Since the invention of the first metal detector in 1881, metal detecting has maintained a steady popularity among casual hobbyists and die-hard detectorists. Profit, adventure, and the enticing potential of unearthing historical treasures are all common reasons why people become interested in the sport.
Aside from the requisite equipment, having a good location is the single most important aspect of metal detecting. The types of treasures you might turn up depend largely on where you’re looking. So what are the best places to metal detect?
Knowing where to metal detect is half the battle. Here are some ideas, as well as guidelines to help you get the most out of your treasure hunt.
Guidelines for the Best Metal Detecting Adventure
There are three very important things you need to have in order to make your metal detecting excursion a success: an adventurous spirit, a lot of patience, and of course, a metal detector.
Obviously, you shouldn’t expect to uncover your very own Staffordshire Hoard right away. Many detectorists content themselves with far simpler finds, such as antique bottles, old coins, pre-industrial farming implements, and toy soldiers.
However, with the right attitude and a lot of research ahead of time, you’ll greatly increase your chances of turning up something interesting. Many detectorists estimate they spend three or four hours doing research for every hour of metal detecting in a given location.
Here are some other guidelines that will help take your metal detecting to the next level. Preparation is key!
Have a Detailed Plan
You’ll have a better experience if you have a specific itinerary before you set off on your metal detecting escapade. Your plans should include researching the rules and regulations about where you can use a metal detector in your area.
Make sure you have secure transportation to and from your chosen location, and tell a friend if you’ll be traveling somewhere remote.
Check the Weather
Metal detecting means being outside, often for long periods of time. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared for the weather in your area. Being caught unprepared in the rain could really put a damper on the whole adventure.
Always Prioritize Safety
Abandoned buildings may seem like good places to go metal detecting, but they can also be hazardous. Always put your safety first, and don’t put yourself in harm’s way for the sake of a potential find. After all, you won’t be able to enjoy your discovery if you get seriously hurt in the process.
Prioritizing safety also means being considerate of the people around you. Public places to metal detect are often used by other people for recreation, gatherings, playing games, and other types of activities. Fill in any holes you dig to avoid creating tripping hazards, and keep a respectful distance from others whenever possible.
Know Your History
When you get your first metal detector, it can be tempting to go tearing off into the unknown without doing any reading first. After all, the thrill of finding buried treasure is what inspires many of us to get into metal detecting in the first place.
However, reading and learning about the history of different locations can really enhance the whole experience. For instance, if you find old horseshoe on an abandoned property in the woods, you’ll be much more excited about the find if you know a little about the settlers who once lived there.
Plus, doing research at your local library can help you figure out the best places to use a metal detector in your area.
Where To Go Metal Detecting
Where can you metal detect?
Just about anywhere, as long as it’s not federal land.
However, you’ll need a permit in order to metal detect in many public places, and you’ll need to ask permission before using a metal detector on private property.
Here are 30 of the best places to use a metal detector. These are areas you’re likely to find no matter where you live.
Kids are notorious for dropping things, and you can find all sorts of metal objects on school grounds, including coins, keys, jewelry, and assorted trinkets. This makes schools among the best places for metal detecting.
College campuses can also be interesting places to look for treasures, especially around older universities. Whenever a renovation takes place or a new building goes up, the disturbed soil has a chance to yield artifacts left behind by students from decades past.
Just make sure to go when classes aren’t in session. This usually means waiting for summer or winter break.
Detectorists are a common sight on the shoreline. There are multiple reasons why beaches are among the most popular public places to metal detect.
For one thing, they’re usually free to enter. For another, sand is much easier to dig through than most other types of soil, making it a breeze to unearth the treasures you find. Finally, beaches attract large crowds of people, which increases the likelihood of finding money and other items of interest.
However, you do sometimes need a permit to use a metal detector on a beach. Check your area’s specific laws before you go out hunting.
Like beaches, public parks are a popular place to metal detect without permission. Picnic areas, playgrounds, and walking trails are all possible places to make interesting finds in a public park.
However, some cities and localities require metal detecting enthusiasts to have permits in order to metal detect in the park. Other city governments allow metal detectors but don’t allow digging, while still others forbid metal detecting in parks altogether.
Know your area’s laws, and make sure you get a permit if you need one.
Community Meeting Houses
Your local Elk Lodge or community center may be willing to allow you to metal detect on their property. Any place where humans have regularly gathered throughout the years has a good chance of containing little treasures such as coins and jewelry.
Meeting houses are particularly exciting locations because they are often used for major celebrations like weddings and graduation parties. Large groups of people who have gathered to revel and make merry are notorious for leaving things behind.
People often lose trinkets from their pockets while hiking or running, making trails ideal public places to metal detect. Choose an area that’s popular but not too crowded, or consider going in the off season, so you’ll have the trails to yourself.
Woodland trails can also be great places to find arrowheads and other historical treasures. Read up on the history of tribes in your area if you’re interested in searching for these types of artifacts.
