Guide to beachcombing

The Delaware beaches are a treasure hunt waiting to happen.

Beachcombing is a great way to relax, do some deep thinking or recharge after a long week at work. But the beaches are also a vast, free goldmine nature’s most beautiful offerings.

Seashells, from the common to the rare, wash up endlessly from Fenwick Island to Woodland Beach. Sea glass is plentiful in certain places and at certain times.

Ever go to Rehoboth Beach on a sunny July afternoon and get disappointed in the shell selection?

That’s because the best time to go beachcombing is in the off-season, and the more remote and unpopular the beach, the better. In addition, you’ll find the most shells on the beach in the hour before and after low tide. Beaches at low tide immediately following a storm are particularly fertile.

That may mean an early morning or a late night. Check the weather and the tides at least a day before venturing out.

These are ideal conditions, but one of the best things about beachcombing is that it’s enjoyable and fruitful at all times. If you are in Rehoboth Beach in July, try beachcombing at dawn.

Shells and sea glass are far from useless trinkets. Here are a few of things you can make with them:

Jewelry Wreaths Dishes Ornaments Frames Light fixtures Candle holders Shadowboxes Garland Art Kids’ crafts

Shells and sea glass can also be used to:

Fill up a jar, vase, lamp base or just about any empty container. Create lawn and garden landscapes. Line driveways and paths.

Sea glass

Sea glass is essentially trash that the ocean has turned into treasure.

“The term sea glass really implies the glass has been worn to a frosted, smooth finish as a result of decades tumbling along the shore and exposure to moisture,” said Richard LaMotte, author of “Pure Sea Glass.”

Most sea glass comes from bottles. It can be found on beaches throughout the world in an array of colors. In Delaware, you’re most likely to find frosty white, green and brown. Other colors are a rare and special find.

Lewes is home to the quintessential sea glass celebration. The Cape May Lewes Ferry will host the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Sea Glass Festival June 22 and 23. Sea glass vendors from all over the world gather here.

Shells of our coast

Sea shells are the outer, protective skeletons of mollusks. There are two types: univalves, or single-structure shells, and bivalves, which are hinged pairs (often found separated).

The Sussex beaches are prime for shell-finding. Beaches further north can often be the best place to find rarer shells, since they are less frequented. From Woodland Beach south, there is good beachcombing to be done.

According to “Shells and Beach Life of the Mid-Atlantic Coast,” a pamphlet you can buy at most state parks, common shells are:

Basket whelk Mudsnails Marsh periwinkles Common periwinkles Coquina Greedy dove shell Eastern oyster Common jingle Common auger Northern moon snail Stout tagelus Ponderous ark White slipper shell Atlantic slipper shell Atlantic jackknife clam Blue and Atlantic ribbed mussel Dogwinkle Atlantic razor clam Atlantic surf clam Dwarf surf clam Bay scallop Northern quahog Soft-shell clam Eastern dog whelk Shark’s eye

Less common shells include:

Channeled whelk Prickly jingle shell Keyhole limpet Thick-lipped drill False angel wing Atlantic deep sea scallop Common northern whelk Common Atlantic baby’s ear Angel wing Angulate wentletrap Knobbed whelk Janthina Lightning whelk Blood ark Scotch bonnet

And the rarest finds:

Scotch bonnet Fallen angel wing Gould’s Pandora Striate cup-and-saucer Common eastern shiton Stimson’s colus American pelican’s foot Glassy lyonsia