Beachcombing in New England: Moon Snail Shells, Slipper Shells, Periwinkle Shells, Cool Rocks, and Sea Glass

Beachcombing allows us to reconnect with nature and unearth hidden treasures along the shore. New England's coastline boasts an abundance of natural wonders, making it a haven for beachcombers. In this post, we focus on moon snail shells, slipper shells, periwinkle shells, cool rocks, and sea glass. Join us as we traverse picturesque New England shoreline. 

Moon snail shells are one of the most exciting discoveries we make during our beachcombing adventures. These shells, found along the shoreline, have unique spiral patterns and delicate hues of rich purples and pinks. 

Moon snail shells come in a range of sizes, from small and fragile to large and robust. Their mesmerizing colors include pale pinks, purples, and blues. These shells house moon snails and other sea life, and they carry stories of marine life and the coastal ecosystem.

When collecting moon snail shells remember that they serve as homes for hermit crabs and other small creatures. We aim to practice responsible collecting by refraining from taking shells that could still house animals. Instead, admire their beauty, take photographs, and return them to their natural habitat to preserve the delicate balance of the shoreline ecosystem. 

Another enchanting find while beachcombing in New England is the graceful slipper shell, also known as the boat shell. These elegantly curved shells bear a resemblance to miniature slippers,  with smooth texture and subtle colors.

Slipper shells can be found in various sizes, often washing ashore with the tide. They come in an array of shades, ranging from creamy whites and pale pinks to vibrant oranges and soft blues. Their delicate beauty makes them a  sought-after treasure among beachcombing enthusiasts.

As with all collecting, it is important to appreciate the slipper shells without disrupting our delicate ecosystem. Do not disturb live creatures and refrain from taking excessive amounts. Instead, admire these delicate gifts of nature, and appreciate them as they are in their natural habitat.

Among the seashells strewn along the New England shoreline, periwinkle shells stand out as tiny gems that capture my imagination. These small, spiral-shaped shells belong to the common periwinkle snail and can be found in abundance along the rocky beaches of Massachusetts. 

When I was a kid, we would take the ferry to harbor islands and collect periwinkle shells. A local park ranger provided fishing line, and we would string necklaces full of periwinkle shells with natural holes in them. 

*Anyone know or care to guess which predator eats periwinkles by essentially drilling a whole in their shells?*

Periwinkle shells come in pale blues, purples, and rich browns. Their smooth and polished surfaces give them a unique luster.

While periwinkle shells may seem plentiful, it is important to remember that they serve as homes for tiny organisms and contribute to the coastal ecosystem's balance. Often, we find hermit crabs utilizing the shells as a mobile home. Beachcombers should collect only a few empty shells, and leave behind the majority to help preserve our delicate ecosystem. It's best to collect only shells that could no longer serve as a home to crabs or other marine life. Even then, moderation is important!

In addition to seashells, we stumble upon a myriad of cool rocks that highlight the immense geological history of the region. These rocks, shaped and polished by relentless ocean waves, offer a glimpse into the earth's ancient past, when glaciers carved valleys and hills into our local landscape.

Among the rocks and minerals, you can find igneous rocks such as basalt, formed from solidified lava, or sedimentary rocks like sandstone, shaped by the accumulation of sand grains. Each rock tells a unique story, offering beachcombers an opportunity to learn about the geological processes that have shaped the landscape. We also find plenty of granite, chert, puddingstone, quartz, and jasper.

The colors and textures of the rocks can vary greatly. From smooth, round pebbles that fit perfectly in the palm of your hand to jagged, layered rocks that reveal eons of history, each discovery is a testament to nature's artistic prowess.

While collecting rocks, it's essential to be mindful of the  surroundings. Respect the environment and refrain from removing rocks from protected areas or fragile ecosystems. Instead, take photographs and appreciate the rocks' beauty where they belong – on the shoreline with only a select few in your pocket. 

One of the most sought-after treasures while beachcombing in New England is sea glass. Created by the relentless pounding of the waves on discarded glass fragments, sea glass is a testament to the ocean's transformative power and a beloved find for collectors, including ourselves.

One of my earliest memories of the beach was walking the shoreline about ankle deep, searching for sea glass, and coming upon a large cobalt blue piece. I can still remember the excitement I felt. 

Sea glass comes in an array of colors, often showcasing a smooth and frosted appearance.  From vibrant greens and blues to soft pastels and mesmerizing whites, each piece of sea glass tells a story of its own. As you stroll along the beach, keep an eye out for these fragments hidden among the pebbles and sand.

Collecting sea glass is a practice that requires patience and a discerning eye. Beachcombers should take care to leave behind any sharp or jagged pieces of glass, focusing on the smooth and well-worn ones. I, personally, struggle with leaving partially raw glass behind! Remember to respect the environment and collect only a few pieces, allowing others to enjoy the beauty of sea glass as well. It's always nice to pick up some trash on your way out, the tide line is full of it. 


Beachcombing offers a gateway to a world of enchantment and discovery. From intricate moon snail shells to the delicate slipper shells, vibrant periwinkle shells, cool rocks, and polished sea glass, each treasure found along the shoreline tells a unique story. As we immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature's gifts, let us remember to approach beachcombing with a sense of wonder, respect, and preservation, allowing these treasures to continue captivating beachcombers for generations to come.

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