Beach Metal Detecting Tips

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There are plenty of people on the beach during the warmer weather. These busy beaches also mean more treasure will be found. It's the perfect place and time to learn about the basics of metal detecting. The beach is full of lost jewelry and coins. For this reason, beaches are the perfect place to get started with the hobby, dipping your toes in the water so to say! A dry beach is usually easy to dig, while wet sand can yield a lot of treasure brought in by the waves. What's the best place to start using your metal detector when you get to the beach? You will learn all the beach metal detecting tips you need to know to find the most treasure on the beach in the shortest amount of time with the help of this comprehensive guide.

Why Metal Detect at the Beach?

Most detectorists will end up at the beach at one point or another over the years, and for good reason. Let's face it, we all have limited time to partake in the activities we enjoy the most. Metal detecting at the beach is an activity the entire family can partake in, or not. You can kill two birds with one stone so to speak, by bringing the entire family to the beach. You can enjoy the hobby while they explore the sun, the surf and all that the beach has to offer. Along with getting in some fun and relaxation, the hobby will help you get in some exercise and stay physically fit.  Metal detecting at the beach is a great way to see what's buried and waiting to be unearthed. As you start your treasure hunt at the beach, you will quickly discover that the sand is easy to dig. And lets face it, what is more enjoyable than being able to cool off in the water! Metal detecting on the beach can be a great social experience as well. It's a fun outdoor activity to do with your friends, family, and anyone else who wants to join in.

Tips for the Different Parts of the Beach

As beach goers, we like to think of the beach as a living organism. When it comes to metal detecting, you need to be familiar with all the parts! We are often asked, what part of the beach is best for metal detector? The first area is the "dry sand" part of the beach. With this sand, digging is easy since it is not wet and you can sift it easily with your beach scoop. We like to think of the next part of the beach as the "towel line", as you head towards the water. You will see families and friends camped out here with their towels and chairs. To stay cool, they may have set up shop for the day and may be catching some shade under an umbrella or small cabana. Next, there is the "wet sand" line. During different parts of the day, this area can change dramatically depending on the tide. The "coin and treasure line" runs parallel to the beach as we get closer to the water. As you approach the "water line", you will eventually reach the water's edge. In the following sections, we offer more details and tips on how to find treasure at each of these unique parts of the beach. So you ask, where is the best place to metal detect on a beach? The answer will depend on where on the beach you are metal detecting. The good news is that we have tips for each area of the beach below!

1. Dry Sand Tips

While beach detecting you will find that the majority of the fun activities on the beach take place on the dry sandy areas and on walkways. Most people hang out on public beaches in these areas to stay dry, chill out, and relax. You will often see vendors setting up or walking along this section of the beach collecting money and tips. When wallets and coins come out, some coins and the like are bound to be lost or left behind. So that leads us to a great question, what should I look for when metal detecting on the beach?

  • In these areas, look for places where sports are played, like volleyball courts, gaga ball pits, and bean bag toss areas on the dry beach. As the activity increases in these areas, more jewelry and rings are lost there as well.
  • Look for paths and access points in the dry sand areas. Either paths to and from the parking lot, bathrooms of food areas are hot spots. These areas channel the traffic and are high traffic areas for sure.
  • Always check for shady areas along the beach. These areas typically produce well. They are usually hot spots as beach goers are gathering to cool off from the hot sun in these areas.
  • Be sure to have the best beach digging tools at hand. From sand scoops to trowels and diggers, having the right assortment will make retrieving lost items quick and easy.

2. Towel Line Tips

The towel line is where everyone sunbathes and lays their belongings, so this can be a very productive area. This area is clearly best hunted early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the crowds have already died down.

  • Try to get to the beach early, before these areas are populated. This will give you the best opportunity to hit these spots before other treasure hunters or big crowds form. Look for hard packed sand and areas where you see holes in the ground from sun umbrellas.
  • Do not be afraid to keep your discrimination low in these areas. Let your beach scoop do the discriminating. The more you dig the more you will be rewarded. Although there is a lot of trash in this area, just one great find will make your day.

3. Wet Sand Tips

The wet sand area is the area between the low tide and high tide water lines. It may be a large area at low tide or a small area at high tide, depending on the tides. Typically this area produces some of the best treasures.

