SW Florida

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

July 2, 2017
Bailey_Matthews Shell Museum


When you think of a scallop, what comes to mind?

Maybe linguini and garlic butter?

But did you know that scallops have dozens of bright blue eyes along the edge of the shell opening?

Shell collectors from all over the world flock to Sanibel Island, which is ranked as a top destination for shelling.  The islands east-west orientation, gently sloping incline, and warm Gulf waters allow thousands of shells to arrive, mostly intact, on Sanibel’s shores. Visitors stroll along the sands, doubled over in a stance that’s been dubbed the Sanibel Stoop.

Sanibel island

It makes sense that Bailey Matthews Shell Museum, the only museum in the United States solely devoted to shells and the mollusks that create them, would be located on the island.

The Museum includes 31 exhibits, from the most common species of shells on Sanibel, to edible mollusks from around the world, and record-size shells.

The Live Tank Talks, happening daily at 11:30 and 3:30, are an opportunity to ask questions and get up close to these fascinating creatures.

Rebecca Mensch, Marine Biologist, shares little known facts, such as what to do when you find a live animal, why a snail produces slime, and the importance of the mollusk’s foot for movement.

For those wanting to explore the beach, guided walks are provided daily.

The Museum Store has marine-themed items including Charles Albert jewelry, coastal home decor, shell books, and souvenirs. There is something for all ages and budgets.  The gift store is open to anyone, even those without paid admission to the Museum.

There are also plenty of activities for children, including a children’s learning lab featuring hands-on displays and a live mollusk tank.  Kids can participate in a scavenger hunt to locate shells and win a souvenir.

Whether you visit the Museum because of your fascination with mollusks, or just love shells, you will leave with a new appreciation of these creatures from the sea.

What do scallops see with their brilliant blue eyes?

You will have to visit to find out.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Carl Megill July 3, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Another great place for us to visit. Thanks for all the wonderful information.

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