Beach hunting is a favorite pastime among hobbyists and for good reason.
Long before modern-day tourists and beach-goers hit the sand and surf for pleasure, pirates used the seas to haul and hide their loot. Settlers used the shores for many purposes from settling fishing villages to performing religious rituals and more.
This means old and lost treasure is yet to be found.
So, how do you take advantage of hot spots at the beach?
How do you claim lost goods as your own?
What is the best-kept secret about metal detecting at the beach?
If you have questions about beach hunting and how you can improve the quality of your finds, here are a few words of advice you may not have considered.
Our Top Beach Metal Detecting Tips
It’s easy for one who already has all the right gear and know-how to say it’s a breeze to go beach hunting. They know their site inside and out, the best times, what people are doing, and what they’re likely to find. But, for someone who hasn’t yet tread the sands of the shore looking for goods, it can seem overwhelming with all the specialty features of detectors and the types of extra accessories you need to be efficient in this type of terrain.
Don’t fret, we have a long list of tips for beginners on how one should represent themselves as an ambassador of the trade. There’s a lot of good stuff in between too!
Beach Metal Detecting Tips for Beginners
1. Get the Right Beach Metal Detector
There are different challenges you’ll face when beach detecting. Sticking to dry, white sand is the easiest terrain and almost any detector can function quite well. However, the good stuff is beyond the towel line where people dump their belongings and items are lost.
Wet sand poses a different set of challenges to a hobbyist and a dedicated beach metal detector would be the best type for the job. This is because wet, black sand and saltwater has iron and minerals that can sound off the detector with either false signals or constant, excessive noise interference. The detector must be able to ground balance to saltwater or cancel out these unwanted signals and interference.
If you’re planning on braving the surface bed beneath the waves, you’ll need an underwater detector that won’t frizz out when it gets wet.
2. Seek Out Permits & Permission
Public beaches often require some sort of permission to metal detect. You may need a permit to take your metal detector to the beach and there will be associated rules you must follow. Private beaches will require permission from the property owners. It’s best to get this permission in writing with statements that define what techniques you will be using, what hours you can hunt, and who has ownership of the finds.
You must note that some types of finds must be reported to local authorities. Additionally, detected objects of historical significance must be reported to appropriate officials.
3. Enjoy Your Due Diligence
What’s the best-kept secret to beach hunting? Doing your research. Your first step is to go to the beach in question and enjoy the day. Lay down a towel and do your due diligence by observing what people are doing. What time of the year is it? Are people in the water or lazily tanning on the sand? During the first part of the year, many will be enjoying the high-traffic areas of the beach like the sand, picnic gathering areas, and additional recreational sections like volleyball courts.
During the Summer months, more activity is happening beyond the towel line and in the water. You’ll want to move your search towards the wet sand and maybe even the surf if your metal detector is up to the job. Studying what’s going on will help you determine where you should be focusing.
4. It’s Not all Gold and Sparkles.
Regardless of how promising beach hunting is, it’s not all gold and sparkles. You’ll find a lot of junk items along the way, so be prepared to bag those as well. Less trash in an area is not only good for the environment, it’s also good for the detectorist. You won’t always find something on the first hunt, so be prepared to find more trash than treasure.
5. Dig Everything
If you’re hunting in saltwater or wet sand, you may already have a pulse induction metal detector, and as you know, it has limited discrimination. This may not be such a bad thing for the beach since you should be digging everything anyway. Small jewelry can often signal like pull-tabs, but you wouldn’t know if you don’t dig it.
Beach Metal Detectors & Accessories
6. Know Your Beach Metal Detector
Hunting in mineralized conditions is extremely tough for any metal detector. A VLF, like the Nokta Anfibio Multi, can ground balance to saltwater and is expected quality at the minimum.
A multi-frequency detector for the beach will perform excellently by simultaneously putting multiple frequencies to use. It also provides accurate discrimination for junk items and canceling out false signals from iron-rich black sand. The Minelab Equinox 800 may be worth considering.
But, if you want the most expensive type of detection technology, pulse induction is it. It’s especially noted for its increased depth detection and inherently immune benefits to saltwater. The White’s TDI BeachHunter is worth checking out.
Whichever metal detector you choose to hunt with, you must know what it’s capable of and what factors put it to its limits. Read the user manual and read it again. Test it at home to know how the detector responds to different metals.
Get to know its optimal settings for use at the beach. If you know your detector inside out, you’ll spend more time digging real finds and less time trying to convince yourself you didn’t buy a piece of junk.
7. Get a Sand Scoop
Digging in sand is different to digging in soil. Dry sand fills the hole faster than you can dig it and wet sand fills with water. Sand scoops come in different sizes, materials, and quality. Some scoops do excellently in dry sand and others are made stronger to cut through wet sand. The right sand scoop will ease your frustration, and you can scan piles and what’s left exposed in scoop.
