Metal Detecting on the Beach

There is a unique beauty and serenity to beaches that other landscapes just can’t match. Anyone who’s ever watched the sun rise out of the ocean can attest to this. As the sun rises, so do people who want to enjoy the beach in their own way: sunbathers, surfers and people building sandcastles. But what about people who want another option? That’s where another classic pastime comes in: metal detecting on the beach. 

Metal detecting is a great way to take in the beach’s natural beauty while separating yourself from the crowds. Even better, crowded beaches make for some of the best hunting spots! 

Why Metal Detect on the Beach?

Woman wearing headphones using Minelab metal detector on shore line

Kellyco employee Carolyn Harwick metal detects on the beach.

There is a metal detector for every type of hunt imaginable. Many modern metal detectors models come with an LCD screen, are waterproof, and have lots of unique features. You can start finding treasure on the beach today for less than $300. 

There are all sorts of benefits to metal detecting on the beach. Beachcombing — an activity that involves simply looking for treasure on the beach whether you have a metal detector or not — has been popular for centuries. People have always combed the beaches for shells, sea glass, and washed up treasure.

If you have a love for adventure, you’ll love metal detecting. Every alert signals a new discovery. You may never be Indiana Jones, but there’s a whole world to be discovered just under your feet. And best of all, you (almost) never have to give it to a museum. 

Exercise

Looking to get in a few extra steps in between getting some sun? Metal detecting can help with that! What’s great about being a detectorist is that you can go as far as your legs or battery will take you. (Pro tip: Bring an extra battery pack with you if you want to extend your detecting time!)

Relaxation

There’s a rhythm to treasure hunting that forces you to slow down, relax, and take everything in. This won’t just help you be a better hunter. It will help you be a better person as you learn to relax and be in the moment. 

Friendly connections

Metal detecting, whether you’re at the beach or any other environment, can be done solo or as a group. The detectorist community is a passionate one with clubs all over the world. Chances are that there’s one near you. From Alaska to Washington, detectorists gather to enjoy the thrill of the hunt together. The Central Florida Metal Detecting Club is a very active community based in Orlando, and is also the oldest club in the state. Not only do they detect together, members also participate in search and recovery efforts. 

Clubs often participate in group hunts. It’s a lot of fun to get together with people who share your love of detecting. You can compare finds and get help identifying them, discuss some of the best places to hunt, and share detecting tips and tricks that help you combat the learning curve.

To connect with a local club near you, visit this website

Metal detecting on the beach is just like detecting anywhere else. There are local rules and regulations you must follow. For example, you can’t dig on a historic or archeologically important site. It pays to research those laws as well as the history of the area to find the best hunting spots. 

Places to Go Metal Detecting on the Beach

A man metal detects a Florida beach

A man metal detects at a Florida beach with a metal detector and a sand scoop.

The east and west coasts will be where most American detectorists spend their time. There are plenty of island beaches to hunt in Hawaii and other islands as well. European beaches where World War II battles were fought are another favorite hunting ground for detectorists. Like American beaches, you’ll want to make sure that hunting is allowed there.

The best beaches for metal detecting are upscale with lots of tourists. These beaches increase your chances of finding treasure of higher value. There isn’t just one best place to metal detect on the beach. Check out the following areas: 

  • Towel lines – Typically, people on the beach follow each other’s lead and lay their towels down in a line along the shore. Look for sections of the “towel line” that are empty and search those areas. Be careful to not irritate the sunbathers — you don’t want to be that person.
  • Areas of activity – The best places to hunt are where people are gathered (or were gathered). For that reason, it’s a good idea to hunt around picnic areas and refreshment stands where items may have been dropped. If there are beach volleyball areas and lifeguard stations, those are great sites as well.
  • Shady areas – In the heat of the summer, beach goers will look for shade. Hunt in areas where piers or large rocks provide afternoon shade; people have likely spent some time there.

The best beaches on the East Coast for finding the most valuable treasurers are more populated ones in cities like Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Florida; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. On the West Coach, try Venice Beach, Long Beach and La Jolla Beach, California. 