  • The wet sand area typically contains black sand or mineralized soil that is tricky for many detectors to operate in. You will want to be sure that you have a model with a ground balance control. Be sure to set your ground balance properly per the instructions in your detectors manual.
  • Consider a pulse induction style of metal detector for hunting in the most mineralized soil in the wet sand areas. This type of model is not impacted by the minerals in the sand that are difficult for VLF models of detector to filter out. A multi-frequency detector is a good option, as this type of VLF detector will allow you change your frequency to locate the best targets while avoiding the impacts of minerals.
  • Be sure to search in and around lifeguard chairs as there is a lot of activity in this region of the beach through out the day. You will be amazed at what will turn up.

4. Coin and Treasure Line Tips

The coin and treasure line is the part of the beach that runs parallel to the ocean. This area collects targets regularly on an ongoing basis. Physics explains why this occurs and how tidal forces push objects together of similar weight. Coin sized targets are typically accompanied by other similar sized targets like jewelry and gold charms, too.

  • Look for tidal pools, troughs and pockets of water in this area of the beach. These are prime areas for trapping and collecting coins and jewelry. Coins and jewelry accumulate in them, making them like a magnet for treasure.
  • As we noted in the metal detecting tips for the beach section of our getting started guide "Searching tidal pools can be a hot spot on the beach. In fact the swirling motion of the water can act as a giant siphon for pulling in loose items recently dropped on the beach. These pools can act as repositories for newly lost jewelry and coins."
  • As you are searching in this area, wet sand will tend to get stuck or accumulate in your scoop. You can bring your scoop to the water line to wash the sand through as you are search for your targets.
  • In this area, a hand digger is sometimes in order as you will be able to scoop the sand and sort through it quickly. You will want to consider a hand held pinpointer to spear up your recoveries.
  • NEVER turn your back to a wave. It is when you least expect it, that a large waive will come and toss you quickly in to the water.

5. Water Line Tips

When the salt water of the ocean meets the sand, that's called the water line. During the full tide, lots of targets will be moved quickly. These targets are carried by the motion of the moving water. Furthermore, it tends to bury heavier objects, such as coins, gold rings, chains, charms, and even pirate coins. It is not uncommon for hobbyists to find gold while water hunting in this zone of the beach.

  • Ensure you know how to swim if you intend to metal detect in the water. Waves can be very strong and very fast when they come. The waves are extremely powerful and can easily knock you off balance, so be sure that you're prepared whenever you are near the water.
  • Choose a beach sand scoop that is durable and rugged for use in the water. The larger the bucket, the fewer scoops you will have to sort through before finding your target. You will be happy to retrieve your target as quickly and efficiently as possible in a fast-moving ocean.
  • Be sure that as you approach the water line, you are hunting with a fully waterproof detector and always use headphones. The tide can quickly turn and even the most careful treasure hunter can easily get submerged in an instant. If your detector is not waterproof, it will be destroyed by the water.

What are the Best Times to hunt on Saltwater Beaches?

You have often heard the phrase, timing is everything. So you ask, how often should I metal detect on the beach? The same holds true for metal detecting on fresh water beaches and salt water beaches. Let's take a look at some tips on how to find the best times to search on the beach below.

Low Tide Tips

  • In beach hunting, gold jewelry can often be found near the low tide line, as it can be one of the most productive areas. You'll find most of your best items near the low tide line if the tide is low during the better part of the day.
  • By timing the tides just right, you may not even need to get wet to score some big treasures. In fact, during low tide, you can easily walk deeper into the area that was previously submerged during high tide. Based on the the tides, you may need to be up very early morning or later in the evening to score big.
  • As we noted in the metal detecting tips for the beach section of our getting started guide "The tides are always changing and learning how they impact your beach terrain can greatly increase your finds. As the tides go out, you can easily search deeper out in to the ocean floor to discover targets that may have been beyond your reach. You can check the tides by searching latest edition of The Old Farmers Almanac.

High Tide Tips

  • Be sure to suit up with your scuba gear if you will be hunting during a high tide. Typically you will not have as much competition during these times so it is possible to be all alone.
  • Be sure that you are a strong swimmer and are keeping track of your location. The tides move quickly and it is easy to find your self significantly far away from where you started. It is a good idea to hunt with a friend for safety.

Tips on Storms

  • Follow the weather events in your region as the oceans are constantly changing during these events. On the ocean floor are many wrecks and treasures from centuries ago. When violent stormy weather strikes, it is not uncommon for sand to move dramatically and for wreck debris and lost treasures to be found.
  • Get to the beach after a big storm by following the news. Be safe and don't go to the beaches when it's storming.

Do I need permission to metal detect on a beach?

