It’s a wonderful feeling to stroll along the ocean’s edge and spot a frosty piece of glass lying at your feet, but did you know there are things you can do to increase your chances of finding more of these precious gems from the sea?
1. Check Tide Times and Go Sea Glass Collecting During Low Tide
Because usually the best time to find sea glass is at low tide, the first thing you should do is check the low and high tide reports before planning your sea glass collecting trips.
Plan to go sea glass collecting a couple hours before and after low tide.
Of course it’s still possible to find sea glass during high tides, but overall, most sea glass aficionados say they find more during low tide.
How to Find Tide Times
One site I use is WeatherForYou.com to check tide times.
All you need to do is input the name of a city and state or zip code that’s on a beach. Scroll down to the tide information for the current day’s report, and then click on “More Tide Info” for the month’s report. — Note: if there is no tide information, try checking nearby beaches.– The current month times for the high and low tides will appear on your screen. You can plan future beach combing trips by selecting a month from the drop-down box at the top of the page.
The chart below shows the date in June and the high and low tide times for Fort Bragg, California. As you can see in California there are usually two low tides and two high tide times during one day. The wave height is also displayed.
When there is a minus tide, the water moves farther back and more sand is exposed, so that’s also a good time to find sea glass. In the image below, the minus tide appears under Low Tide in the AM on June 5th, 6th, and 7th.
I find the most sea glass during the first low tide of the day. I go to the beach about an hour or two before low tide, and I stay for about an hour after low tide. Many of the sea glass shards I find are in Redondo Beach, California near my home and on Summerland Beach in Santa Barbara, California.
2. Research the Wave Acttivity
The beaches where you look for sea glass should also have a decent amount of wave activity. The movement of the water is one of the main things that helps round and frost sea glass.
I’ve noticed that when the high tides before the low tides have good wave height, I usually find more sea glass on the beach.
3. Check the Weather
Plan your trips to the beach around the weather. More sea glass tends to end up on on the shore during the first low tide after storms.
It’s also likely you’ll find more sea glass during the winter.
Sometimes, however, I think finding sea glass is just a matter of the ocean bringing a number of conditions together to push those little gems onto the shore.
4. Search for Sea Glass Below the High Tide Line to the Water
Walk along the low tide line and check along the high tide line for sea glass too.
I have the best luck finding sea glass right before and right after low tides in the early mornings when I walk in a zig-zag pattern between the water and high tide line. Many times I find nice pieces of sea glass where the sand is wet because a wave had just gone back leaving one or more exposed.
5. Follow The Moon Phases and Winds to Sea Glass
According to many sea glass experts, you can increase your chances of finding sea glass if you look for it at low tide when high on-shore winds peak during high tide during a full or new moon.
When there is a full or new moon, the gravitational pull on the ocean creates higher high tides and lower low tides, which should leave more sand and thus more sea glass exposed on the shore.
Check the prevailing winds. According to Richard LaMotte in Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Natures Vanishing Gems, shorelines that receive prevailing winds have the best chances for producing sea glass.
If you’re interested in LaMotte’s book, you can buy it at Amazon or check out the affiliate link below. Most avid sea glass hunters have a copy of his book. It also makes an excellent coffee table book. There are a lot of sea glass pictures. The book also has a lot of information about the history of glass, how to find sea glass, and how to identify and date sea glass.
6. Look Among Little Stones and Pebbles
Because you can usually find sea glass among small stones, check areas where there are collections of small stones and pebbles close to the water. I find the most sea glass on California coasts among patches of pebbles and small seashells.
There is a short video I created at the bottom of this article that shows images of where you can usually find the most sea glass. From my experience, if the tide has not left patchy areas of small pebbles and stones during low tide, it’s usually difficult to find a good amount of sea glass on the beach. This, however, is not always the case–just in most cases.
7. Look for Places Where a Creek or River Runs Into the Ocean
Many people who live along rivers and creeks have dumped their trash into the water. Eventually most of their trash makes it to the ocean. Of course, most people don’t dump trash in the waters anymore since concerns and education about the environment have become more prevalent. Nonetheless, your chances of finding sea glass on the beach near a run-off are higher, especially if the beach is rocky with a lot of pebbles.
