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Finding Florida's Treasures & Metal Detecting On The Beach

Jan 11th, 2021

Sifting your fingers through the warm sand on a Florida beach can reveal all sorts of treasures: small, delicate shells abandoned by even smaller crustacean inhabitants; rounded pieces of faded sea glass worn by a hundred years’ worth of tide; a dry piece of driftwood that’s travelled a dozen miles to rest in the hot sand. Or maybe, if you’re lucky, you might find a silver coin, three centuries old and worn with rust, erosion and time. 

The Florida coast is a hotspot for treasure hunters who, either on purpose or just by sheer coincidence, find countless priceless artifacts buried under the soft sand. Pirating and exploration in the area in and around the Florida peninsula meant that an incalculable amount of gold, silver, jewelry and other treasures passed though the waters on their way to Europe. And oftentimes, whether by storms, raids or delays, the treasure ended up lost in the watery depths of the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Florida. 

Living in our luxury South Florida apartments means that you have access to some great beach activities, and metal detecting is a great way to spend time exploring the many secrets the beach has to offer. There’s more of a chance that you’ll find some spare change, old sunglasses or other odds and ends from the past few years, but if you’re lucky and vigilant then you may just stumble across an old necklace, a gold doubloon or even a bar of silver! 

Why is Florida a popular spot for metal detectors?

If you’ve ever watched “Pirates of the Caribbean” or any other treasure movie, then you know that the first step to finding any treasure is by consulting a map. Now, Florida doesn’t have a treasure map, per se, but there is some sure-fire history that promises some shiny goodies underneath the sand! 

In 1715, a fleet of 11 Spanish ships filled with gold and treasure from the New World departed from Cuba and headed for Spain. However, the fleet sailed right into a hurricane just off the coast of Florida, and every one of the ships sank. This “Treasure Fleet,” as it’s been named, is the reason so many metal detecting enthusiasts keep returning to Florida beaches time and time again. Three hundred years after the ships sank, people are still finding gold coins, jewelry, trinkets and other lost treasure from the shipwrecks washed up on the shore. 

Where can you go metal-detecting in Florida?

While you may not find a million dollars’ worth of Spanish treasure, metal detecting can still be a fun hobby that stokes the curiosity inside all of us. If you’re interested in renting a metal detector or buying your own, then here’s where you can go to explore and where you should avoid!

Public beaches: Yes

Many public beaches allow metal detecting, as long as you stay between the dunes and the high tide line. This area designation applies for state park beaches, too.

State parks: Sometimes

Most state parks allow metal detecting on the beaches, with a few exceptions for archaeological sites and restricted areas. Each state park will have information detailing where you may and may not use metal detectors, so be sure to double-check with the park rangers before heading out.

National parks: No, nope, nuh-uh

National parks, national seashores, national monuments and any other national land is strictly off-limits to metal detecting. In fact, even just carrying a metal detector into a national park is a big no-no, so make sure to avoid any federal lands and the areas around them, just to be safe.

Private property: No, unless you’re invited.

It’s pretty self-explanatory. Metal detecting on private property is trespassing, even if you don’t find or take anything from there. If you ask permission and are allowed to explore on private property, then go ahead! 

Water: No

Anything submerged in water, whether it be the ocean, the river or a pond, is off-limits to metal detectors. Technically, anything submerged in water belongs to the state, including wet beach sand below the high-water line. 

Wherever you go, just check on your county’s parks and recreation website to find out if there are any rules and regulations regarding metal detecting. Or, check out this handy-dandy list for a quick overview of where you can and can’t go.

What to do if you find something

Whether you can keep or leave the items you find depends entirely on the location you found it and the age of the item.

Anything over 50 years old is considered to be an archaeological artifact. If you find something in a state, city or county park that looks to be older than 50 years, then you are required to leave the item where you found it and report it to the Division of Historical Resources

If you find something on private property that looks older than 50 years, then you are required to contact the city to find out whether you are allowed to keep it or not. 

If you find simple trinkets on a public beach or private property, then you can probably keep those items. Some counties and parks require you to report any found item (in case someone has reported it lost), but most public beaches do not have that stipulation. It's wise to check and make sure, though, just so you don't get in trouble. 

Tips on finding treasure!

Now that you’ve rented/bought your detector and have double-checked that you’re allowed to to hunt in your location, we can get to the fun stuff: treasure hunting!

Here are some top-tips for finding goodies in the sand!

Go after a storm

The stormy weather and stronger waves will have washed up all sorts of ocean treasures onto the beach.

Look for the shells

Areas with more shell deposits on the beach mean that the currents there churn up more of the ocean floor and deposit them onto shore. 

High tide is the best tide

Searching just above the high tide line will often yield the best results, as the sand is softest there and many ocean goodies are washed up there during high tide. And remember, you can’t go below the high tide line anyways!

Have fun!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/JamesQube

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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