It's a pastime for some. For others, it borders on obsession: finding the perfect shell.
In our ' Taste and See Southwest Florida ' beach week list for today, we take you to the top 4 shelling beaches.
The perfect place? Just about any beach on Sanibel Island.
It's hardly a secret that Sanibel is widely considered the best shelling spot in North America. It's so well known that the universal bent-over shell hunting position has its own nickname here: the Sanibel Stoop.
The water is shallow; it's made that way by a beach that gently slopes into the gulf, giving shells a nice, soft landing.
Sanibel is so great for shelling, it stands to reason the beach just to the north – Captiva -- is also really good. A lot of serious shell hunters will tell you the jetty on the Captiva side of Blind Pass is about as good as it gets.
Here, they say, you can find more than 250 different types of shells in the shallow water alone.
From Captiva, if you go north along the islands, you'll get to another one of our top shelling spots: Cayo Costa.
It's more difficult to get there -- boat or ferry is the only way -- but the beach is unspoiled and natural. That means fewer crowds and less competition in the early morning for serious shellers.
The experts say if you wait for low tide, you have a great chance to find something rare there.
With some of the best shelling beaches in the world in our backyard, it's easy to overlook Marco Island. But shell hunters love this place, especially South Beach and the north end of Tigertail Beach, which at times is covered in so many shells, you'll be ankle deep in them.
And if you're looking for sand dollars, this is the place to go.