Florida has a unique history of pirates and Spanish treasure ships, which makes it an enticing place to go hunting for buried treasure. Whether you have a serious plan to find lost items or just want a fun way to spend the day, this hobby is fortunately quite easy to get into. All you need is a metal detector and some digging equipment to set out on your own metal-detecting adventure.
Prepare Your Treasure Hunting Gear
The first step is working out the gear you want to bring. If bringing your own is too cumbersome or expensive, don’t worry – you should be able to rent gear at relatively affordable rates.
Below are just some of the items you may need on your treasure hunt across Florida:
There is a wide range of metal detectors available on the market – it mainly depends on how much you want to invest in this hobby. Cheaper metal detectors go for a few hundred dollars, while a more sensitive model can cost over a thousand dollars.
Generally, the more expensive the metal detector, the better the features. Some of the more sophisticated types of metal detectors can even be programmed to beep differently for different metals!
Shovels And Sands Scoops
When Is The Best Time To Go Treasure Hunting?
If you’re going metal detecting in Florida, keep in mind that the early bird gets the worm. Popular spots are swarmed with people out with their detectors as soon as dawn peers over the horizon. You want to be among the first on the beach, so be ready to set out early.
Another thing to keep in mind is the tides. The lower the tide, the more beach you have to explore. Tides also bring in treasure, so it’s even more essential to track them. Look out for spots with a lot of shells as they indicate strong currents.
Protip: Storms churn the water and sand up, bringing treasures closer to the surface. If you head out right after a storm, you may come across something exciting. That said, your safety and wellbeing come first – if it’s still too dangerous to head out, wait for the storm to pass.
Treasure Hunting Restrictions In Florida
While most beaches allow treasure hunting, beachcombing, and using a metal detector on the beach, there are a few things you have to keep in mind.
- You are allowed to search on the beach, but you have to stay away from the water. Even wet sand can be considered “submerged land” and is off-limits.
- Sand dunes are restricted areas on most beaches, so avoid searching near them. If you do find anything in a sand dune, you won’t be able to claim it.
- Private property is off-limits unless you get verbal or written consent from the owner.
- If the property has any special protections because of land preservation or archeological relevance, you will not be able to search there.
- Florida state parks are heavily regulated, so avoid treasure hunting on any beach with “state” in the name. Always check local guidelines and permissions before you set out.
In Florida, metal detecting is governed by the State Laws of Antiquities. Any violation of the metal detecting laws in Florida can lead to a ticket, imprisonment, or confiscation of your equipment.
The Best Florida Treasure-Hunting Beaches
While you can search for treasure on many of the beaches in Florida, some are better for beachcombing than others. The best beaches to go metal detecting tend to be along the Treasure Coast in Central Florida, where it’s not unheard of to find actual pirate treasure.
But aside from Treasure Coast, there are a ton of good beaches for treasure hunting all over the state. Let’s go through a few of the best ones:
1704 Ocean Dr, Vero Beach, FL 32963
With warm water and glorious sand, Vero Beach is a lovely beach to relax and unwind. It also happens to be a very popular place for treasure hunters. Hundreds of years ago, a Spanish treasure fleet sank off the coast of what is now Vero Beach, and the gold from the ships has been washing up on shore since the 1950s.
As recently as 2021, gold treasures from the wreckage were found just 100 feet offshore.
9700 South Highway A1A, Melbourne Beach, FL 32951
In the 1980s, lucky beachcombers managed to find hundreds of dollars worth of coins and jewelry at the Sebastian Inlet, and people have been trying to replicate their success ever since.
If you are searching in this area, be sure to stick to the high tide line. The authorities are quite strict about the dunes.
1820 County Road 510 east of State Road A1A, Vero Beach, FL 32963
This beach is a few miles north of Vero Beach – close enough to the wreck to have some gold and silver pieces wash up on the shore. There are also other shipwrecks in the vicinity, making Wabasso a ripe spot for beach combing.
Be warned that Wabasso is a small beach, and there isn’t much parking. It’s best to visit this spot early in the morning.
Seagrape Trail Beach
8302 North A1A, Vero Beach, FL 32963
Seagrape Trail Beach is a beautiful, secluded beach with numerous turtle nests lining the shores. It’s also known to have buried coins and treasure. Crowds don’t flock to this beach, so you don’t have to compete with as many metal detectors and treasure hunters.
