12 Aug 2021
How to Find Sand Dollars on Okaloosa Island
Sand dollars are small, brown discs found on Okaloosa Island in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Destin-Fort Walton Beach in Florida. The dollar shaped discs can be found by swimmers, snorkelers and even divers during low tide on both sides of the island (north and south). Whether you’re planning to vacation on Okaloosa Island or are a local wanting to know how to find sand dollars on your own, this guide will help you find these fascinating natural wonders and protect them as well.
What are Sand Dollars?
When people talk about sand dollars, they usually refer to a certain species of sea urchin named Spatangus purpuratus. Despite being a fairly common inhabitant of Gulf Coast beaches, these unique creatures are often mistaken for flat rocks or pancakes. While some may believe that their spiky exterior is meant to protect them from predators, it actually helps keep them in place as they move along with strong currents. The disc-shaped structures that protrude from their bottom can measure up to 10 inches in diameter and are made of calcium carbonate—the same material found in most seashells.
Where Can I Find Them?
DO take a look at tide charts before you head out. Look for low tides, and be prepared to walk in places that may be a little difficult. DON’T give up after just one or two trips. Sand dollars can be very tricky! Also, don’t limit yourself to one area in your search for sand dollars. When you're in Florida, a lot of people expect that if you pick up some sand dollars, you're going to get a huge lump sum of cash. However, that is not always true. Be sure to know what kind of dunes they are found in and also what time of year. You might not be able to find any sand dollars at all during your visit if conditions aren't right for their formation or survival.
How to Preserve Sand Dollars
If you ever find sand dollars in Florida, take care not to lose them or they could dissolve away. To preserve sand dollars at home, first rinse them off in seawater and allow them to dry for 24 hours. Then apply an acrylic coating; soak them in a 4-to-1 ratio of water and glycerin with some drops of liquid soap added (this keeps dirt from sticking). Once they’re fully dry, store them in a cool place out of direct sunlight. When you go back into saltwater, coat your sand dollars again so that they won’t start dissolving. If you have any special techniques for caring for these unique sea creatures, share your knowledge!