It’s easy to find main rivers and creeks that flow into the ocean simply by researching a place on Google Maps. Choose a city or place along the beach. Switch to satellite and zoom in and out until the names of creeks and rivers appear. Look around the map for populated areas along the river or creek. The more populated an area along a river or creek, the more likely you’ll find sea glass on the beach. Keep in mind, however, the oceans conditions still play a large part in the amount of sea glass that makes its way onto the shore.
Other Important Things to Remember About Collecting Sea Glass on the Beach
- Wear gloves to move stones around to find sea glass. You want to be careful because sometimes sea glass can have jagged edges that can cut your hands.
- Plan to bring a stick to look for sea glass, so you can save your back from a lot of bending and you can move stones around to look for glass.
- Bring a bag to carry the sea glass you’ve collected. Most times I can fill at least two pockets with sea glass. There have been a few times where I needed a bag because I’ve had a lucky day and found a lot of sea glass.
- Protect your feet by wearing water shoes with good traction. It’s fun to be barefoot; however, you don’t want your feet to get cut up. I wear a pair of old gym shoes for sea glass hunting ever since I stepped on some kind of stinger. I’m not sure if it was from a bee or a jellyfish, but my foot was painful and itchy for a while.
- As always, don’t forget to wear a hat and wear sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.
Where to Find the Most Sea Glass
Sea glass can be found practically anywhere there is a current flowing as long as glass has been dumped somewhere around the area. The best places to find the most sea glass are usually among small rocks along rocky coastlines.
Beaches in the northeast United States, California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Nova Scotia, Australia, Italy northwest England and southern Spain have reputations for their abundance of sea glass. Many islands in the Caribbean usually have sea glass too.
For a list of sea glass beaches, check out my sea glass beaches page. I’ve also written about specific locations where I’ve had luck finding sea glass at beaches such as Summerland in Santa Barbara and La Jolla.
One of the best places to find sea glass is Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California. If you’re ever in the northern California area, be sure to check it out. There are a few coves along the shore that are covered in sea glass.
Best Sea Glass Finding Tip: Do a Little Research
Check out other sea class blogs about where to find sea glass. A lot of times people leave comments in the comment sections about where they’ve spotted sea glass.
Another resource I use for finding sea glass locations is TripAdvisor. Check out their forum. You should also check out eBay and search for sea glass. Many times sellers note what beach they’ve found the sea glass they’re selling.
Do some research about the activity of specific locations. For example, if you can find active areas about 50 to 100 years ago where people dumped trash into the water, it’s likely you’ll be able to find sea glass in those locations. Busy waterfronts with a lot of shipping activity will also increase your odds for locating nice sea glass spots.
The Rare and Common Colors of Sea Glass: Where Do They Come From?
It’s hard to find sea glass that comes in rare colors. Orange and red sea glass are the rarest colors. Turquoise, teal, black, yellow, blue, and grey are also rare. Common colors–those from drinking bottles–include brown, green, and white. Most sea glass comes from soda and liquor bottles because these glass containers have been so highly mass-produced. The rarer colors usually come from tableware and household glass containers.
The fascinating thing about sea glass is that the colors, markings and sometimes the shapes can tell you a lot about its history, but you have to study the bottles, tableware and other discarded types of glass from the past few centuries to get an idea of the historical period the piece is from.
Sea Glass is Disappearing
Sea glass has been around since glass was developed. It was taken for granted much like plastic is today. It wasn’t too long ago that sea glass was just something people overlooked as trash at the beach or something they just dropped into a pail along with shells and little crabs.
Now, those weathered, translucent, and shimmery gems are sought by collectors and artists. As more and more people collect sea glass, it’s becoming more difficult to find. Many people have spent hundreds of hours searching shorelines looking for sea glass, especially the older, rarer sea glass that’s completely rounded and polished by decades of lapping waters.
Sea glass is also disappearing because plastic started to replace glass in the 1960s. Then the recycling movement began in the 1970s. In addition, people have become more ecologically concerned about how they eliminate their trash. Littering has become a shameful act–an affront against Mother Nature. Now, even most boaters are reluctant to throw their trash overboard.
As sea glass dwindles in numbers, it’s important to help preserve the glass that hasn’t been weathered and tossed about in the sea. If you find sea glass that’s clear or see-through, you should toss it back into the water for future generations of sea glass collectors to enjoy.
A short video that shows where to find sea glass on the beach.