As soon as the nice weather hits, and the the waters warm up, beach goers from all over flock to the sandy shores to enjoy some sun and the refreshing water.
Every day on the beach people lose items such as coins, cell phones, cameras, jewelry and other valuables in the water and in the sand of the beaches. These items are often left there and forgotten about.
This is why beach metal detecting can be so productive and rewarding. The key to metal detecting the beach successfully is knowing how to read the beach, knowing the key hot spots for lost items, and using the proper equipment (Very Important).
This Beach detecting guide will give you all of the information necessary for you to start finding more gold and other valuable items that have been lost on the beach.
Guide Quick Links
- Beach Metal Detecting Equipment
- Metal Detecting Beach Zones
- Zone 1 – Shallow Water
- Zone 2 – Sand/Water Transition
- Zone 3 – Towel Line
- Other Beach Metal Detecting Hot Spots
- Reading the Beach
- Tips for Beach Metal Detecting Gold
Beach Metal Detecting Equipment
Choosing the proper equipment for beach metal detecting is incredibly important if you want to have a successful hunt, and if you want to leave the beach with a pouch full of finds rather than a pouch full of frustrations.
Metal Detecting the beach is a lot like metal detecting anywhere else and if you are looking to stick to the dry sand, your current metal detector should be fine especially if you have the option to ground balance. The only real equipment addition you will need in this case is a good Beach Scoop (discussed below in this section) for digging and sifting the sand.
If you are looking to metal detect both the dry sand and the water then it would be best to have a waterproof metal detector and in the case that the beaches you will be hunting will be located on the ocean you will also want to focus your attention on a Pulse Induction based metal detector.
The reason for choosing PI for the ocean beaches is because these detectors ignore the salt and mineral contents of the water and wet sand that would otherwise cause chatter and false signals on a regular VLF type metal detector.
If you plan on metal detecting beaches on fresh water lakes then having a PI is not necessary and a waterproof metal detector with ground balance should be sufficient.
Metal Detectors for Dry Sand Beach Detecting (VLF)
Note– These are just some popular examples of detectors that would work well in the dry sand. Any detector with a ground balance feature should work fine in the dry sand.
Metal Detectors for Fresh Water Beach Detecting (VLF)
Metal Detectors for Salt Water Beach Detecting (PI)
A beach scoop is a must if you want a fast and easy way to recover your targets from the sand whether in or out of the water. If you are hunting the dry sand than a simple scoop would do the trick, however if you are going to be detecting in wet sand or in the water you will need something a whole lot more rugged.
When beginning to beach metal detect one of the biggest mistakes you can make is getting a cheap poor quality scoop. The beach and its terrain is very hard on a beach scoop and I assure you that you will need a beach scoop that will be able to withstand a ton of abuse.
Good quality rugged sand scoops come at a cost but nothing sucks more than getting out for the first or second time and having your scoop break on you thus ending your hunt prematurely.
Things to look for in a Quality Sand Scoop:
- Thickness of the Steel/Aluminum used. (commonly 2mm)
- Quality of the welds
- Reinforced handle and scoop basket where prying stress points are located.
- Kick Plate or Reinforced backing on the Scoop for pushing with your foot.
- Good thick solid handle.
- Type of Steel – Should be Stainless – If Scoop is Aluminum having a stainless steel tip would be recommended.
A lot I know, so to make it easier for you here are the top 3 trusted beach scoop companies providing rugged good quality scoops for beach metal detecting. These scoops are already being used by 1000’s of detectorists who highly recommend them.
Quality Beach Scoop Companies:
Wet suits are certainly not necessary in order to hunt the dry sand or even the water (unless the water is really cold) but I really like them because they help to block your body from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Since beach metal detecting hunts vary and can be quite long especially if you’re recovering a lot of valuables it can help to keep you from getting roasted in the sun.
I want to note here that you can also use chest wader’s however a strong word of caution. Wader’s can be very dangerous should you fall over and start taking on water inside. This can lead to you being pulled under and not being able to get to the surface because of the added weight and lack of mobility. These are not something I would try.
Floating sifters can really make your life a lot easier especially if you’re digging in sand with a lot of smaller stones and shells. The idea is to use your beach scoop to get rid of all of the sand and then dump the remainder of the contents into this floating sifter.
The contents are spread out and makes it a whole lot faster and easier to find your target. Once the target is found you simply tip the sifter over, dump the contents out and continue hunting.