This is a great question and will vary from state to state. In the United States, some state laws prohibit detection in certain public areas. Some laws prohibit hunting in national seashore areas. Some laws vary from town to town depending on local ordinances. To avoid problems, you should always speak to your local authorities or metal detecting clubs before embarking on your beach hunt. Pay attention to local postings and signage as well. You will always need to ask permission when hunting on private property. Beaches in certain areas have additional regulations.

For example, Florida has some of the strictest laws related to metal detecting. The area is known as the Treasure Coast, and for good reason!  The Treasure Coast of Florida consists of Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin counties. During a hurricane in 1715, the Spanish Treasure fleet was lost in the area, thus naming it.  Metal detecting is not allowed in Florida's water. The reason is because you would be hunting on state-owned, submerged lands. Submerged lands include wet sand. For example, in Florida, any treasure that is over fifty years old is considered state property. Metal detecting is allowed in many sandy areas in state parks, but check the current laws. National parks do not allow metal detecting in the water.

Do not be discouraged, as there are plenty of fun places to enjoy your metal detector. Just be sure to learn the local rules and regulations in your area. You can check for a local metal detecting club near you as a starting point. You can also check with the Federation of Metal Detector and Archaelogical clubs for more details.

Tips for proper Beach Metal Detecting Etiquette

  • Always fill your holes after recovering your target. Both on the beach and in the surf, it's important to fill your holes.  It's especially important in the surf because a small child can easily lose their balance and fall into an unexpected hole.
  • Remove your treasure, but always remove your trash after your recovery. Don't forget that you share the beach with others, and you want to ensure the beach is cleaner when you leave.
  • Always wear headphones when on the beach. Plugging in your headphones will turn off the external speaker of the metal detector. It is a win-win proposition. You will more easily hear the deeper fainter signals and be able to block out external, wind, waves, radios and screaming children. Others on the beach will not be annoyed at the constant beeping of the metal detector distracting them from their fun and relaxation. There is enough space for everyone to enjoy the beach in harmony.
  • While you are metal detecting on the beach, be respectful of the space of those around you. It is important to recognize the personal area of the individuals on the beach where you will be detecting.
  • What should I do when I find an item in the sand? Over the course of your searches, you will inevitably locate wedding bands and class rings. Many of these items will include inscriptions. Always do your best to track down and locate the rightful owner.
  • What should I do if I find something valuable on the beach? Some great ideas for tracking down the owner of lost jewelry include: searching yearbooks, placing a posting on the local lost and found, posting a listing on craigslist and checking with the local with local police station and the lost and found are from the beach. You will find that the reward of returning the item far outweighs the potential financial gain.

What are the best types of metal detectors to use on the beach?

VLF Metal Detectors

  • As we noted in our guide on the Best Metal Detector for the Beach "Invest in a waterproof metal detector when metal detecting on the beach. Select a model with a ground balance control that will filter or balance the effects of salt water. Adjust the ground balance when you get to the beach. Recheck your ground balance every so often and adjust if necessary. A VLF detector with ground balance control is fine for most beaches, but a Pulse Induction detector is the best for tough conditions."
  • As we noted in our article Underwater Metal Detectors – Reviewing the Best Options "Very Low Frequency (VLF) Metal Detectors typically operate in the 3 to 30 kHz frequency range and are quite sensitive to coins, relics, and jewelry. The VLF detectors have the capability of discriminating out junk targets while still accepting good items. Unlike the PI circuitry, the VLF circuit is affected by ground mineralization. Most VLF detectors have a sensitivity adjustment and sometimes a ground balance control. By adjusting the sensitivity or ground balance adjustment control, you can minimize signals caused by ground minerals. Here is a list of links to the Best VLF underwater metal detectors."
  • A multi frequency VLF style metal detector is another great option. This type of metal detector allows you to ground balance easily and to choose from a range of VLF frequencies to compensate for the ground conditions you will encounter on salt water beaches.
  • Popular beach metal detectors include the Garrett AT Max and the Nokta Makro Anfibio Multi for the wet sand and the Garrett Ace series and the Garrett AT Pro for the dry sand. Our full review of the best beach metal detectors covers all of the top options.

