The Annual Sanibel Shell Festival

A festival for seashells?? Only on Sanibel!

The Annual Shell Show, (also known as the Shell Festival or Shell Fair), is held in March every year, and attracts visitors from all over the country! March is a lovely month to visit Sanibel Island, of course, when temperatures are usually hovering in the 70’s. 

History of the Shell Festival

From an article on the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club website (linked here), we learned that this whole shell-extravaganza started out in the late 1920’s! At first, it was just a small fair where baked goods and craft items were sold. Then, the ladies of Sanibel started bringing a few of their shell collections to display, which attracted the interest of locals and visitors alike. 

Like all good festival events, word spread about the interesting shells shared at the fair, and the delicious goods baked locally on island. Pretty soon, the event attracted visitors from Fort Myers who rode the ferry out for the festival each year. It’s rumored that Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were among the “big name” visitors of the shell show! How cool is that?!

Sanibel seashells

A New Decade of Shell Fun 

Now, the festival is bigger than ever. The 2019 festival brought in nearly 4,000 people to the exhibit halls at the Sanibel Community House. Hotels book out, restaurants and streets become crowded with shell-fanatics, and of course, the beaches are lined with generations young and old all doing the famous “Sanibel Stoop” while looking for shells in the sand. 

The outdoor shell festival itself is free. You’ll find crafts, food, beverages and prizes. Admission to the shell show indoor exhibit is a $5 per person donation. With this you also receive a free pass to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. There are several judged categories of collections inside the shell show. Winners are photographed and announced on the Shell Club’s website following the event. 

Photo courtesy of the San-Cap Shell Club’s Facebook Page

“Must-Do” Event

If you’re on island the first weekend in March, you have to stop by the Shell Fair! Even if you do not choose to go inside, the atmosphere around the show is fun to experience. Bring the kids to see the live touch tanks, and then take the family on a little shell hunt along the beach! It’s the “Sanibel” thing to do! 

Susan McCallion About Susan McCallion

Meet "Your Favorite Redhead." Susan was exposed to real estate while young with her parent's 8 Re/MAX offices in Connecticut! In 2008, Susan and Jim became permanent Sanibel residents, starting McCallion & McCallion to bring a fresh approach to real estate.