Metal Detecting On The Beach: Ultimate Guide

by Chad Eicher

Beach metal detecting

 Some activities in the world can reward you with great treasure; one of those activities is metal detecting. Metal detecting on the beach during peak tourist season can be very profitable if you live near the coast. Here is the complete guide to metal detecting on the beach.

Metal detecting on the beach includes knowledge of the best times and places to scan. The correct metal detector and equipment for the terrain are also crucial to your success while treasure hunting. Proper beach etiquette must be observed to prevent becoming a nuisance to other beach users.

Before you buy the first metal detector you see, there are some basics you’ll need to know before you go treasure hunting. So let’s explore the complete guide to metal detecting on the beach.

Why Metal Detect On The Beach?

A beach is typically a busy natural place with many people visiting, sunbathing, swimming, or walking. If you want to find treasure regularly, the beach is the right place to go metal detecting. 

People often lose things like rings, necklaces, and earrings while swimming or walking after suntanning. The reason is simple, the suntanning lotion is oily, and jewelry can slip off easily without notice.

The other reason to metal detect on the beach is that the sea gives up her treasures from time to time or reveals hidden ones at extremely low tides. So on beaches with historical significance, finding gold coins or other antique gems is not difficult if you know where to look.

Best Spots To Metal Detect On The Beach

The ocean and shoreline are living biome with many parts flourishing harmoniously. Therefore, if you want to be successful at metal detecting on the beach, you must know as much as possible about all these areas.

The main areas you need to know about are the following:

  • Water line
  • Wet sand line
  • Treasure and coin line
  • Towel line 
  • Dry sand line

Here are some ideas on successfully using your metal detector in these different areas and maximizing the chance of locating treasure. 

#1 The Water Line 

beach detecting

The area where the ocean and beach sand meet is called the water line. This line will move depending of the tide is low or high. During low tide, the ocean is often calmer, and waves are lower; during high tide, they tend to be larger and more violent.

Debris, shells, rocks, and sand are violently moved to and fro during high tide, and treasures can be dislodged and pushed to the shore. Make sure you are ready for the waves. If you are detecting in the water line, wear the right clothes and surf slip-on shoes.

It would be best to have a robust and waterproof metal detector and headphones. Wear a flotation device if you get knocked over by a wave during high tide, and never turn your back on the ocean. It can be very unpredictable, and you’ll have to dig or scoop fast if you locate anything. 

#2 The Wet Sand Line 

The wet sand is typically the area of beach sand that remains wet during low tide. It is between the low tide and high tide line. This is the easiest sand to walk on because it’s usually compact and hard. 

It’s imperative to set the metal detector settings to a balanced control because black sand or mineralized particles can be in between. In addition, VLF models may battle in the wet sand line, so using a multi-frequency machine is better.

TIP: Search parallel to the water’s edge up the slope to the crest of the beach using an overlap search pattern. Listen for low signals and use a sand or water scoop to retrieve targets.

#3 The Treasure And Coin Line

This is the sweet spot for avid metal detecting fanatics. The treasure and coin line of the beach runs parallel with the ocean. As a result, the tide regularly pushes coins and treasures out to this area.

Places that make tidal pools at low tide are good areas to explore for treasure, so use a waterproof machine. Typically you will encounter shells and other sharp objects, so wear the correct slip-on shoes.

You may need a pinpointer’s help in tidal pool areas to determine the treasure’s exact location

#4 – The Towel Line 

The towel line is considered the most populated area of the beach. On popular beaches, thousands of people can get together to enjoy a day of sunshine and relaxation. Unfortunately, this area is where lots of jewelry and other valuables get lost.

The best time to use your metal detector on the towel line would be after the crowds have left for home or very early in the mornings before people arrive.

Use a low discrimination setting on your metal detector and enjoy the hunt. The more compacted areas are great for finding treasure. 

➜ Check Out The 5 Top Rated Beach & Saltwater Metal Detectors

#5 – The Dry Sand Line 

pinpointing on sand

The dry sand line is typically where the ocean water never reaches and stays dry. Therefore, this area will have medium to high traffic, including boardwalks and paved areas next to the beach.

Many people may sit here and enjoy the view, watch beach volleyball or other sports activities, and walk their dogs if allowed. Vendors selling water and ice cream are good to follow as people often drop coins in the sand. 

In the dry sand line, it’s a good idea to have a scoop and a pinpointer to make locating much easier. Remember to wear appropriate shoes to prevent burning on the hot beach sand in summer. Always apply good sunscreen lotion, wear a wide-brim hat, and good polarized sunglasses.

TIP: Search perpendicular to the shoreline at a location with high beach traffic. Make sure you sweep the coil slowly, low, and level, and scrub the sand with it. Pay attention to low signals and retrieve the target with a sand scoop. 

Which Are The Best Times To Hunt On Saltwater Beaches?