The best single spots on these beaches to treasure hunt include trails, walkways, seawalls, boardwalks and concession stands. Using maps and resources from the library will allow treasure hunters to  find abandoned or lesser-known swimming destinations which can open up new, exciting opportunities for treasure hunting.

Private or quiet beaches tend to produce less because they have a smaller amount of people on their shores. On the other hand, beaches that have been visited often in the past make for great treasure hunting.  Changes in the topography, like erosion, can reveal valuable items that may have been lost over time. Development along beaches can also play an important role because construction tends to dig up loose soil where gold rings and other jewelry can be found.

Metal Detecting Florida Beaches 

Metal detecting Florida beaches is a popular activity in the south. Florida has a lot of historical sites that can complicate your hunting, as well as state laws that may affect what you can and can’t keep.  

  • Don’t metal detect in water, since you may be hunting on what is considered state sovereignty submerged lands, which includes wet sand. 
  • Treasure that’s 50 years old or more is considered state property, so you won’t be able to keep it. 
  • Private detectorists are forbidden from hunting in water adjacent to national parks. 
  • You can hunt in designated areas of state parks, but rules are subject to change.  

Florida is home to what is known as the Treasure Coast. Over the course of time, millions of ships have shipwrecked along the shores all around the world. An estimated $60 billion in treasure is buried with them. Vero Beach is a good example of a Treasure Coast beach: it’s home to the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet wreckage. A surprisingly great time to find treasure on the coast is after a bad storm or hurricane. Artifacts and coins wash up on shore, and everything that was along the bottom of the shoreline gets washed up. 

Keep in mind that rules will vary from state to state, so do some research beforehand if you plan on traveling with your detector. You don’t want to find out that you should have left your metal detector at home! 

Beach Metal Detecting Techniques 

Scott Lupro with Mental Metal Detecting said in an interview with Kellyco Metal Detectors that it’s important to spend a little bit of time doing reconnaissance when you first arrive at the beach. Take note of where everyone is sitting and where the concentration of chairs, towels, tents, and umbrellas are located. In addition, take mental note of where the surf is breaking and how far out in the water the people are wading, especially as low tide creeps in. These are the places where most of the treasure will be found.

“I often find that the best (most concentrated) areas to hunt are near life guard chairs and public foot paths to the beach. You should hunt those areas hard including both the wet and dry sand,” said Lupro.

Waves and shifting tides make beach metal detecting a constant adventure. Erosion can turn exhausted and “lost” beaches fresh again thanks to changes in topography. Just be sure to take your time, slowly swinging your search coil as close to the ground as possible while beach detecting. 

Want to know how to metal detect a beach? There’s more to it than swinging your detector back and forth.

Gridding 

Gridding is a time-tested strategy that almost always turns up targets, regardless of where you’re hunting. Gridding helps you be methodical while keeping your hunt simple and straightforward. 

Picture of sandy beach with metal detecting grid pattern example overlay

  1. Choose an area of hard-packed sand parallel to the ocean. You can mark your grid using your scoop if you want. 
  2. Complete a full swing of your detector for every step you take. 
  3. When you reach the end of your grid, take one or two steps to the side you haven’t searched yet. 
  4. Repeat the process, making sure that you’re swinging wide enough that you’re overlapping the area you just searched. 
  5. Repeat this process until you have searched the entire grid. 

 Swinging the detector slowly helps you get a better signal by penetrating deeper into the ground. Also, don’t abandon your grid once you find something! It will take multiple sweeps to fully exhaust the grid. 

Wet vs. Dry Sand

Metal detecting beach tips vary based on the different types of sand. Dry sand is similar to sandy soil, but with more trash. You’ll probably have to dig through some junk until you hit paydirt. On the bright side, you’ll be an expert at distinguishing trash from treasure before you dig!  

Hunting in wet sand is best done when the high tide recedes. Signs like erosion from wind and water, dips or “scallops” in the sand, and pockets of shells and other debris tell detectorists where the best places to start hunting are. 