8. Use a Big Scoop for Underwater Hunting
Recovering a target underwater is a tricky business. Once you’ve detected a good object, place your search coil directly on the target’s location and press down to keep that spot as you wait for a break between waves. Work quickly to dig, and if you have a big enough scoop, your chances of recovering your target in the first scoop without it washing away are improved.
9. Get a Quality Mesh Pouch
This one item deserves special attention. A mesh pouch will allow water and sand to pass through, but one with tiny holes won’t let your good escape. Be sure to carry an additional pouch to collect trash and junk items you find along the way. You may also want to consider a stowaway container to divide your finds by metal or type.
10. Distribute Detector Weight
Even if your detector weighs around 3 lbs, you might be surprised to find how heavy that may feel on your arm after several hours of swinging at a beach. You may want to consider extra gear such as a shoulder or chest harness and hip mount to help distribute the weight over a long period of time. Another benefit is when you’re going knee-to-chest deep in water and a wave catches you off guard. Your detector won’t be pulled out with the wave – just a thought.
11. Get a Metal Detecting Journal
This isn’t your teenage diary but a journal that keeps track of where and when you went beach hunting and what you found. You can record the date, location, time of day, tide and sand conditions, and your finds. This may provide a good idea for where and when to start hunting next time.
12. Use Appropriate Beach Gear
Don’t forget to protect yourself. Pack sunscreen, a hat, plenty of water, and snacks. If you’re water hunting, be sure to invest in quality water shoes, wetsuits, weight belts, and other diving gear if necessary.
Dry Sand Beach Metal Detecting
13. Save the Open Space for Last
You get to the beach and you realize just how expansive this wide, open space is. Where do you start? Well, it’s not right here. Save the open part of the beach for last if you must cover it. You may only recover a few, good targets, but if it proves unproductive, move on.
14. Search the Towel Line
The towel line is self-explanatory – it’s where beach-goers pick a spot that is usually along a built-up mound of sand just before it transitions to wet sand. They lay their towels and belongings down and many items are often lost or left behind here. Finds along the towel line include coins, sunglasses, jewelry, and of course, lots of trash.
15. Consider Beach Features
Lifeguard towers, sand mounds, trees, etc., they all indicate natural features that beach-goers gravitate towards as a good home base station for their belongings. These are good areas to find a target or two if you’ve already tried all your hot spots.
16. Search Other High-Traffic Recreational Areas
Sports areas and where spectators sit and watch, and picnic tables and similar areas are all good spots to hunt. Items and belongings are sat down along the sides and jewelry falls off during a good game of beach frisbee, volleyball, etc.
17. Use a Small Search coil for Firepits
Firepits are great locations to find small odds and ends, however, there will be a bunch of trash items, too. Your best bet here is to use a small search coil no larger than 6” to get closer to metal components of the firepit while still being able to hear a response on small targets. You may have to adjust discrimination settings to deal with all the trash items found in and around firepits.
18. Don’t Forget Rinse-off Areas & Entry/Exit Points
There is a lot going on in high-traffic areas like public restrooms, rinse-off areas, and entry-exit points. Belongings are taken through, adjusted, and are dropped from bags, pockets, and hands.
19. Time Your Beach Hunt
When is the best time of day to go dry sand hunting? Well, it depends on the habits of beach-goers and other detectorists at your beach, but evening hours on a weekend night may prove to be productive. Why? There are fewer people around as they’ve headed home after a day of being out in the sun and water. On a Sunday night, many people call it in early as they have day jobs the next day. Plus, some detectorists may want to get in on the hunt first thing in the morning, but the idea is to get there first, right?
Wet Sand Beach Metal Detecting
20. Do Some Online Research
You might want to check out some online websites that provide specific information about your beach from tidal patterns to sand conditions and even if it’s crowded with people. This may prove to be vital to your hunt as you can time it, search low tide, and avoid the dangers of searching in a storm.
21. Search Low Tide Flat Sand
Searching wet sand can prove to be profitable as the tide has washed up lost goods. These goods tend to settle in flat areas, or they may get pushed up against a small slope. Jetties are also a good area to search while the tide is low as targets may get stuck in crannies and crevices.
22. Look for Non-Metallic Signs
What is the consistency of the wet sand? This is an indication of how deeply objects can be buried. Beneath the surface layer of soft sand is hard-packed sand with other minerals such as clay, rocks, and the like. Targets may get stuck in this layer, so look for stones, rocks, and shells as they are a good sign that objects are collecting in or near this layer.