Pulse Induction Metal Detectors

  • As we noted in our article Underwater Metal Detectors – Reviewing the Best Options "Pulse Induction Metal Detectors transmit a series of quick electronic pulses in to the ground. These electronic currents are not affected by wet salt sand and ground minerals, but they are highly sensitive to precious metals. A Pulse detector is best for salt water beaches and diving. The Pulse circuit is very deep seeking, and is great for tough ground mineral conditions. The PI circuit features limited discrimination capabilities, so you will need to dig more trash items if you want to locate the maximum number of precious objects." 
  • A boat towed Pulse Induction metal detector is another type of Pulse detector that can be used for searching for ship wrecks and treasures in the ocean.

Magnetometers

  • As we noted in our article What are the Best Metal Detectors for Underwater Search & Recovery? "Magnetometers are designed to locate iron and steel at greater depth....The detection depth and area of coverage are important factors to consider when selecting a device. These devices are quite useful for covering large areas of ocean in search of shipwrecks and other underwater salvage operations."

Tips on Metal Detector Settings for the beach

  • Keep your discrimination low or off. The sad truth is that the more you dig the more you will find. In many cases gold, nickels and pull tabs come up in the same conductivity range. For this reason, the more nickels and trash you dig, the more gold you will find for sure! Let your sifter and your eyes filter out the trash as you dig.
  • Beware of false signals produced by minerals, false movements and interference from other electronics (radio towers, cell towers, other detectors and electronics) while you are hunting on the beach. Be sure that you are always listening for a solid and repeatable target sound. This is a common beginner mistake that is not all that uncommon.
  • As you approach a target with your search coil, always be sure to approach the target from several different angles before digging. This will save you from digging for false or phantom signals.
  • Visit the beach at different times of the year. The ocean never freezes and the beach is a great hunting spot all year round. It is interesting to note that the freezing and thawing of the earth over long winters can easily expose many targets that were previously out of range of your detector. Storms and tides will do the same thing. A piece of jewelry or a coin that has been buried for years can suddenly appear near the surface.

Metal Detecting on the Beaches Near You

Not all beaches are created the same. In fact, conditions can vary dramatically from one region of the United States to another. Being in the know is the best way to come away with some excellent finds. No matter where you are detecting, the first thing to do when approaching a new beach is to observe. Take your time and look at the patterns that you see as you arrive at the beach. Observe the environment and the people. Ask your self some common questions. How does the topography of the coast impact the layout of the beach? Where are people congregating on the beach? Where are the major access points to the beach and all of the amenities? By observing these key points you will understand the best way to approach any beach. Next let's take a look at the differences between beaches in different regions of the United States.

Comparing US East Coast versus West Coast Beaches

You will immediately notice a big difference in the climate when you visit in the summer. You will experience sticky humidity on the Atlantic beaches along the east coast. Pacific beach communities on the west coast, on the other hand, tend to have warmer and dryer weather. The next big difference is the make up of the soil on the beaches. On the east coast, the sand is finer and the rocks are fewer. Beaches on the west coast will have rockier soil and more mineralized conditions. It is for this reason alone that you will need to make sure your metal detector can see through the tough soil conditions on west coast beaches. Metal detectorists that are searching for gold nuggets will have the best luck prospecting for gold in the desert and in gold producing regions on the west coast.

Texas Coastal Beaches

Taking your metal detector to the beach in Texas might not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about going to the beach. There are plenty of sandy areas to metal detect in the Lone Star State, with a coastline that stretches nearly 400 miles. Texas sand is much darker than that of the Gulf Coast. Most people consider Texas sand to have a slightly muddy appearance. Yet this doesn't mean that the sand is dirty. The reason sand is that color is not because there is oil in it! The geology of the soil is what produces this effect. Texan beaches have rougher, browner, rocky sand due to the presence of brown clay in river water and dark minerals such as charcoal.

Florida Beaches: East Coast versus West Coast

The sand on the two coasts of Florida could not be more different from one another. In actuality, the sand on the Atlantic side is made up of a mixture of seashells, pebbles, and other ocean sediments. By contrast, the beaches along Florida's west coast are made up of white quartz crystals that constitute most of the sand.

Hawaiian Beaches

Volcanic activity undersea formed the Hawaiian islands. Hawaiian beaches are made of carbonate shells, since quartz is not found on the continent. If you metal detect on these beaches, you will face some of the most extreme conditions in the world. Hawaii has two of the most interesting beaches in the world. The first is Papakolea Beach, which is green in color. As you can imagine, it looks stunning. Olivine, a silicate material found in cinder cones, is what makes it. A Hawaiian diamond is a common crystal byproduct of Hawaii's volcanic activity. Peridot is a genuine gem of high quality, very similar to emeralds. Sand on the second beach, Punalu'u Beach, has a black color. Basalt explains the color. Volcanic lava flows into the ocean and cools, then flows back to the beach in a darker color. The water is quite cold and rocky since it comes from an underground spring.