Besides navigating people while metal detecting on a saltwater beach, you must understand the tide times, currents, and weather conditions. 

The best times to go treasure hunting using a metal detector on saltwater beaches are 

  • During low tide
  • After a storm
  • Late afternoon when the beach is emptier
  • Early morning at sunrise before the beach gets crowded
  • After an event such as a volleyball tournament or surfing competition

If you like the challenge of hunting during high tides, it may be a good idea to put on a wetsuit if the water is cooler – depending on your coastline. Not many people will be out in the ocean during high tides to look for treasure, so it is advantageous.

Always wear a flotation device if you do not plan on scuba diving during high tide. Be aware of the currents and location of rocks, and if you are a weak swimmer, do not go deeper than knee height. 

Being on the beach during a storm is never a good idea. Firstly, lighting can be unpredictable, and it’s not worth the risk. Go immediately after a storm to have the best chance of finding something first.

Do You Need Permission To Metal Detect On A Beach?

Metal detecting tips for beginners

Typically you would not need permission for metal detecting on a public beach, but there are exceptions. For example, some states have laws prohibiting metal detecting on national shoreline areas, so always get clarity from the local city council or authorities.

Most beaches will have clear signage explaining what is allowed, restricted, or prohibited. For example, some stretches of beach could be private property, and you will not be allowed to enter without explicit permission. 

Some states have stringent rules about metal detecting shorelines because they consider any treasure older than 50 years as government property, like in Florida. So you are also not allowed to do underwater metal detecting in Florida. 

It’s always good to be prepared for anything, including knowing the rules and regulations in the area you plan on scanning.  

Choosing A Metal Detector For Beach Metal Detecting

If you plan on doing most of your hunting on or near the ocean, you’ll want to purchase the correct equipment. Because you’ll be in and near water, the metal detector and headphones should be waterproof.

Not only should the metal detector be waterproof but also purpose-built for saltwater. They are typically designed to withstand the harshness of saltwater and the higher moisture content in the air.

➜ Check Out The 5 Top Rated Beach & Saltwater Metal Detectors

Pulse Induction detectors are the best metal detectors to use on a beach and wet sand, in shallow water, or while scuba diving. The pulse induction machine is a good choice when minerals are involved and can detect reasonably deep. 

A pulse induction metal detector does not become influenced by moisture or wet sand like a very low-frequency machine. Therefore, the VLF machine can be used in drier sandy conditions. A more expensive machine will give better results as its discrimination levels will be better than cheaper models. 

A good approach would be to do good research on machines and, if possible, contact your local metal detecting club. Members can give you the best advice on machines and how to best choose a model. Your decision should be based on the following

    • Price
    • Ground or soil type
    • End goal

If you are just starting, spending too much money on a metal detector is unnecessary, and if you shop around, you can find many cheap machines on eBay and Market Place. Good machines to look out for are Minelab and Garrett

You can expect to spend between $170 to $500 for a decent startup metal detector. Once you’ve spent some time metal detecting, you can upgrade to a top-level machine.

Depending on your budget, expect to pay between $2000 for a decent professional machine. On the other hand, expect to pay up to $30 000 for the incredible OKM EXP 6000.

If you already know the areas of interest you plan on scanning, it will make the choice of the machine easier. For example, making sure you choose a metal detector with an all-terrain setting that can be used on the beach and in a forest if you like to travel a lot will be sensible.

Usually, a metal detector used on a beach will be waterproof vs. a machine used in a forest or grassy field, but great crossovers are available. 

Another factor is the end goal. Do you want to do it as a pastime or hobby, or is it something you’re very passionate about and do it on a semi-professional level? Answering that question will also help you choose the best metal detector for the best results. You don’t have to spend thousands to find treasure in the right place.

Best Metal Detector Settings For The Beach

To effectively find treasure on the beach, you must ensure the correct metal detector settings. The more expensive machines will have more setting options you can choose from, making hunting a less frustrating experience.

The setting choices you will most likely have are

  • Factory or stock setting
  • Ground balancing
  • Discrimination 
  • Notching

#1  The Factory Or Stock Setting

The factory setting lets you flick the switch on and start hunting immediately. Typically the stock setting is at 70% power and can have foil discrimination already in the stock setting.

If you’re in a densely populated beach area or close to powerlines or substations, turning it to full power is unnecessary as many signals can interfere with the metal detector. However, keeping it at 70% is perfect for beginners. 

#2  The Ground Balancing Setting 

Most entry-level metal detectors have a ground balancing factory setting, meaning you don’t have to set it up. However, most detectors go up to 8 inches deep without the ground balance preset.

On the more advanced metal detectors, you must ensure your ground balancing setting is set to the correct depth. This will prevent incorrect readings. You can ground balance your metal detector by holding it 6 inches off the ground and pumping the coil until the feedback is steady.

#3  The Discrimination Setting

When you first go metal detecting, it’s a good idea to turn up this setting. If you are new, you’ll be experiencing the signal from every metal object the coil picks up. 