Old Boarding Houses
Many states are home to abandoned boarding houses where children in earlier times would live and study. These ancient grounds sometimes contain little treasure hoards buried and forgotten by students long ago. You might find old coins, hair combs, pins, or watch fobs that belonged to people from your great great grandparents’ time, or even earlier.
Public transportation is often paid for using change, so bus stops are a logical choice if you’re wondering where to find coins. Plus, once you’re done exploring, you can just hop on the next bus and head home!
Remember not to leave any holes behind. You don’t want commuters to turn an ankle while they’re pacing back and forth waiting for the bus.
Many people throw metal items off of bridges as part of a ceremony or for good luck, including coins, trinkets, and sentimental objects like jewelry. If you’re wondering, “Where can I metal detect?” try under your nearest bridge, and around the riverbank nearby.
To get the most out of your search, do some research beforehand to answer some of the following questions: When was the bridge built? Who were the people who first lived in the area? Are there any interesting local legends or traditions involving the bridge?
Sport goers drop all kinds of things while they’re paying attention to their favorite game. Under the stands is the best place to use a metal detector, but you can also try your luck out on the field, or by the locker rooms or team benches.
Concession stands are another good place to try metal detecting at a sports arena. Check the arena’s schedule before going to make sure you won’t be interrupting a game or other event.
Abandoned Hospital Grounds
Abandoned sites can be fascinating to explore, and are often good places to go metal detecting. Things you might find at an abandoned hospital include old tools, coins, and cool medical instruments. Just make sure you’re not breaking any laws or trespassing by being in the area.
Historic Battle Grounds
Registered historic sites such as major battlegrounds usually forbid metal detecting, along with relic hunting and digging of any kind. Violating these laws could result in serious consequences, including felony charges and serious fines.
However, you can check at your local library for information about small-scale skirmishes that weren’t significant enough to show up in textbooks. These sites can yield exciting finds like old bullets, pieces of artillery, buttons from soldiers’ uniforms, and metal arrowheads.
Abandoned Mining Camps
It stands to reason that abandoned mines and mining camps are popular places to metal detect. Treasure hunters often comb these areas looking for ore, as well as coins and trinkets dropped or buried by the miners.
You may be able to find databases for old mining locations and historic mining companies known to operate in your area. These entries may tell you useful information about the period when the mine was active, as well as the type of ore that can be found at the location.
Just don’t go inside any abandoned mines you come across. They might be full of dangerous machinery, or run the risk of collapsing.
Annual fairs usually set up in the same fields over the years. Those fields become veritable treasure troves of dropped coins, tokens, and other exciting objects waiting to be discovered. It’s best to go while the fair is not in session, so you’ll have the whole area to yourself.
You’ll need to get permission from the church staff first, but church yards can be some of the best places to use a metal detector. The older the church, the more likely you are to find interesting things.
Of course, you should be respectful of the property at all times, and avoid digging within the bounds of a graveyard.
Where can you use a metal detector legally? Vacant lots might be a good bet. You may find old construction materials there, or buried items left behind by the land’s previous owners.
Widely-used locations are some of the best places for metal detecting, so campgrounds are a good choice. You may need permission from a park ranger or the manager of the campground.
For a better experience, try going in the off-season when there aren’t any campers around. You’ll be able to roam freely without disturbing anyone.
Riverbanks are popular places to gather, which makes them good places to metal detect. Funky fishing lures, weights, old tools, and washed-up relics are some of the finds you might come across on a riverbank. You may even find gold!
Dirt and Gravel Parking Lots
Parking lots are a great place to look for lost items. Coins and other metal trinkets often fall out of people’s pockets while they’re climbing in and out of their vehicles.
If you dig a hole in a dirt or gravel parking lot, make sure to fill it in completely before leaving the area. You don’t want to leave behind potholes that could damage cars.
Have you ever considered metal detecting in the snow? Ski resorts are great places to try it, especially under the lifts that carry skiers up and down the mountain. Get permission from the owner of the resort before heading out.
If you’re interested in finding bullet casings and other types of ammunition, try using a metal detector on hunting grounds. Only visit these areas when it’s not hunting season, for your safety and the sake of the hunters.
The best places for metal detecting are usually locations where people gather frequently and in large numbers.
However, if you’re willing to take a gamble, you can try using your metal detector in remote places like undeveloped land. The chances of finding anything are slimmer, but you also get the benefit of covering territory other people might not have searched as frequently.
As usual, doing research about the area ahead of time may enlighten you as to how the land may have been used in the past. This will make you better informed about the types of things you might find, as well as the specific locations to try detecting metal.
Abandoned houses contain countless secrets waiting to be discovered, and are among the best places for metal detecting.
If you want to know where to find hidden money in old houses, start by checking the high-traffic areas such as driveways and paths leading up to the house. You might also find interesting treasures stashed in the chimney, under the porch, or around the foundations.
