Tips for Metal Detecting on the Beach

Yellow and black metal detector laying on top of sand

Air that smells of salt, the sound of seagulls squawking above, metal detector in hand, and the eager hope that today might be the day you make a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. Sound familiar? If you’re someone who enjoys metal detecting, then you’ve probably found yourself in this exact situation, taking your favorite hobby to the beach in search of buried treasure. 

While metal detecting first became popular in the 1930s — thanks to the invention of the hand-held metal detector — the hobby surged even more so in the 1970s when the new and improved “very low frequency” metal detector hit the market, making it even easier for beginners to find collectibles through its advanced abilities to detect smaller objects at greater depths. 

While technology continues to revolutionize the precious metals industry, the goal of detectorists has remained the same — to hit pay dirt. If you’re one who enjoys metal detecting as a hobby and are planning an excursion to the beach, keep reading for tips to help your chances of making your next trip a success. 

Before You Head to the Beach: Things to Consider

Whether you’re an amateur detectorist or a self-proclaimed pro, you’ve probably come to realize that detecting in any environment comes with its own unique benefits and challenges — and the beach is no exception. Whether you’ve gone metal detecting on the beach once or one hundred times, be sure to consider general logistics before you set out to hunt for rarities beneath the sand.

Here’s a list of questions you might consider asking yourself before your next beach excursion.

Making Plans: When & Where

When Choosing a Beach:

  • Are you comfortable metal detecting in front of beach goers? Or, do you prefer a relatively empty beach?
  • What general geographic location are you looking to visit? A beach that’s close to home or one that requires travel, adding to a sense of adventure?

Once You’ve Chosen a Beach:

  • Have you ever detected metal at this particular beach before? If so, when was the last time? Have the beach’s rules and regulations since changed?
  • What is the traffic at the beach usually like? 
  • How well do you know the typical weekly, monthly, or seasonal forecasts for the area? What about the cyclical tide patterns?
  • What is the weather outlook for your visiting timeframe? Have meteorologists issued any watches, warnings, or advisories?
  • Do you have any health concerns that you should plan for? For example, do you have any medical conditions that are triggered by heat, which tends to peak in the afternoon?

Prioritizing High-Traffic Areas

Once you’ve determined which beach you’re going to visit and you’ve narrowed down the time of day, plan out how you will prioritize high-traffic areas, which are typically more fruitful for detectorists than areas that rarely experience human activity. High-traffic areas present a greater opportunity for finding items from the past — perhaps even misplaced gold artifacts that have been hidden and preserved beneath the sand for decades. Some high-traffic areas include: 

  • The Shoreline: The shoreline is where people get in and out of the water, and new surface areas are exposed due to the fluctuations between low and high tide.
  • Natural Nets: Be on the lookout for areas where there are natural “nets.” These may be places where seashells, sea glass, sediment, or debris congregate, such as tide pools, troughs, coves, caves, or drop-offs. In these locations, protect yourself by keeping an eye out for holes, uneven areas, or divots.

Properly Equipping Yourself

Before you make your way to the beach, take an inventory of what equipment you have on hand and what equipment you may be lacking. Remember to also test your equipment — there’s nothing worse than getting to the beach only to realize that something isn’t working as it should be. Below is a simple checklist of recommended items:

  • A fully charged metal detector and earbuds/earpieces: If you’re new to the hobby and are looking to purchase a metal detector, explore options based on your experience level, the number of controls you prefer to have, and your budget. Don’t forget about the terrain you anticipate metal detecting in, such as wet or dry sand, and any physical limitations you have, including how much weight you feel comfortable carrying.
  • A scoop or grabber: If you have limited mobility while bending down, these tools may help you grab items off of the ground.
  • An extra pair of reading glasses, sunglasses, or a magnifying glass: If you do strike gold, you’ll want to be able to properly inspect what you unearth. 
  • A storage bag, belt bag, or pouch: Try to find something that is theft-proof, trackable, and durable. For example, thefts may be deterred if your bag is clipped onto your belt loop or has an Apple AirTag on it. A dry bag might also come in handy — safeguarding your findings and protecting them from the elements until you get home.
  • A journal, notepad, map, camera, or smartphone: Whether you prefer pen and paper or are more digitally savvy, use some form of documentation to take notes on your excursions, which may help you be even more successful on your next trip. For example, you might find it helpful to jot down the direction you walked in or the locations where your metal detector gave back positive signals.

Reading Up on Permits & Local Laws

With a destination in mind and your equipment packed, you’re probably eager to hit the sand. But, before you do, it’s important to do a double check on any possible restrictions that may govern the beach you’re planning to visit. In many areas, there are permits and local laws. Specific rules may be applicable too for state parks, nature preservations, public versus private land, federally or nationally sanctioned areas, or archeological sites. You can visit to view metal detecting laws by state.

Staying Involved Beyond the Beach

While the hobby is close to 100 years old, metal detecting remains a beloved pastime among many. Keep your love for the activity alive beyond the beach by getting involved with the precious metals community. Consider joining a detecting club in your state, reading a reference book or handbook, or learning more about valuable collectibles.

Tips for Metal Detecting on the Beach
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