If you set the disk level very high – 10c, you will pick up mainly coins and other metals like gold, copper, and silver. As you familiarise yourself with the different signals, you’ll become accustomed to what treasure sounds like.

If you look at the conductivity scale, discrimination works from left to right, starting with low conductivity metals like iron. So the mid-range – around 5c – would be aluminum-type metals, and under 10c – a dime- would be the beginning of the higher conductor range. 

#4  The Notching Setting 

Some metal detectors have a notch setting that allows you to remove specific categories, such as nickel, effectively. Apart from using the discrimination setting, notching enables you to bypass some classes and keep more fruitful ones like silver. 

For the real treasure, you will want to take the notch up to 25c. You’ll quickly find gold and silver rings, chains, and other jewelry at this setting level.

Beach Etiquette

Walking around with a metal detector anywhere can look intimidating to some people, even more so on the beach. However, people flock to the beach for relaxation and spend time with friends and family. 

➜ Check Out The 5 Top Rated Beach & Saltwater Metal Detectors

Always know the correct etiquette when using a metal detector on a beach or public space. It will put everyone at ease and prevent you from getting mugged. 

  • Don’t tamper with official signage or structures
  • Do not disturb dunes
  • If you dig up trash, take it with you
  • Do not trespass on private property
  • Respect the private space of all beachgoers
  • Close any gates securely
  • Fill excavations and don’t leave a trace
  • Protect natural resources and wildlife
  • Be courteous and considerate
  • Only make a fire in designated spaces if you camp
  • Be vigilant for your safety. Sometimes, treasure hunters are targeted
  • Do not use the metal detector near beachgoers if possible

Equipment Tips For The Beach: What To Bring

Going out for a day of metal detecting on the beach is very exciting, and you’ll need to be well prepared. Unfortunately, there aren’t usually taps with fresh water or trees with shade nearby, so here are some equipment tips on what to bring to the beach. 

#1  The Recovery Tools 

Using the best recovery tools can be the difference between failure and success, and you’ll need

  • Aluminum scoops for deep water or more rocky patches
  • Mesh scoops for sandy areas
  • Shovels
  • Knives
  • Trowels
  • A hand-held waterproof pinpointer to locate treasure faster

#2 – Safekeeping Gear

After discovering the treasures, you’ll need some gear to keep them safe until you get back home, and you’ll need – 

  • A metal detecting pouch with a mesh bottom
  • Zippered pockets for small and valuable treasure
  • A harness to clip the metal detector on, reducing weight and strain on your arms
  • A backpack to store scoops, trowels, and other gear.

#3  Personal Gear 

Depending on the season, you’ll typically be metal detecting on the beach during spring and summer. That means temperatures can be hot, the sun is blazing, there could also be thundershowers, and you’ll need –

  • A waterproof backpack
  • A wide brim hat
  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Ample water, either bottled or in a hydration bladder – remember to stay hydrated.
  • Gloves for grip and protection
  • Gauntlet gloves for use while metal detecting (in winter)
  • Good walking shoes
  • Snorkeling gear
  • Bathing suit
  • Small, well-stocked first aid kit
  • Well-charged cellphone and extra battery
  • Lightweight jacket 
  • Lightweight rain coat

Fresh Water Beaches And Lakes 

Metal detecting in freshwater settings is a little less complicated than seawater. There is no chance of the salt and seawater corroding gear, and the water is more predictable without the influence of tides.

➜ Check the best metal detectors to use on freshwater beaches

FAQs

What Do Metal Detectors Find On The Beach?

Things found on the beach with a metal detector range from gold, silver, and platinum jewelry, to coins and artifacts. 

Can You Keep Treasure You Find On The Beach?

Typically you can keep items found on the beach with a metal detector unless it is an artifact more than 50 years old, then it belongs to the state. 

Do I Need A License To Use A Metal Detector On The Beach?

You can use your metal detector on most beaches without a license unless local bylaws stipulate. You may need permission or a license if the beach is private property. 

Can You Metal Detect On River Banks?

You can metal detect on most river banks. However, most national parks prohibit the use of metal detectors on their property and along the riverbanks.  

Which Tide Is Best For Metal detecting?

The best tide for metal detecting is the lowest tide for the best beach finds. It is typically 24 hours. 

Does Salt Water Affect Metal Detectors?

Saltwater can affect single-frequency metal detectors and give incorrect readings. Multi-frequency machines have better discrimination in saltwater.

Will A Metal Detector Work Underwater?

Most metal detectors are only semi-waterproof and not fully submersible. However, fully submersible metal detectors work well underwater.

Conclusion 

Treasure hunters will all agree that having a suitable metal detector, recovery equipment, and personal gear is the surest way to guarantee a successful day on the beach or riverbed.

➜ Learn more about beach detectors

Check out the best digging tools for the beach

What sand scoop should you bring while beach hunting?

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