Outbuildings around abandoned houses can contain all sorts of treasures. Privy pits are particularly cherished among detectorists, as well as professional archeologists. This is because people used to throw trash, bottles, and other items down their toilets.
With all the vendors, rides, and concessions stands at an amusement park, it stands to reason that there might be lots of coins scattered around the grounds. You might also find jewelry that flew off of someone’s hand or wrist on a roller coaster.
Of course, there are downsides to trying to detect in crowded spaces like amusement parks. You may have a hard time getting permission from the owners of the park, and access to these areas is generally restricted when the parks aren’t open to the public.
Old Mill Sites
In addition to centuries-old tools and other historical items, you may be likely to find old coins at abandoned grain mills. That’s because lots of trade and commerce happened around mills in the past.
Watch out for rusty machinery, which can be obscured by overgrown vines or tall grass.
Popular Tourist Sites
Tourists drop all sorts of things while exploring new places. You might find coins from many different countries if you metal detect around popular places to visit in your town. Just make sure you have a permit before detecting on or around a historic site.
Lots of people use rest stops all year long, making them a good place to look for lost, forgotten, or abandoned items. Remember that state and federal rest stops are probably off-limits to metal detectors, but rural rest stops on public land are usually fair game.
Anywhere the soil has been repeatedly tilled, you might find items that have been buried through the ages. Abandoned farms can house all sorts of treasures, from old tools and coins to watch fobs, horseshoes, and farming implements.
The Side of the Highway
Where are the best places to metal detect? Places where people drop things, such as the side of the road.
It’s a shame how common it is for people to throw litter out of their cars, but it does mean you can find all kinds of interesting items next to the highway.
Remember, safety first! Avoid very busy roads, and don’t get too close to the highway.
Grassy medians next to city sidewalks can also yield interesting finds, especially pocket change. If your main goal as a detectorist is to find modern money, these might be some of the best areas to search.
Lakes are a popular recreation area in many localities, and have been for centuries. That means the shores of a lake are a great place to try if you want to know where can you use a metal detector. Try hugging the shoreline, and see how far around the lake you can get.
Your Own Backyard
Where can you use a metal detector legally? Your own property.
Seriously, your backyard should be the first place you go to look for historical curiosities or buried treasure. You’ll be free to dig if you find something, because you own the land you’re digging on.
Make sure you’re well aware of the location of any buried cables, septic fields, or other subterranean fixtures you don’t want to disturb.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some question’s people often have about where to go metal detecting, as well as how to make sure you’re allowed to metal detect in a given area.
Where can I metal detect for free?
It may seem counterintuitive, but public lands are not always good places for metal detecting. This is because they often require a permit, which cost money in some states.
On the other hand, many neighbors and land owners will allow you to use your metal detector for free on their property if you ask permission.
Where can I metal detect without permission?
The safest, best places to metal detect without permission are places you own yourself, such as your backyard.
If you’ve gone over your whole property, and you want to know “Where can I metal detect legally,” you should know that you’ll need a permit to metal detect on many public lands.
Is it illegal to metal detect in national parks?
Yes, it is against the law to metal detect on federal lands, including national parks. Some areas might provide special permission if you have a permit. However, you’ll have to turn in any significant finds to the park rangers.
Remember, ignorance of the law does not absolve you of the responsibility of following it. Always do your research before heading to a new place to metal detect.
Do I need permission to metal detect on a beach?
If the beach is on private land, you’ll need to ask permission from the owner before whipping out your metal detector. If it’s a public beach, you may need to get a permit from the city.
Make sure to be considerate of other beachgoers, and don’t get too close to anyone else while you’re using your metal detector.
How to get permission to metal detect on private land?
Generally, the best way to get permission for your metal detecting adventure is to simply ask the person whose land you want to explore. Many people are happy to be generous with their space as long as you promise not to disturb anything.
Avoid asking to metal detect on active farmland, or in a pasture that has grazing animals since your presence might disturb them.
Where is the best place to metal detect for old coins?
If you want to know where to find coins from ages past, you’ll want to hit up your local library for information. By combing through old newspapers, you may be able to figure out where early settlers had their markets or centers of commerce.
You may also come across interesting local legends, such as a retired pirate suspected of burying a treasure hoard somewhere up the river.
Where are the best places to find gold?
Gold is a coveted prize for many metal detecting hobbyists, and can sometimes be found in old riverbeds or near abandoned mining camps. Do some reading about where gold has been found in the past, because that’s where to metal detect for gold.
You can also find gold jewelry such as rings, necklaces, and watches just about anywhere people have been!
Along with their equipment, research and information are a detectorist’s best tools. Putting effort into learning about possible places for metal detecting in your area will do so much to enhance your experience while exploring those locations.
Stay safe, stay curious, and happy hunting!
➜ Check out the list of the best metal detectors here