When I first got into finding beach glass I was surprised to learn that we even had some in Ohio. I guess in my mind it was probably only in Florida. I dunno why, I just imagine that the beaches in FL have lots of treasures. That combined with the fact I had only heard of it referred to as “sea glass” meant it definitely wasn’t going to be in any of the Great Lakes. I was so very wrong. The Great Lakes, as well as many other bodies of water, have incredible treasures just waiting to be found! I get a lot of questions about beach glass whenever I share photos so I thought it’d be fun to share some tips. I’ve only been doing this for around four years but I’ve learned so much in that time.
First, lets talk about little bit about the what and where. Beach glass is formed when broken bottles are tumbled in a body of water until the sharp edges are round and smooth. This usually takes twenty to thirty years but sometimes even longer. Glass from the sea, or ocean is slightly different from that of glass from bodies of fresh water. Generally it’s more frosted, and the edges are smoother than that which comes from fresh water. That’s definitely not to say we don’t have some really great stuff in the Great Lakes!
Different beaches all have different things that wash up. I frequent four separate beaches along Lake Erie in the Cleveland area and none of them wash up the same types of items or colors of glass. One of my beaches has tons of glass but most isn’t tumbled very smoothly, and another produces gorgeous, smooth, frosty glass but a very small quantity. It’s tempting to want to ask people which beaches they go to but most won’t share their highly treasured spots. Your best bet is to get out there and do some exploring for yourself. I think it’s important to visit a beach multiple times before crossing it off your list. Like I said earlier, I don’t know how long I went thinking we didn’t have beach glass simply because I was looking at the right time of the day, or carefully enough.
7 tips for finding beach glass!
▴ Slow down. Lets be real, this is a great tip for just about everything in life. Seriously though, unless you have a SUPER sharp eye even walking at a regular pace is too fast. Take your time wandering the beach, you’ll have a much better chance of spotting something.
▴ Get low! Obviously things are easier to see when you’re closer. On a warm day there is nothing more relaxing than plopping down in the sand and looking for glass. Which brings me to my next tip…
▴ Dig a little. Not with a shovel or anything but sometimes I actually do use a piece of driftwood just to give my hand a break. Tiny shells can be shaaaarp! The photo above? That is prime for beach glass, the thing is it might not all be on the surface. Simply removing the top layer is likely to reveal more glass.
▴ Rocky beaches! Have you noticed something about all the photos I’ve shared in this post? The beach is rocky. Choose beaches that have rocks and tiny pebbles near the waterline, in that mix will most likely be beach glass. Some beaches never really wash this stuff up though. Super smooth, sandy beaches that are very well maintained aren’t likely to yield too much. Tides obviously effect how rocky a beach is and subsequently what you’re going to find. Low tide is best but I’ve found beach glass at all times of the day.
▴ Go after storms, or even better during the rain. Any sort of inclement weather is your friend for two main reasons. One – it’ll most likely be wavier than normal which means more things being washed ashore. Two – there are less people there. While I try not to be dumb and competitive with other beachcombers (hey, we both think trash is treasure!) the fact of the matter is they could find something before me.
▴ Wear rain boots. Wet feet on a chilly day is awful. I can’t tell you how many times I went to the beach with the intention of staying dry and drove home barefoot because a wave I wasn’t expecting got me. Not to mention the fact that sometimes you’ll spot a piece of glass that hasn’t washed in yet. I swear, it’s always a color you’re looking for too! Boots mean you can get those pieces without hesitation. My fox boots are from Joules a few years ago. I had these babies for three years before I finally got a tiny hole in them last week and I am ROUGH on boots. I would highly recommend them!
▴ Don’t forget to look further up the shore. Beach glass shines beautifully in the sun when it’s wet, making it pretty easy to spot. That doesn’t mean right along the water is where you should look though. Lots of large pieces go overlooked in dry spots. In the two photos above you can see the difference between wet and dry. Look at it shine while wet but just a few more feet up the beach a similar blue piece is nearly camouflaged.
Over time you’ll develop an eye for it. Even when I’m not at the beach I catch myself noticing pieces of glass and thinking “oh my gosh, bluuuue!” only to realize it’s literally just a broken bottle. You may even start to find other things in the sand you want to collect. Pottery shards are one of my favorites. Someone on instagram was actually able to identify the china pattern on the blue shard below. Although it’s probably the most common pattern, being able to trace it is beyond cool in my book!
Looking for beach glass is honestly one of my favorite hobbies (and I sure do have a lot of hobbies!) It’s incredibly relaxing. I’d consider it my favorite way to decompress. If you’re looking for a stress free hobby, that super easy, and super satisfying – you’ve found it. Every single person I’ve ever taken to look for beach glass has gotten into it. It’s a blast! One last thing, I must warn you, searching for beach glass is ADDICTING. Once you get started, you’ll never want to stop. Good luck!
PS. In this post from last summer I share one of my favorite spots to look for beach glass in the Cleveland area. 😉