The best part about floating sifters is that they are incredibly easy and inexpensive to make yourself. There are a ton of youtube videos out there that will teach you how to make them. however one thing I will recommend is you make the screening a non metallic material so that you can use your pin pointer to make finding your target in the sifter that much faster.
Let’s Make Non Metallic Floating Sifters!
This is a great video showing you how to easily make your very own floating sifter that you can use your pinpointer with.
This a pouch made from a rugged fabric like canvas that has pockets for storing your finds. These pockets are often divided into 2 sections so that you can store all of your good finds in one section and store all of your trash in the other.
Ensure that you get a finds pouch that has a zippered area for your good finds as you would hate to be knocked over in the water or fall on the sand and have your valuable finds spilling out everywhere.
Beach Metal Detecting Zones
Every area of the beach is not the same. There are areas of the beach that are more prone to valuable finds and way more productive than others. Knowing these zones and how to hunt them will help to maximize your valuable finds such as gold and silver jewelry.
The 3 main beach zones include:
- Shallow Water Zone
- Transition / Low Tide Zone
- Towel Line Zone
Once you understand these zones and why they are important, you can take advantage of this information and know how and when to hunt each area in order to maximize the productivity of your beach metal detecting hunts.
Shallow Water Zone
This zone is one of the most important and productive zones on the beach. The shallow water zone includes water anywhere from ankle deep all the way up to your neck.
The shallow water zone is where most of the swimming, wading, water sports, and general water activities take place. Aside from the sandy part of the beach it is one of the most crowded and populated zones of the beach.
This zone is best known for jewelry type targets for 2 reasons:
- The water cools and shrinks your fingers and other jewelry containing areas making it a lot easier for jewelry to slip off.
- Most beach goers lather on sunscreen before taking a dip. Once in the water the sunscreen becomes slippery making it easier for jewelry to slide off.
One of the benefits to beach metal detecting the shallow water is that there is a whole lot less trash to dig, and more valuable targets. There are also many detectorists who don’t even hunt the water, and therefore you could stumble upon a gold mine of targets due to less competition.
The biggest downside to hunting the shallow water zone is the fact that it is a whole lot harder and slower. The reason for this is due to the waves, the friction on your coil movements and digging without being able to really see where you’re digging.
While some save the water for last because it is a lot harder on you, I enjoy knowing that any target I do dig has a better chance of being something good so I tend to hit this zone second after the towel line zone.
- A lot more good targets especially jewelry.
- Not as popular to hunt so not as hunted out.
- Less trash
- Cool off while metal detecting
- Harder to hunt due to waves and added resistance of water on you and your equipment
- Hazards in the water such as undertows, sharks, jellyfish, sharp objects.
- Requires extra equipment / More expensive.
Tips for Beach Metal Detecting the Shallow Water Zone
- Use a good quality, rugged beach scoop that will be able to withstand all of the abuse it will get while in the water.
- To minimize losing your scoop fasten a pool noodle to the handle so that it floats.
- Go during low tide to get the targets that would normally be too deep to get in high tide.
- Waves can sometimes pose a big problem depending on their size. Just keep an eye on your surroundings.
- Wear good quality water shoes, this will keep your feet from getting sore from using the scoop and will keep you safe if you step on a fish hook or some other object or even animal.
- The finds pouch you have should have a zippered pocket for your good finds. Nothing worse than a wave coming by and scooping your good finds away.
- Pay special attention to water attractions such as – sand bars, docks, piers, big rocks or other areas that people would flock to in the water.
- Dig all pull tab type targets this is where you will find most gold.
- Do some looking around in the water to find and take note of low spots or spots that gather a lot of debris. Chances are if things find their way to these dipped areas valuable finds can too.
Transition/Low Tide Zone
The transition zone or low tide zone is the zone in between the towel line and the start of the water. The sand in this area is most often damp and more compacted.
This transition zone changes with the tide, so at times the transition zone will be smaller when the tide is in or bigger when the tide is out.
The transition zone of the beach is where a lot of toddlers or young kids play with their parents, or even kids who are building sand castles. This area is great for things rings, necklaces and coins.
During low tide the transition zone becomes bigger and this becomes a great place to pick up some great finds from when high tide was in and the “extended part” of the zone was part of the shallow water zone.
Often I find this zone has great targets but does have a bit more trash than the shallow water zone.
- Don’t need a waterproof metal detector.