You’ll want a waterproof coil or an entirely waterproof detector for this type of detecting. Keep in mind that saltwater can also interfere with your detector’s ability to find targets.  

When to Metal Detect on the Beach

Salvador Guttuso, owner of adventure tourism company History Hunts, said in an interview with Kellyco Metal Detectors that the best times to hunt the treasure coast beaches are during low tide after big storms. If it’s a beautiful day to be at the beach, it’s probably not a good day to metal detect on the beach.

Hunting at night is also a good choice. It’s peaceful, cooler, and not as crowded.

Choosing a Metal Detector for the Beach 

Kellyco offers the best metal detectors available today. The detector you choose will largely determine the outcome of your beach hunts. The first choice you’ll need to make is usually between very low frequency (VLF) and pulse induction (PI) metal detectors. From there, it’s based on your budget and the features you want. 

VLF vs. PI Metal Detectors 

VLF detectors like the Garrett AT Max are the go-to detectors for novice as well as seasoned detectorists since they’re ideal on dry sand and freshwater. The downside is that wet, salty sand can cause false signals. Make sure that your detector has an adjustable ground balance that takes salt into account. 

PI detectors like the Garrett ATX Pro are designed to ignore salt and can detect targets buried much deeper below the surface. The main downside to pulse induction models is that they can’t differentiate between trash and iron when searching for gold. PI detectors are also usually more expensive than VLF models. 

Top Metal Detectors for the Beach

You can choose to use a metal detector with just a waterproof search coil as long as you don’t plan on getting the rest of your detector wet. With that said, accidents do happen. Choosing a waterproof metal detector can give you peace of mind when metal detecting on the beach! 

Kellyco offers a wide assortment of metal detectors for the beach. If you don’t purchase a waterproof detector, make sure to get one that at least has a waterproof coil

Best for Beginners 

The Nokta Makro Simplex+ is an affordable, waterproof detector. It’s compact and easy to use, making it perfect for beginners. It performs like a high-end detector. It includes features like manual ground balance and notch discrimination, and is fully submersible up to 10 ft. 

Nokta Makro Simplex

The Simplex is a simple, easy-to-use detector. It has auto ground balancing and four preset search modes, including a beach mode. Includes an 11 inch search coil. The Simplex is fully submersible up to 10 ft. and has great lighting for nighttime and underwater use. It has great discrimination between metals. Features VLF technology.

Price: $339.15
Weight: 2.9 pounds
Frequency: 12 kHz
Waterproof: Fully submersible up to 10 ft.
Warranty: Yes

Our Rating
Ease of Use
Features
Weight and Balance
Bang for Your Buck
Battery Life
Pros
  • Turn on and go
  • No false signals
  • Lightweight and well-balanced
Cons
  • Very basic (no bells or whistles)
  • Large coil
  • Tones can seem amateur
What Our Customers Say
  • I recently tested the Simplex in an area where I have been detecting for the past three years. Without adjusting any of the settings, I took it out of the box, turned it on, plugged in the headphones and started detecting. The Simplex has an 11” coil, and I wasn’t expecting it to pick up much at this particular park because there is a lot of junk. I was very surprised at how clearly I could hear signals between trash. Within just a few hours, I found a wheat penny, a railroad spike and a brass buckle from the early 20th century. The buckle was buried 8 inches down. I have tendonitis in my elbow and swinging a detector for hours usually hurts, but after detecting for 3.5 hours, I had no issues whatsoever. This no-frills detector is an overachiever. - Carolyn Harwick
Learn More

 

Best Value 

The Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II has been considered one of the best underwater detectors for over 25 years. It boasts a Discreet Elimination mode that ignores trash like foil and pull-tabs while remaining sensitive to coins and jewelry. It includes underwater headphones and an electronic housing that can be mounted to different locations, such as your hip. 

The Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II is a PI detector, so it’s great at canceling out interference from sand and other mineralization. The downsides are that it’s heavier than other models and there isn’t a coil cover for it. 

Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II

Garrett’s Sea Hunter Mark II has been one of the best underwater detectors for over 25 years. It can ignore most trash, including pull tabs and foil, without degrading the sensitivity of rings and coins in Discrete Elimination mode. It includes underwater headphones and an electronic housing that can be mounted at different locations (including on your hip). This detector cancels salt and ground mineralization with pulse induction circuitry.

  • Weight: 5.1 pounds
  • Frequency: PI — 750 pulses per second
  • Waterproof: Submersible up to 200 feet
  • Warranty: 1-year limited
Our Rating
Ease of Use
Features
Durability
Weight and Balance
Pros
  • Affordable pulse induction machine (one of the least expensive PI machines on the market)
  • Waterproof to 200 feet
  • Non-motion deep-seeking mode for diving
Cons
  • The discrete Elimination mode is not as advanced as some other machines
  • A little heavy at over 5 pounds (but not too bad if used underwater)
  • There is no coil cover for the 8” coil
What Our Customers Say
  • Waterproof. Easy to use? Gold and silver rings jump out at you. Dry sand. Or chest deep water. Great machine. Oh by the way. Coin shooters and relic hunters if you are a beep and dig guy as I am. This is your machine as well. Gold prospector? This is it. I've found pickers with this on my land in the north Georgia mountains. I live a block from the beach in Panama City Beach Florida. I have land in the mountains. This is a go anywhere, do anything machine. - James Z.
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Best of the Best 

The Minelab Excalibur II is completely waterproof. You can even use it to go scuba diving! It works very well outside of the water as well. It features 17 different frequencies so that you can find more coins, jewelry and buried treasure than ever. 

Other detectors that are great for metal detecting at the beach include:

Minelab Excalibur II

Do you want to go metal detecting and scuba diving? The Minelab Excalibur II is for you. This detector is waterproof up to 200 feet, but it’s also effective on land. It features 17 different frequencies to help you find more coins, rings and relics buried deep down.

One of the nifty features is that this detector emits a different tone for every frequency. The tone for gold, for example, will sound different than the tone for silver.

  • Weight: 5.1 pounds
  • Frequency: 17 frequencies from 1.5 kHz – 25.5 kHz
  • Waterproof: Up to 200 feet
  • Warranty: One year limited
Our Rating
Ease of Use
Features
Durability
Weight and Balance
Pros
  • Waterproof to 200 feet
  • Uses Broad Band Spectrum (BBS) multi-frequency technology
  • Different tone for each frequency
Cons
  • Headphones are hardwired to the machine
  • Without proper care, the seals can wear down
  • A little heavy at over 5 pounds (but not too bad if used underwater)
What Our Customers Say
  • I have to say that it is truly a perfect machine for the beach and water hunting that I do. It took me about a week to begin to distinguish the different signature tones for the Excalibur, but in about two and a half weeks I have already found a nice gold ring and an assortment of .925% silver jewelry. I really like the ease of the turn on and go nature of the Excalibur. I simply tune the threshold and leave my other dials set from my last successful hunt and I'm off. - Robert
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Final Thoughts on Metal Detecting on the Beach

Metal detecting on the beach is a great option for people looking for a new hobby. It provides a lot of benefits, is relatively cheap, and the only limit is how far you can walk. Most beaches allow detectorists, and the ever-changing environment means that there’s always something new to discover. Just make sure you follow the rules and choose the best metal detector for you! 

Summary of metal detecting on the beach: 

  • Crowded beaches make for some of the best hunting spots
  • Exercise, relaxation and meeting up with like-minded people are some of the reasons to metal detect on the beach
  • You can metal detect both in the water and on the shore, depending on what type of metal detector you have
  • Specific detecting techniques will improve your chances of finding valuable items on the beach
  • Some metal detectors are better than others when it comes to metal detecting on the beach
About The Author
Carolyn Harwick
Stomping in the woods and at old home sites is where you can find Carolyn on her days off. She loves finding relics and pieces of the past. Her go-to machine is the Minelab CTX 3030 and the Garrett AT Max as a backup. She would detect everyday if she could because she loves the hobby!