Top 10 Hot Spots to Search at the Beach

  1. Areas where mothers play with their toddlers while digging in the sand.
  2. Areas where you see concentrations of adults and older kids and teens playing in the water.
  3. In the water from the waist-deep area until you see the roped off sections.  
  4. The area of the beach where you see large concentrations of chairs, towels, tents, and umbrellas.
  5. Trails leading to high traffic areas like board walks, parking lots, bathrooms and concession stands.
  6. Playgrounds
  7. Water slide entrances and exits.
  8. Beach game areas.
  9. Fire Pits
  10. Areas with public showers and areas to rinse off and wash up from the sand.

Equipment tips for the beach

Just as important as it is to hit the right parts of the beach it is equally important to have the right equipment for the beach. A well outfitted treasure hunter will run rings around a novice simply by having the correct metal detecting gear and accessories on hand.

  • Outfit yourself with the best recovery tools. From Sand scoops to shovels, trowels and knives, be sure to get  yourself a range of tools. Tools built for metal detecting are rugged and specifically customized to get the job done. Having the right tool for the job will speed up your recoveries and keep you from damaging valuable finds along the way.
  • As we noted in our guide on the Best Metal Detector for the Beach "You will get the most out of your time spent at your beach by choosing the right sand scoop. For rocky areas or deep water, consider a heavy duty stainless steel or aluminum model with a long handle. In soft sand, a light weight mesh scoop works well. Consider using a handheld pinpointermetal detector for faster target recovery."
  • A metal detector pinpointer will greatly speed up your recovery. Be sure to get a waterproof model that is designed for tough beach conditions. There is nothing more frustrating than damaging a metal detectorpinpointer by using it in conditions it was not designed for. The great news is that there are many waterproof models available.
  • Select a metal detecting pouch for the beach. on one side you can stash your keepers and on the other side your junk. Many pouches include a mesh bottom to let the sand drain through. You can even get models that are designed for use in the water and contain a zippered pocket to safely protect your best finds. The last think you want to do is loose a valuable target once it has been recovered.
  • A harness is a great way to reduce the weight of your metal detector. It is not uncommon for many to spend the better part of the day metal detecting at the beach. With the right harness swing thing as you will be spending hours on the beach make sure you are comfortable.
  • The beach gets hot and you need to stay well hydrated. Be sure to bring plenty of water and to drink it through out the the day. You can bring a thermos or a hydration type backpack if you prefer. There is nothing worse than getting dehydrated and ending up in the hospital.
  • Take care of your eyes by wearing sunglasses, protect your body by wearing sunscreen, wear a hat, and if you like, gloves to protect your hands. You will want to wear a bathing suite and have snorkel gear (mask and fins) and water shoes at the ready for your day. Tevas or other sand shoes for easy walking are also an excellent idea.
  • Bring a well stocked first aid kit so that you are prepared for whatever the day may bring. You may not need it, but you will be happy to have it on hand should you or someone else you encounter need it.
  • Keep a log or journal of your activities. It is great to keep a running log that you can refer back to over the years. Some great ideas to keep in your journal include the date of your hunt, the specific location, the time of day etc. You can even note if it was hi tide or low tide and your results for the day. You might even note the conditions of the beach especially if it is after a storm or weather event. Be sure to note the season as well. The more details the better as you will begin to notice patterns emerge over the years. You will be able to see the best times to hunt your local beach in your area.
  • If it is cold where you will be hunting, be sure to consider a pair of specially designed gauntlet gloves for metal detecting. They will keep you warm and allow you to extend your time in the water.

How can I find more information about metal detecting on the beach?

While we have covered a wide range of tips for beach metal detecting, you may be looking for more details on metal detecting on the beach. In our article on the Best Metal Detectors for Metal Detecting on the Beach we noted "The most important consideration for hunting on the beach is to understand how to deal with the minerals that you will find there." We have also  covered some fun metal detecting finds on the beach in our article 12 Best Beach Metal Detecting Finds we noted that "Not everyone finds something, but a few treasure hunters have turned up some exciting finds in their beach sand scoop. Detectorists around the world dream of making a newsworthy find while combing a sandy beach. While locating treasure isn’t a daily occurrence, major beach metal detecting finds happen from time to time."

Copyright 2021 Detector Electronics Corp. - Revised October 15, 2021