So You Bought a Metal Detector — Now What?

The number of places you can use a metal detector are limitless (as long as you have permission).  Beaches, parks, fields, and rivers are some of the most popular places to metal detect. People lose coins, rings, jewelry, and other treasures everywhere they go. 

Sometimes, valuable treasures are buried and the owners never come back to retrieve them. 

Do your research before you head out, though. Not all places are legal to detect. It could be privately owned, or protected land. If it’s private land, you could be trespassing. There are apps you can download that will tell you who owns what land and whether it’s private or public. They also show the topography of the land. 

Parks that are considered historical are off limits to metal detectors, as are federal and national parks. The Antiquities Act of 1906 and Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 make it illegal to metal detect on federal land, and you can’t keep or dig up artifacts that are more than 100 years old on federal property. 

But there’s another reason to do your research before you begin the hunt — finding clues that lead to some great finds. 

Research Your Location’s History

Research where to metal detecit

Libraries, old church and school records, and old property records are great places to do research for where to metal detect.

While there are many different places to hunt with your metal detector, the thrill of recovering older, more valuable coins and relics of the past is exciting. The key to finding unique places with lots of history is through research. 

  • Old Maps can be found in local libraries and history books. They can show old roads, abandoned railroad stations, former school buildings and other points of interest that either no longer exist, or people have forgotten about.
  • Old Newspapers contain a wealth of information. Check out stories about locations of holiday celebrations, carnivals and more. 
  • Old property tax records show where older houses, farms, service stations, interstate bus stops, and taverns once stood. Lots of old coins can be found in those areas.
  • School records can tell you not only where schools once stood, but the roads and paths that students took to get there. 
  • Local historical societies are a great resource. They contain valuable information on dozens of older happenings in your town from its very beginning up through today.
  • Local museums usually have displays of historical interest as well as many books on local history. Spend time with anyone that works in the museum and listen to what they tell you.
  • Church records will show where the earliest churches were established. Some no longer exist and were torn down or purchased for another business now on that spot. People once spent time before and after church to picnic and participate in many outdoor activities.
  • No place has more information than the local library. Check with the librarian, who can direct you to a wealth of information about your town. Libraries are the main repository of information of all kinds, including many of the items discussed above. 

Surf’s Up! Check out the Beach

If you live near the coast, the beach is the perfect place to take your metal detector. It’s a great place to find coins and jewelry. Many people leave coins behind after changing, rummage around in their bags, or sit in the sand, allowing change to slip out. The beach’s sand is also easy to dig and sift through, enabling you to locate items easily. 

But don’t just search the loose sand. The beach parking lot may also have treasures for you. If you have a waterproof detector or even just a waterproof coil, be sure to check down at the water’s edge. Keep in mind that some beaches have regulations for metal detecting, so be sure to check before searching your local beach.

Finding Treasure in Rivers and Creeks

Each town’s history could provide you with a unique idea of where to search. Old river beds are just one of the local landmarks that could prove to be the home of your latest find. Some rivers had toll booths for boats that would travel the river regularly. You may be able to find unique coins that slipped over the edge. 

Try to locate fishing spots that could reveal some unique finds as well. Take your time, and bring a map to mark the sections you have already covered.

Rivers and creeks are often a favorite place for metal detectorists who are looking for gold. Gold erodes from mountains and hills as a stream, river or creek flows through. Over the years, that gold accumulates, especially in cracks and crevices in the bedrock! High water during the spring will add even more gold to “pay streaks.” Pay streaks are areas where gold collects. 

Riverbends, behind boulders, logjams, under waterfalls, and any area where the river or creek slows are great places to metal detect for gold. 

Metal Detecting at Historic Churches

Old churches are a great place to metal detect.

Old churches are a great place to metal detect, as long as you have permission.

Churches are often in the oldest part of town, since they were usually constructed first. Original church buildings can be a great place to search. They hold all kinds of community and social events that could leave any number of items behind. If you’re lucky enough to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, you’re living next to the oldest church in the U.S.

Go Where the People Were

The main thing is to look where people have spent a lot of time. You have to go where people have traveled, where they lived, where they worked, and where they played. Think about what people were doing, where they lived and played and what paths they may have taken to get there. 

Nature trails

Searching nature trails with your metal detector is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. Try to think like a hiker. Look for places just off the trail where a hiker might stop to eat a snack or an interesting rock that would make a great place to sit. Check out old camps and forts. You may find some interesting items just off the trail.

Farmer’s fields

After harvest, many farmers will give permission for their fields to be searched. Farms can be a great place to find coins, relics, and other forgotten items that have been lost or buried over the years. If you are on the East Coast, you may find some fascinating Civil War relics, as many of the battles were fought in fields. At an older farm, you could find old tractor parts or buried caches. Make sure you check the corners of the fields too. 

Fields aren’t the only place to look —farms often have interesting lanes that could prove fruitful. Try searching on either side of the small roads or paths where things might have been dropped. Fences and large trees could be hiding interesting treasures in holes or hollows. Old, abandoned barns or farm houses should also be searched, as long as you have permission. 

The sidewalk strip

Sidewalks can be a great area to find treasures. The area between the sidewalk and the road is often overlooked, leaving coins and jewelry just waiting to be found. Since the grassy strips are public property but maintained by the homeowner, ask permission from the homeowner before searching these areas. If the machine makes a beeping sound over a sidewalk, it could be because the sidewalk is new. Try turning the coil on its edge and sweep — this should increase the chances of finding items. 

Your Own Backyard

Whether you live in an older home or one that was just built, you may have hidden treasures in your own backyard! New to metal detecting? Searching in your own property will help you learn about your new metal detector and get used to the different sounds made when your detector finds different kinds of metals. Even if you are just getting used to a new detector, or simply want to learn what could be hidden on your own property, you may be surprised what you can find. You could even consider planting a test garden 

Other places

All the locations listed below are ones that have been submitted by our valued customers and members of the Kellyco Test Team, who are devoted treasure hunters. Happy hunting, and good luck on your metal detecting adventures!

  • Parks
  • Schoolyards
  • Playgrounds
  • Fairgrounds
  • Picnic Areas
  • Recreational Vehicle Parks
  • Amusement Parks
  • Carnival Sites
  • Swimming Areas such as Lakes and Rivers
  • Seaside Beaches
  • Sand, Dirt or Grassy Parking Areas
  • Old Home Sites
  • Old School Sites
  • Children’s Summer Camps
  • Fishing Camps
  • Hunting Camps
  • Under Grandstands and Bleachers
  • Under Ski Lifts
  • Churchyards
  • Old Military Bases
  • Old Campgrounds
  • Roadside Produce Stands
  • Around any Resort Area
  • Stock Car Speedway
  • Small Circus Grounds
  • Abandoned areas
  • Winter sledding spots
  • The ice cream truck route
  • Old railroad rail lines (not active)
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!