Life’s a Beach: Just Bring your Metal Detector!


Life’s a Beach: Just Bring your Metal Detector!


by Daniel Bernzweig

Grab a metal detector and hit the beach in style! Why do metal detecting hobbyists flock to the beach? It's not just to uphold the popular image of the guy with headphones scanning his detector along the shoreline. It's the real promise that gold and silver await the person who searches with a metal detector. There's an old saying that goes, "If you hang out at the barber shop long enough, you're going to get a haircut." The same concept applies to beaches and metal detectors. If you spend enough time on a beach with a metal detector, you're bound to find gold rings and jewelry. And with the skyrocketing price of gold, this is a tempting hobby-if, not a career change!

Can You Use a Metal Detector On the Beach?

Beaches are one of the best places to search for buried treasure. Not only are there often hidden treasure finds to be found in the wet sand, but the saltwater is also great for helping to break down metals and make them easier to detect. Having a fully waterproof metal detector is the best way to hunt saltwater beach areas for the occasional old coin or unique metal object that might be waiting to be found in the wet salt sand. Other unique areas with sandy or beach-type areas include parks, school yards, and possibly even an abandoned ghost town. Staying on public land will keep you out of trouble as long as you obey the local rules and regulations. Always request permission when hunting on private property.

Beaches are a great place to use a metal detector. The dry sand is loose, making it easy to dig, and there are usually plenty of people around if you need help. Check local metal detecting laws before you start, as some beaches have restrictions. 

For optimal beach detecting, choose a spot that looks promising. Look for areas where people tend to gather, such as near lifeguard towers or picnic tables. Choosing the right location and equipment can make a difference in your success when beach metal detecting.

Tips for Beach Metal Detecting 

When it comes to beach metal detecting activity, timing is everything. The best time to metal detect on the beach is two hours before low tide and two hours after. This is when the water has receded enough to expose more of the beach but is still close enough that any treasures you find will be covered again by the tide. 

The beach is also a great place to use a pinpointer. This handy tool helps you zero in on targets, so you don't have to dig huge holes looking for that one elusive piece of metal. A sand scoop is also a must-have, making it easy to fill in any holes you dig. 

Don't forget the sunscreen, and always respect other people's space when beach metal detecting. With a little patience and practice, you're sure to find some hidden treasures of your own. Here are a few tips for beach detecting success.

  1. Choose the best metal detector. Look for a machine that is specifically designed for use on the beach. For example, most underwater metal detector models can filter out false signals from the salt water minerals in the sand. 
  2. Use a search coil that is large and round. This will help you cover more ground faster. Some of the best metal detectors for beach detection are waterproof metal detectors with waterproof coils. 
  3. Use a pinpointer. This is a small, handheld device that can help you locate metal objects that are buried in the sand. This helps detect some small targets like old coins and small precious metals.
  4. Dig small holes. When you find a signal, dig a small hole to see what is causing it. Be sure to fill in the hole when you are finished. 

Places to Go Beach Metal Detecting 

In the United States, some of the best places to go beach metal detecting are California, Florida, North Carolina, and Hawaii. Treasure hunters report that saltwater beaches are generally the best for finding treasures. These states have miles of coastline and plenty of beaches to explore. Avoid metal detecting on the sandy beaches at National Park locations as they are typically off limits.

Metal detecting laws in the US and abroad vary, so it's always good to check local regulations before you start searching. For example, in England and Wales, the Crown Estate owns almost all of the seashore, and permission must be obtained before metal detecting. However, there are plenty of Crown Estate foreshore beaches that are open to the public and make great places for beach metal detecting. In contrast, Nova Scotia allows beach metal detecting on all beaches. 

There are many different areas where you can go beach metal detecting. Here are a few of the best places to try: 

  • National Parks -  Some national parks have beaches that are open to the public. Metal detecting regulations can vary widely, so always check the local and national regulations. These beaches can be a great potential place to search for buried treasure. State parks like Beach state park are also a good option, but be sure to check local and state laws before metal detecting in these areas.
  • Public Beaches - Many public beaches allow metal detecting. These beaches are usually well maintained and have plenty of people around if you need help. 
  • Local Beaches and Parks - City parks and local beaches are also great places to try your hand at beach metal detecting. These areas are often less crowded than state parks or national parks and can offer a more relaxed atmosphere. 

Hunting the High Water Mark

Another interesting concept: experts report that Mother Nature seems to deposit objects of similar weight in the same area along a beach's high water mark. So, when a detectorist uncovers one gold ring, there are quite possibly more targets within a small radius. According to a CNN article about beach detecting, one hobbyist cashes in a few weeks worth of gold finds for $1,300. The article suggests starting with popular tourist beaches when treasure hunting for gold and valuables. Beaches in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Florida; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Venice Beach, and La Jolla Beach, California are just a few upscale high-traffic beaches. In South Beach, Miami, Florida, beachgoers are seen wearing flashy and expensive jewelry and watches. These are the same items that get lost in the sand and surf. Sometimes, items can be returned to their rightful owners; in most cases, it's simply impossible to do. Intrigued? Read on to learn basic beach hunting techniques and which metal detectors best suit the beach.