- Productive for coins,jewelry and electronics
- No resistance from water or waves
- Compact sand makes it easier to walk on.
- A bit more trashy
- Wet Sand heavier and does not fall out of scoop as easily
- Hunted by more people
Tips for Beach Metal Detecting the Transition Zone
- Instead of shaking your sand scoop like a maniac to get the wet sand out, once the target is in the scoop simply dump the scoop out and spread out the sand. Then detect or use pinpointer over the spread out sand to narrow down where the target is.
- Try to hunt this zone in the early morning or evening as it is more crowded and popular.
- Remember to ground balance your detector when going from dry to wet sand.
- This zone works best with a PI machine, however I have found the AT Pro can hunt this area decently as well.
Towel Line Zone
The towel line zone is where everybody sets out their towels and parks for the day on the beach. This is the most crowded part of the beach where the people on the beach spend most their time.
This zone is great for phones, glasses, cameras, coins, watches etc. Most items here are lost when people place these items on their towels or under their clothes or bags for safe keeping. At the end of the day when they pick everything up these items are flung off the towels or pushed aside and left behind.
The sand in this zone is often very dry and easily falls through your scoop which makes recovering your target less work. The down side to the towel line zone is that because this zone is where most of the eating and drinking and lounging happens there is a tendency to encounter a ton of trash.
This zone is the most hunted by detectorists because of the fact that you don’t need an expensive detector or even an expensive beach scoop. Aside from all the trash the biggest downside to this zone is that there is a whole lot more competition to deal with.
- Don’t need expensive/waterproof equipment
- Easier to dig and sift sand
- Valuable targets
- Always Replenishing with targets.
- Popular beach metal detecting zone = more competition to deal with
- A lot more trashy than other zones
- Too crowded to detect during the busy times.
Tips for Beach Metal Detecting the Towel Line Zone
- To beat your competition to the goods timing is everything. Instead of going out to metal detect the towel zone in the morning when most of the regulars go. Head out just before sun set and hunt the last few hours of the day or even into the night (be aware of strange people and beach curfews).
- VLF detectors will do better in this zone as they will help to weed out a lot of the trashy targets.
- Hunt this area in off-peak hours when the beach is not busy.
- Do some research as to where most of the people congregate in this zone. Once you know where the most popular spots that people like to “setup shop” you can hunt these areas first.
Other Metal Detecting Beach HotSpots
Aside from the major 3 zones there are also some other great beach metal detecting hot spots that can be quite productive. These “secondary zones” are usually smaller spots on the beach that people tend to cluster around or visit and can be home to some really nice finds. These zones include:
These are locations on the beach that are away from the main crowd.
These areas may be used by couples who are looking for some romantic privacy or by a smaller group of people looking for a place away from the crowds.
Private areas will most often be best to metal detect in the early mornings or during the day. If you go to these areas at night you may get more than you bargained for.
These types of areas are great for finds like phones, watches, coins and rings.
Activity centers are usually a great place to find coins, rings, watches, earrings and other valuables. These areas can include things like:
- Volleyball courts
- Beach soccer area
- Water sports
These areas often see a lot of movement and contact with others or with the ground which can work to shake items out of pockets or work things loose off of slippery sweaty hands.
Not all beaches will have these, but they are definitely a great place to take a quick look at.
Beach Vendor Areas
These are areas where you can purchase beverages/ food or other souvenirs on the beach. These vendor areas are sometimes moveable and after the beach season are taken down until the next year. Even if these areas are small buildings that stay year around searching around these can often turn up some great clad.
These are the areas where people funnel in and out of the beach to and from the parking lot. People are often carrying a lot of things all at once, especially on their way out when they’re tired and just want to get home.
During all of the shuffling, things tend to fall out of bags, hands, pockets and will land on the ground and be trampled into the sand.
You can usually find coins, jewelry and a plethora of other items. There will be a lot more trash is this area so be prepared to encounter a lot of bottle tops, pull tabs and foil.
Reading the Beach
Metal detecting the beach can be tricky as the beach is in a constant state of change with tides, storms, waves and weather. The sand on the beach is always shifting and changing thus both further hiding and turning up new items for you to find.
The key to finding these items is to know what to look for when you look down the beach at the sand. Knowing what to look for and where to hunt will give you the best opportunity to find and recover those good old deep targets like rings, bracelets, watches, silver coins etc.
One of the most detrimental occurrences on a beach for metal detectorists is when fresh new sand continually piles up over older sand. This causes the good deep targets like old silver or gold to be buried deeper and missed by your detector.
