The Best Shell Beach Ever

by Mermaid Julie October 14, 2016

The Best Shell Beach Ever

I know that's a big claim, but....

Here is re-cap of what I collected in, what I think is the best shell beach on earth....

Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, also known as J-Bay

Best Seashell beach on earth - Shells Beachcombing Best place to find shells

I love this beach so much, any mermaid would.

It has an incredible diversity of shells, tons of them, and in so many colors and sizes! After meeting some folks around the area, they have confirmed that J-bay is sought after by shell collectors from the around the world.

There are tons of itty bitty shells totally intact everywhere, the loads of large, intact and brightly colored shells in piles up and down the entire stretch of town.

What I think might be the very best shell I have ever found, was at this beach in J-bay... a large paper nautilus!!

Paper Nautilus Shell I Found Beachcombing in South Africa

Paper nautilus (or argonaut shells) are a special shell to find because they are so fragile and belong to an ocean-sailing creature who does not live near land. To find such a big one (totally intact!) was quite magical.

I found this paper nautilus way into the bay, past the river, half buried in the sand and there was not another shell in sight.

I have found other small paper nautilus shells on a remote beach in the North of Costa Rica, and once, a small one washed into my sailboat as I was sailing across the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. The one that washed in through the scupper of my boat still had its owner inside, a colorful and active squid! These amazing shells belong to the pelagic argonaut that travel the ocean surface, much like their cousin the Chambered Nautilus. While most shells grow on reefs, either in deep water or near shore, this shell is like a boat on the open on the ocean!

Shells lying on the beach - jack pot for hunting!

This was one of the first photos I took at the beach. There was simply shells everywhere!!

J-bay is famous for its beautiful long waves which is exactly why I was there, to surf :)

The very first trail I took to the beach I found a most impressive patch of shells. And after some tide changes and a week to explore, it had been decided - best shell beach ever.

The cutest tiniest most perfect little shells ever - so colorful too!

What a dream come true - itty bitty seashells everywhere!

The tiny shells are often perfect, not broken and so colorful. It's fascinating to look through these patches of tiny shells. They are all so different. Something different turns up everywhere you look.

So, we came to surf at one of the best waves in the world and it just happens to be one of the best shell beaches too! It makes a couple of sea barnacles like us, very happy.

Limpet Shells Collection So many Colors!

A huge variety of limpet shells...

AMAZING variations in colors, in shapes, in sizes.

Sea coral, sea sponge and various plant-esque beach findings

One of the most magical beach treasures, some that I have seen hardly anywhere else I have been, where the corals and sponges!

These tended to wash up only in a certain part of the bay, way down at the base of the surf area before the beach turns into sandy beach only with no reef.

They where everywhere! And tons of colors too. The sponges are very fascinating to feel and the way the colors fade, just like hair bleaching in the sun...

Dolphins playing in the sea

And not only are the shells amazing, so is the wildlife! I took this photo from the place we were staying, which had an amazing view over the ocean. We saw whales and dolphins, every single day. J-bay is incredible.

Large abolone shell filled with smaller shells and beach finds

This is little collection inside of an abalone shell, with a rare little starfish I found dried on the shore.

There are loads of abalone shells, even little tiny ones. There are lot in the mid-size range, around the size of an ear, usually still totally shiny and pearly on the inside. 

I have only been to J-bay twice, both times I visited in the winter, for over a month.

The winter months are the best time for surfing, and I think they are probably the best time for shelling, because the swells wash in shells. However, I do think there are always shells on the beach in J-bay. It is an endless washing of magic!

Red shells found beach-combing on the beach in South Africa

The coolest thing to see is how different shells wash up in different sections of the beach. Certain areas are very prone to these little red shells, where other areas they are very hard to find.

Low tide colorful seaweed and clear water seafoam green

The excellent surf is caused by this reef, that runs down the inside of a perfectly tapered point. As the swell wraps into the bay it breaks over this colorful reef. There are deep channels in the reef and tons of creatures thriving. At a really low tide you can walk way out and experience this!

Green urchin shells found in tons of sizes!

One of my all time favorite shells are urchins! They are so impossibly difficult for me to resist. So plump and fragile and detailed and perfect. Technically they are called tests not shells, but mermaids aren't very technical... so I call them shells :)

In South Africa, they call them pumpkins! 

One of the places we stayed someone had spent a long time collecting the pumpkins and had strung them into long ornaments from big to small. They were so beautiful, so I made one myself!

Urchin Garland

Urchin Garland

Huge shell collection from big to small - urchins, abalone, limpets

This was my shell-board, that was a cutting board I turned into shell my table. The tiny scallops are so beautiful, bright oranges and reds. I don't know the names of a lot shells, but names really don't add to the magic of shells.

Wearing my mermaid tail blanket and sorting shells

Me sorting shells in my mermaid tail blanket in our amazing little rental in J-bay.

I hope you can take a trip to hunt for the magical shells in J-bay! To get there, you fly into Port Elizabeth, South Africa, it is about an hour drive from the airport to Jeffreys Bay. English is spoken and there are many places to rent. The locals are very friendly and it is definitely worth a visit for those who love shelling (and surfing)!

There is a shell museum in J-bay that I never made it to. I tried once but they were closed. From peeking in the windows, it did look pretty cool inside. 

There is also a little cinder-block hut down by the beach below the Billabong shopping area where local women sell shells and things they make out of shells. I love to stop by their stalls, support them, and also see all of the many shells they have collected and the cute things they make with them.

If you plan a trip to South Africa, and are driving the Garden Route, you must stop by Victoria Bay (Vic Bay) about 2 hours West of J-Bay. It is a beautiful bay with a lovely hike above, a good surf spot and a unique little strip of homes built along the seawall. And here you can visit a lovely little shop, The Shell Shop!

The owner William will share with you about the many beautiful shells in his store, and where to find shells in South Africa (don't be surprised if he tells you the best shells are in J-Bay! ;)

At the Shell Shop in Vic Bay I found a book on the shells of Jeffrey's Bay covering all of the species found at this beach. William is a shell expert and collector and will share all of his knowledge and enthusiasm for shells.

I hope you enjoyed the shell report :)

Comb responsibly.


Mermaid Julie
Mermaid Julie


Seatail Founder and Lover of all things Ocean, Beach & Mermaid!

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