Beach Hunting Techniques

To maximize their finds, most beach detectorists walk slowly along the beach, steadily swinging their search coil from side to side. It is important to work methodically in a planned pattern. You can even grid the beach to ensure that every square inch is covered. Gridding involves walking parallel to the water, then stepping one to two feet aside and working your way back. Your coil should slightly overlap on each trip. In a highly productive area, you can even mark your grid by dragging your scoop in the sand. Remember, the slower you swing your search coil, the deeper it will pick up signals. Most coils have a cone-shaped search pattern. Depending on the power of your metal detector, you may be searching with a 10-inch diameter near the surface but only a 2-inch diameter at maximum depth. This is why you will find trash and shallow coins before hitting on deeper buried gold targets. Experts recommend that beach hunters dig all targets to reach the real treasure. You are essentially clearing the area of shallow targets before discovering gold signals. Be sure to read our related article entitled "Underwater Metal Detectors - Reviewing the Best Options."

Finding Good Beach Sites for Treasure Hunting

Popular tourist-type beaches will yield more gold and silver treasure than quiet or private beaches. However, busy swimming spots from years ago may no longer even look the same due to erosion or other changes. Lost beaches can be hunted profitably if there are still items to uncover. Seashore development has also diminished former beaches, but treasure lost there will remain until a lucky detectorist stumbles upon it. You may find an unusual pocket of treasure where people aren't known to congregate. Sometimes natural erosion caused by tides and surf causes objects to redeposit. This is a good reason to keep an open mind and trust your instincts. If something tells you to hunt in an inconspicuous space, check it out! Other places to search are beach trails, walkways, boardwalks, and concession stands. Take any opportunity to scan the base of seawalls because treasure often washes up and gets trapped there. Don't forget to utilize maps and resources from the library. Look for little-known beaches or old maps that will direct you to now abandoned swimming destinations. Be sure to read our related article entitled "What are the Best Beach Metal Detectors for Metal Detecting on the Beach."

Which Metal Detectors are Used for Beach Hunting?

The question to ask before buying a metal detector for beach hunting is which type of water surrounds your local beaches-salt or fresh water? There are detectors ideal for the freshwater beach; yet another variation handles the mineralization of saltwater more effectively. If you plan to try your hand detecting while wading in shallow water, then an underwater detector may be a better overall investment. So, it will serve you well to figure out where most of your treasure hunting will take place.

VLF Metal Detectors

VLF or (Very Low Frequency) detectors are affordable models that work best on freshwater or on the dry beach. They can be used on saltwater beaches, but they tend to react to salt and produce false signals when the search coil touches wet ocean sand. Many VLF models are adaptable to saltwater beaches because they feature a ground balance adjustment. Some detectors, like the Garrett AT Pro, have very sophisticated electronics which display the type of treasure you've found. This digital LCD screen has a target identification meter that displays dimes, quarters, gold, foil, etc. This saves you a lot of time digging. Some of the latest underwater machines available with this feature include:

Pulse Induction Metal Detectors

If you are a metal detectorist that lives near the ocean and will be hunting saltwater beaches, you may be better off with a Pulse Induction or PI detector. PI models are designed to ignore salt and get down to really deep targets. In fact, these detectors are the deepest seeking models on the market. However, they cannot easily discriminate between iron and junk without losing gold and other valuables. Some detectors are water, resistant-allowing only the coil to be submerged and others are entirely waterproof and submersible. Be sure to do a side-by-side comparison of various models and check off the specifications you're looking for for beach area hunting. Here are a few of our suggestions for beach hunting metal detectors.

Popular Pulse Induction Metal Detectors

Beach Treasure Success Story

A Happy New Treasure Hunter

If you visit the "My Metal Detecting Finds" section of our website, you'll read some exciting accounts of treasures found worldwide by metal detector enthusiasts. Hobbyists submit true stories and photos of their metal detecting finds, like a rare coin or a special ring, and then readers vote on their favorite stories. Hidden treasures are reported by individuals from San Antonio to Boston and everywhere in between. Armando was eager to get to the beach for a treasure hunt with his brand new Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector. On his first 2 days of treasure hunting at a beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Armando found gold, fancy earrings, a watch, and various coins. Just like Armando says in his story, we are more than happy to speak to you on the phone and help you determine which metal detector is best for your needs. At, we want to play a key role in your discovery and love of the rewarding hobby of beach detecting!

© 2014 Detector Electronics Corp. - Revised September 2022