Shell collecting is the second most popular collecting hobby in the world. Only stamp collectors outnumber shell collectors.

This week shell enthusiasts from around the United States, Canada, and other foreign countries will head to Sanibel Island for the 78th Annual Sanibel Shell Festival.

The Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club-sponsored Shell Show is an integral part of the Sanibel Shell Festival and provides visitors an opportunity to view shells from around the world, as well as breath-taking artistic creations made entirely from shells and sea life.

Visit the Santiva Chronicle Shells Page

 This judged Shell Show is the longest running and most prestigious Shell Show in North America. The competition is open to all shell collectors and artisans, and award winners have come from as far away as New Zealand, India, Japan and the Caribbean. The Shell Show is held inside the Sanibel Community House.

Have you ever wondered what a mollusk (a live shell) eats, how they move, protect themselves or reproduce? The answers can be found in the exhibit hall, where continually-playing documentaries filmed on Sanibel Island explain it all. In the same hall, books, jewelry and shells are for sale. The Author’s Table features local authors who will be on hand throughout the festival for book signings and to talk about their books with visitors.

Always Something Going On

The Community House grounds are continually a bustle of activity. Don’t miss the ongoing shell crafting demonstrations. Visitors can have the opportunity to make their own shell flowers or shell animals. The Meet the Artist tent showcases the artists who create award-winning floral arrangements and other shell art. They are happy to talk about their craft with anyone.

Throughout the winter, volunteers meet at the Sanibel Community House to sort donated seashells. If you love shells but don’t have the time to look for them on the beach or clean them, head for the Shell Tent. Literally, thousands of shells are for sale and prices start at 25 cents. Large, impressive shells and fossils are also for sale.

Next door to the Shell Tent, the Sanibel Shell Crafters can be found selling shell jewelry, mirrors, flower arrangements and “shell critters.” The crafters meet every Monday at the Community House throughout the year to make the objects that are sold at the festival.

The “Live Tank” area is where the Sanibel Elementary School sixth graders shine. For two months prior to the Sanibel Shell Festival, the students study about shells and mollusks, the animals that create the shells. If they pass the course test, they have the opportunity to share their knowledge with the visitors while they view multiple aquariums containing live mollusks.

Excellent Donation Prizes

A $5 or (3) for $10 donation to the Sanibel Community Association may win a Sailor’s Valentine created by the award winning artist, Pamela Boynton; a week’s stay at ‘Tween Waters Inn on Captiva; Sea Life jewelry from Congress Jewelers; an object d’art by glass artisan Luc Century donated by Charles Lister and  Bill Schecker; a shell floral arrangement created by the Sanibel Shell Crafters; and an Island ecological expedition cruise donated by The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum & Captiva Cruises 

While there is no entrance fee to the Shell Festival grounds, a $5 donation is requested to attend the inside Shell Show. Anyone who makes the requested donation will also be granted free admission to The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum during the Shell Festival, an $11 value.

All the funds raised by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club are given in the form of grants to several local marine education and conservation organizations and for scholarship funds at the University of South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University Departments of Marine & Ecological Science. All the funds raised by the outdoor activities go to the maintenance of the Sanibel Community House.

The Shell Festival is March 5, 6, and 7 at the Sanibel Community House, 2173 Periwinkle Way. Hours for the Festival Grounds are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Saturday 9-4; Exhibit Halls 9 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information (239) 472-2155 or go to