12566 North A1A, Vero Beach, FL 32963
Ambersand Beach is a popular destination for treasure seekers as it’s also close to the wreckage of the Spanish treasure fleet. It’s near the McLarty Treasure Museum, where you can see a collection of the treasure found on the surrounding beaches.
8455 Florida A1A, Melbourne Beach, FL 32951
There have been some reports of a small Spanish wreck off the coast of Bonsteel Park, making it an excellent spot to hunt for buried treasure. It’s not as popular as some of the other beaches on this list, but intrepid beachcombers have found half reals here.
Lori Wilson Park
1500 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
Lori Wilson Park at Cocoa Beach might not be the most popular choice for beachcombers, but that is what makes it such a wonderful place to go hunting for treasure – you won’t have to compete with as many people. Plus, many historical artifacts and gold and silver pieces have been found on the beach.
948 Beach Rd, Sarasota, FL 34242
There are several shipwrecks off Siesta Key, and it was even said to be a popular place for pirates to hide their treasure. Treasure Hunters often flock to Siesta Key to see if the rumors about treasure buried under Point of Rocks are true.
La Playa Beach
9891 Gulf Shore Dr, Naples, FL 34108
La Playa is a popular place to go treasure hunting. There aren’t any nearby shipwrecks, but you are more likely to find newer stuff that you can keep. A few years ago, a lucky beachcomber found a diamond ring and managed to sell it for $12,000.
917 Ocean Blvd, Miami Beach FL 33139
South Beach in Miami might be far from the Treasure Coast, but it’s still popular with treasure hunters. There have been shipwrecks from both the Spanish and British empires in the area, so you have good chances of finding some treasure from the 1700s to 1800s.
Can You Keep What You Find While Metal Detecting?
Do you get to keep everything you find while treasure hunting in Florida? Not quite. If the item is less than 50 years old, you might be able to keep it, unless you are beachcombing at one of the national parks. In this case, you have to check in with the lost and found first to see if anyone is missing the item you have found.
If the item is over 50 years old, it is considered archeological and should be reported but left alone. Contact the Division of Historical Resources (DHR) or the Bureau of Archaeological Research (BAR) if you find something of note.
That said, keep in mind that treasure hunting isn’t always about finding something – though that’s always a plus! Ultimately, it’s about connecting with the past and spending some time out in the sun.
Metal Detection Ethics
Treasure hunters take their hobby seriously and want to make sure that the beaches stay safe and fun for everyone. Before you go out there, be sure you read through the code of ethics that all beachcombers should follow first:
- Respect private property and do not go treasure hunting without the owner’s consent to use their land.
- Fill in any holes you dig.
- Seek to protect natural heritage, resources, and wildlife.
- Use thoughtfulness, consideration, and courtesy at all times.
- Do not start fires in inappropriate places.
- Leave all sites as found.
- Remove and properly dispose of any trash whether it belongs to you or not.
- Refrain from destroying or tampering with property, signs, structural facilities, or equipment.
Join A Community Of Treasure Hunters
To outsiders, it might seem that treasure hunters only compete with each other, but there is actually a very friendly community that has developed around this hobby.
Don’t just search for “public places to metal detect near me”, as you’ll get crowded spots and over-hunted areas. Instead, get involved with other treasure-seekers! The community is very supportive and provides a wealth of information about guidelines and good hunting spots.
There are many clubs and groups you can join
- South Florida: South Florida Treasure Hunters Club
- Central Florida: Treasure Coast Archeological Society Inc., Suncoast Research & Recovery Club, Central Florida Metal Detecting Club
- North Florida: Historical Recovery Association Of North Florida
Finding treasure is very rewarding, but the real fun of beach combing is the process. You get to go outside, get up close and personal with the land around you, and learn more about the history and geography of the area.
If you want to go metal detecting in Florida, make sure to:
- Get reliable equipment.
- Familiarize yourself with the guidelines of specific spots.
- Head out to the beach early or right after a storm.
- Connect with other members of the community to find the best spots.
While these tips won’t guarantee that you’ll always find treasure, you will still have a great day on the beach and maybe even make some friends along the way!
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Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.