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Best Beaches for Collecting Sea Glass

By Travel Oh TravelThursday, November 7, 2013 | 9:51 AM

All people who walk slowly down the beach, hunched over, peering down at the ground are not looking for shells. These days, many beachcombers are looking for sea glass. Defined as glass that has been tumbled by natural wave action to the point where there are no sharply defined edges and all surfaces exhibit a frosted or etched appearance, sea glass is created when debris from glass objects end up in the ocean, breaks into pieces, and is smoothed by the action of waves and sand.
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In the days before environmental laws prohibited such actions, some of this glass came from trash dumped off ships. In other cases, the source of debris was old garbage dumps located near the ocean. Over the years, wind and rainstorms caused trash to migrate toward the shore, tumbling until it disintegrated, leaving behind only the more durable glass. In areas where perfect geography, wave action, and wind combined, sea glass deposits grew deep and were left undisturbed, since the glass was still regarded as useless trash.

Gradually, people began to notice the beauty of this delicately etched glass. They marveled at colors ranging from frosty white to deep turquoise, cobalt blue, and even blood red. Initially collected as pretty baubles to be displayed in a glass bowl, jewelry makers eventually began creating pieces from the unique material. Today sea glass is in such demand that it is growing scarce; many of the beaches that had contained thick beds have been thoroughly picked over. However, the following beaches still offer beachcombers a good selection of quality sea glass:

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Bar Island – Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar island is a tidal island in Bar Harbor, Maine that is located directly north of the West Street town pier (look for Bridge Street on the north side of West Street to gain access). Glass found on the island has a tendency to collect at the high tide line. Check for the local times of low tide and plan to stay no more than one hour before and after low tide.

Rosario Beach, Fidalgo Island, Washington State

Sea glass on this beach is typically mingled with agates, shells, tumbled pebbles, and driftwood, so beachcombers may need to look closely, but 6-15 jewelry grade pieces can normally be found in less than two hours. To find Rosario Beach, going north on Highway 20, turn left about 1/3 mile past Deception Pass Bridge and follow the signs.

Glass Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai’s Glass Beach is not mentioned in many guidebooks, mostly due to its location in the middle of an industrial zone not far from the popular tourist area of Poipu on the southern end of the island. To get there, take the Port Allen exit off the highway, then turn down a street past some warehouses, and then follow a very rutted dirt road to the water. It is worth the effort, for this beach is inches thick with sea glass of all colors – even the rare cobalt blues. However, do not get greedy; local law limits each person to a gallon of the shiny stuff per day.
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