23. Wet Sand & Underwater Troughs
Troughs are temporary hot spots because they shift and change as the tide and currents do. When hunting in them in the water or if they’re been exposed during a negative low tide, you may find some goodies that are bigger and heavier in size and weight that have settled within them.
It’s important to hunt them, especially so if you’re underwater hunting when they’re there as they may not be there the next day. Look for shells and other things that have collected in a certain area of a trough as it’s a good sign that metallic objects may have collected there too.
24. Gallop to the Scallop
Scallops are easily identifiable by their hump-like mounds on the wet sand part of the beach as the tide moves from high to low. They’re like troughs, but they’re not underwater. So, if you don’t want to get wet, search the scallops particularly along the edges of the slopes and in the flat area where deep, old objects may have been pushed and buried.
25. Cook up a Hot Pocket
Figuratively, not literally. Unlike what you may be having for dinner, a pocket is a hot spot for detectorists. If you’re finding a lot of good objects within proximity or in concentration, this is a pocket – a hot spot. Cook it up by continuing to search and dig the area. Slow and low sweeps are essential as you’re likely to find more good targets such as old coins, small jewelry, and the like.
Other Beach Hunting Hot Spots
26. Be Prepared for Storm Hunting
Don’t go hunting during the storm, but after it. While the weather may still be ugly, many expert detectorists know the trashed-up beach after a storm is a good time to hunt. Don’t get into the water but search the tide instead. The increased wave, rain, and wind activity have shifted and smashed up sand and the towel line that may have removed top surface debris to reveal what’s buried beneath.
Be sure not to go hunting during electrical storms, i.e. thunderstorms, lightning storms, and thundershowers.
27. Search Rocky Outcrops & Rockpools
Keep an eye out for rocky outcrops in a sandy beach. This may prove to be a hotspot as waves bring in goodies and they stay tucked away in nooks and crannies as water moves out. Rockpools work in the same with tides. New objects are deposited as the tide changes, and while some curious beachgoers are crab picking or exploring rock pools, lost jewelry and loose pocket change may be recovered as well.
28. Secret Caves & Private Locations
These areas should be detected with caution and permission if applicable. These areas are less populated and may contain small openings and caves that may be unstable. They can be a hot spot for detectorists as some beach-goers claim these spots for “private time” while others explore these areas and set their belongings down. The tide and storms may have washed goods in and left them behind due to the unique terrain of these locations.
Beach Hunting Etiquette
29. Pay Attention to Downwind Activity
If there are other detectorists and beach-goers downwind from where you’re hunting, be careful with the way you dig. It’s rude to unearth a pile of sand that whips another person in the face downwind.
30. Use Headphones
Metal detecting in such a public place is going to attract attention. Using quality metal detecting headphones is a win-win situation. You will hear signals more efficiently for your own benefit and the public won’t be annoyed by the audio.
31. Respect the Bubble
Everyone has a “bubble” that comprises of a space they feel is an acceptable distance from a stranger. Entering this bubble uninvited makes people feel alarmed or uneasy. Be respectful of hunting in areas close to people as not everyone is as welcoming or genuinely curious about what you’re doing. Give beach-goers a wide berth.
32. Return Your Lost Finds
Do your best to return lost finds. Track down the owners of lost items you find at the beach, especially what you think may have been an important piece of jewelry. Losing sentimental jewelry is an unpleasant and upsetting experience for anyone, and if it’s possible to return it, it’s the right thing to do. Lost keys and cellphones can be returned to a beach/park officer.
For other items, if tracking down the owner is like finding a needle in a haystack, which was the same experience to find it in the first place, at least the attempt was made to return what could possibly have been an invaluable item to the owner.
33. Detect Safely
Always follow safety measures. Let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back. Take necessary gear to protect your own health and safety by staying hydrated, nourished, and protected from the sun and inclement weather. Only detect in and near the water if you’re a confident swimmer or wear a lifejacket.
34. Represent Metal Detectorists Proudly
Always follow the code of ethics and represent us all. Your actions could mean a positive experience for onlookers and beachgoers who will be more tolerant towards detectorists they come across next time. Or, it could involve consequences that the rest of us will have to suffer next time with restrictive rules placed by the park officer.
Follow curfew, use headphones, respect others, collect trash, and refill holes. You may not get a thank you but being allowed back and having the liberty to metal detect in that area is worth it.
Life’s a Beach!
The beach is ever-changing with old things washing ashore and revealing themselves and new things lost daily waiting for you to uncover. There is no better place to metal detect where you can get away with walking barefoot without a shirt on while getting a tan at the same time.
But, as easy as it is to be at the beach, do you have a detector that can handle the many different terrains? Saltwater, wet sand, black sand, and rocky areas? If you want to make it easier on yourself the next time you hit the sands, you best get shopping!