On the positive side beach metal detecting, nature seems to remedy this issue by causing certain areas of the beach sand to be taken away or washed out. This effectively takes all of the loose sand away revealing the more dense sand below which contains the heavier targets you’re looking for.
There are 2 basic occurrences of this:
These are areas where part of the beach is eroded to the point where it looks like there is a shelf. Essentially part of the beach is “Cut” away leaving a step like structure. These lower cut zones are usually a few inches to even over a foot deeper and often produce some very good finds that are not only valuable but quite old as well.
These are often found closer to the water where the waves crash and break during a storm.
Sand washouts occur when a lot of water travels from a higher point of the beach to a lower part of the beach. This usually happens during a heavy rainfall, or after a violent storm where waves are thrown far in land.
As the water travels down hill it takes sand with it thus creating these spidering like depressions or pockets in the sand. These areas where the sand has been cleared away are a great place to find the older deeper treasures once covered by the extra sand.
These usually run perpendicular to the beach.
These are areas of the beach usually closer to the waters edge at low tide and covered at high tide. They consist of the higher bank of the beach sand at high tide an low dipped part and then a higher sand bar on the other side.
This forms a sort of bowl or trough that normally causes things to congregate in the lowest part of the trough. These troughs are great for finding not only good targets but at times depending on the tides and currents groups of great targets that have congregated together.
Rocky Bottom Areas
You probably won’t see these areas too often but if you do you can really find some great targets that have been passed over for years.
At low tide if you see an area of the beach that is a popular swim spot at high tide and has a bunch of rocks or rocky type sand mix this is a perfect hunting opportunity.
Most Beach detectorists will pass these spots over because it is much more difficult and time consuming to dig in rocky terrain. However, these rocks actually keep the targets from getting too deep and often catch a lot of the targets on the rocks keeping them on the surface or just below.
The digging will be harder like I said above but because in a lot of cases the targets are good targets that are quite shallow, and because these areas are not all hunted out, it can really be a real treasure trove for you.
Example of this below:
Tips for more Beach Metal Detecting Gold
- Use very little discrimination and dig everything. The sand is easy to dig in and even if you run the risk of digging more trash, you also run the risk of digging more treasures.
- Research the beach you are looking to detect (very important). Go there for the weekend at the busiest times to see where people go, where they swim, the activities or areas they congregate in.Once you know where the popular areas are, look for troughs, cuts, and washouts in those areas, look for areas that are harder to dig in these popular zones. This will greatly increase your chances of finding good valuable targets.
- Wear Quality waterproof headphones. The beach is loud with the people and waves crashing and because gold is heavy it will naturally be deeper in the ground.It can often be quite hard to hear those faint signals of deep old targets if you don’t have good quality headphones.
- Gold can often give tones that mimic junk or foil. If you receive a clear signal in these ranges dig them every time.
- Pay attention to older areas of the beach, or areas that are harder to dig in. The harder a zone is to detect and dig, the less hunted it will be and the more treasure will be sitting there for you.
- If detecting in a rocky area of the beach or even in the wet sand bring along a waterproof pinpointer (I recommend the Garrett AT Pro Poiner). This will help you locate a shallower find first before digging or having to deal with more rock moving that needed.
- Timing your beach metal detecting hunts is crucial for finding more goods. If the beach is popular and you notice that there are a lot of regular detectorists coming in the early mornings, then hit the beach at night.If you find that the regulars are hitting the beach Monday morning after the weekend then you need to beat them there and hunt it Sunday night.
- Keep a log of where you found all of your best finds. This may sound silly or pointless but after a while you may begin to see that certain parts of your favorite beaches turn of more valuable items more often than others.Knowing this information can help you to determine when and where to metal detect first on the beach.
- Use a larger coil on your metal detector in the less trashy areas. This will give you added depth for that heavy gold and will help you to cover more ground in less time.
- Read Gold Beneath the Waves: Treasure Hunting the Surf and Sand. This book does an incredible job of going into even greater detail about all the information mentioned in this guide. It will help you immensely.
Beach metal detecting is a great way for you to get out there, enjoy nature and best of all recover some nice gold and other valuables.
Now that you know how to read and hunt the beach, where to look and how to spot hot-spots you will have a much easier time finding more gold and other valuable targets.
I wish you all the best of luck on your beach detecting hunts. Now get out there and find some treasure.