matter what name you call it by, sea glass, ocean glass or some other name, it’s all beautiful!

Raise A Glass

Heading to the beach is always fun. Lounging in the sand, listening to the surf, and enjoying the Florida sunshine is a wonderful way to pass an afternoon! People love to swim, snorkel, scuba dive, and even parasail at the beach in Florida. But one of the best pastimes is sea glass hunting.

Florida makes a great place to find sea glass. Expert hunters know to look near shipping lanes and areas of heavy human activity and to try and find coves or inlets where treasures from the surf might get trapped instead of washed out to sea. But even if you’re an amateur sea glass hunter, you’ll have a blast looking for these beautiful baubles along any one of Florida’s beautiful beaches.

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Ever since I was little I have been a traveler at heart. It all started when I was six years old and my family took a road trip to Alaska. I enjoy visiting new places and revisiting some of the great locations that I have been to already.