Scouring the coastline for colourful shades of polished sea glass is one of life’s little pleasures; it’s like a treasure hunt that allows you to put away your smartphone, slow down and really soak up the beauty and wonder of the ocean.
Sea glass is a beautiful gift from the sea — but finding those perfectly sea-worn mermaid tears is really just an added bonus. “A day searching for sea glass is good for your body, mind and soul,” explains Lynn Anderson, naturopath and yoga therapist. “You get exercise, a quiet time to relax your mind and a soulful pursuit of the wonders of nature. This makes sea glass hunting a wonderful healthy thing to do alone or with friends and family.”
If you’re lucky enough to live on the ocean — or you’re planning a trip seaside — adding sea glass hunting to your coastal itinerary is a sure way to drum up a little serotonin while also reconnecting with nature and, if you’re lucky, discovering a colourful souvenir to bring home after your day at the beach.
Interested in getting started? Here’s everything you’ll need to become a sea glass hunter extraordinaire:
Tools of the trade
You don’t necessarily need to come equipped with an arsenal of tools to find sea glass that washes up on the beach — but if you do want to ensure you’re finding large pieces or rainbow-hued colours, you’ll want to prepare a handful of items to help make the search a little more fruitful.
Garden Tailor Galvanized Welded Wire Hardware Cloth ($57.89; amazon.ca)
If you’re searching for sea glass on a particularly sandy beach, you’ll want to invest in a roll of hardware cloth. Cut out about a square foot of the cloth and use it to sift out sand and small rocks.
Toypopor 32-Inch Cat Litter Scooper ($33.03; amazon.ca)
This 32-inch cat litter scooper is going to be your best option for sifting through the surface layer of the beach. The retractable arm makes it easy to put this one away in your bag for incognito storage.
Stainless Steel Spider Strainer ($24.80; amazon.ca)
Rocky coastlines usually offer up a lot of rare and well-weathered sea glass due to the pieces getting stuck behind and around large rocks. A simple spider strainer will make digging up buried or hard to reach sea glass a piece of cake — especially if the beach you’re working on has a lot of larger rocks or wharves to dig under.
Mery 12-Pack Reusable Sandwich & Snack Bags ($17.99; amazon.ca)
Sea glass comes in all shapes and sizes — and you won’t want to risk losing anything in your jacket pocket or backpack. Instead, consider picking up a variety of different sized reusable sandwich bags to store your pieces by size or colour.
Books and resources
The first rule of sea glass hunting is that it’s best to go during low tide; with the shore (especially rocky shorelines) exposed, you can find the best sea glass. “The best time to search is during the first approaching low tide following a storm with on-shore winds of at least 15 to 20 knots,” Anderson says. “Stronger winds during a peak tide will normally reveal more sea glass.”
Although there are endless mental and physical benefits to becoming a sea glass hunter, the real goal of the collector is to find the rarest piece possible. If you want to ensure you’re looking at the right times and for the right colours, you’ll want to consider investing in some resources to help guide your search.
’A Sea Glass Journey’ by Teri Hall ($26.99; amazon.ca)
“A Sea Glass Journey” by Teri Hall is going to be your best bet for understanding the ins and outs of the hobby — from where certain colours and pieces come from to the most rare finds to keep an eye out for. This colorful handbook focuses mainly on the east coast of Canada, especially Prince Edward Island, but the tips and tricks are relevant wherever you may be.
’The Nova Scotia Atlas’ ($29.65; amazon.ca)
Nova Scotia and the rest of the east coast are some of the best places to hunt for sea glass — if you know where to look. “The Nova Scotia Atlas” provides insights into the best beaches, parks and coastlines around the province that you might not have thought of on your own.
’Tides and the Ocean: Water’s Movement Around the World’ by William Thomson ($33.99; amazon.ca)
Sea glass hunting requires a sense of spontaneity and a willingness to work with the weather. “Tides and the Ocean” will help you understand the tides and ocean events a bit better, so you’ll know exactly what to look out for and when to head to the beach for the most productive search.
’Sea Glass Crafts: Find, Collect, & Craft 20 Projects Using the Ocean’s Treasures’ by Rebecca Ruger-Wightman ($24.74; amazon.ca)
A collection of sea glass is gorgeous in and of itself, but some sea glass hunters use their finds to create crafts, jewelry and more. “Sea Glass Crafts” will help you get a sense of how to work with the ocean-polished material and inspire your own inner crafter.
Snacks and hydration
You’ll want to keep in mind that searching for sea glass takes time — and can easily suck up two or three hours of your day before you even realize it. Be patient, walk the coastline multiple times and ensure you have the proper snacks and hydration on hand, as spending that much time in the salty air can be dehydrating.
Maxin Flexible Collapsible Reusable Water Bottles ($15.99; amazon.ca)
Spending a couple of hours walking along the beach can be a great way to get some fresh air and exercise, but don’t forget to stay hydrated. These collapsible water bottles make it easy to bring lots of water along but will pack down super easily once emptied.
Clif Bar Energy Bars ($15.98; amazon.ca)
When prepping for a day of scouring the beach, consider packing a couple of Clif bars along with the rest of your gear. They’re small and lightweight, but they’re packed with protein that’ll keep you going for hours.
Hydralyte Effervescent Electrolytes Tablets ($12.47; amazon.ca)
Some people find the salt air and ocean waves to be more dehydrating than others. If you think that might be the case for you, consider packing a tube of electrolyte tablets to pop into your water bottle as needed. The Hydralyte Effervescent Tablets are low in sugar and offer even more hydration than a traditional sports drink.
Layers and footwear
You might get lucky and find a couple of pieces of sea glass while lounging on the beach in a bathing suit — but if you do want to get out and find the rarer pieces, be prepared to do a lot of walking and climbing over rocks to get to the more rugged and rocky parts of the coastline. Consider the following gear if you want to make the experience as seamless as possible:
Jiasuqi Water Sports Shoes (starting at $16.99; amazon.ca)
Low tide is the best time to hit the beach to search for sea glass, but you should anticipate getting your feet wet even if you arrive when the tide is at its lowest. A good pair of water shoes will allow you to wade out into the waves without worrying about cutting your feet or grazing any ocean creatures.
Columbia Women’s Peakfreak X2 Outdry Hiking Shoe (starting at $97.78; amazon.ca)
Sea glass hunting can sometimes mean climbing over rocky terrain to get to a promising stretch of coastline, and you won’t want to do that in flip-flops or water shoes. A good pair of hiking shoes will ensure you keep your balance even as you scale across wet rock.
Puma Women’s Evercat Running Cap ($23.08; amazon.ca)
You might not think you need a baseball cap on overcast days or if you have a good pair of sunglasses, but a well-fitting hat will help block out the sun and save you from having to continuously adjust your sunglasses or worry about the polarization blocking the many shades of sea glass.
Helly Hansen Women’s Moss Hooded Fully Waterproof Windproof Raincoat (starting at $65.50; amazon.ca)
The best time to hit the beach is shortly after a tropical storm, so pack a waterproof raincoat in case the rainy weather persists. This hooded raincoat is fully waterproof and windproof, ensuring you’re fully protected from the elements and toasty warm, too.
Teton Sports Daypack Backpack ($71.99; amazon.ca)
Don’t bother with a crossbody bag or a shoulder bag — it will only get in the way! A decent backpack will stay firmly in place as you’re squatting and bending and will also store all your snacks and gear without weighing you down.