There’s something meditative about walking the beach, looking for rippling smooth glasses, finding some, and taking home a little treasure. It’s well documented that walking in nature is good for your physical and mental health, but when you seek out sea glass, you’ll have a triple well-being.
I’ve been an avid collector of sea glass for many years, visiting beaches all over the world and it seems I’m not alone.
So for all you avid sea glass collectors out there, here are some of the best sea glass beaches – in no particular order – you can find in Europe. A little break from sightseeing and walking on the beach instead can only do you good, right?
1. Seaham Beach
Seaham Beach in County Durham on the north east coast of England is without a doubt The sea glass beach in the world, and its reputation precedes it. Check any Beachcomber forum or read an article about sea glass and you will stumble upon Seaham and for that reason it has become quite busy lately with people making every effort to get to this beach . But there’s still glass, and multicolored glass at that. It’s a must for me when I’m at my in-laws house in North Yorkshire because it’s such a beautiful beach surrounded by high cliffs and the sea glass is really quite spectacular.
For the best chance of finding these gorgeous multinationals, head to the beach when the tide is receding and flip the pebbles on the beach to find embedded gems underneath. Some people even bring small garden forks to rake the pebbles and sand.
Pro tip: To double your chances of spotting the right tides, stay overnight at nearby Seaham Hall. This grand hotel is simply enchanting and has excellent spa facilities included in the price. Just don’t forget your swimsuit like I did last time…
2. Aberdeen Beach
Located on the north east coast of Scotland, the beaches around Aberdeen – the port city also known as Granite City – are ideal for sea glass. The industrial setting, which doesn’t necessarily attract tourists, is a good indicator that a lot of glass has been carelessly thrown into the sea. Add to that the fact that two rivers, the Dee and the Don, flow into the North Sea here and you have additional potential. Aberdeen City Beach is divided by breakwaters, allowing sea glass to become trapped in the smaller sections of beach. But don’t just focus on Aberdeen Beach; Along the coast there are other great beaches such as Stonewall to the south which is also good for sea glass, but also Newburgh to the north a beach famous for its seals.
Pro Tip: Climb around the rocks along the Girdle Ness Lighthouse Peninsula at low tide. There are a few small pebbly beaches that are good for sea glass.
Murano is one of the many islands in the Venice Lagoon and is famous for its many glass factories. Hop on a vaporetto from Fondamente Nove to Murano and within about 30 minutes you’ll find yourself in a glass lover’s paradise, if not necessarily a sea glass lover.
While the island of Murano does not have beaches as such, with every bit of land used by the islanders and glass makers, there is a tiny little stretch of beach right by the ferry dock. Not officially accessible, you can climb down and find some incredible little gems at low tide. Try to plan your sneaky approach between ferries, not only because of the swell but also because the ferrymen will yell at you. Also make sure you have someone to pull you back up, but dare as it’s a good little place.
Pro Tip: have you been stopped In this case, go to the island of Lido and walk along the beautiful beach there.
4. Kiel Canal
Kiel is a northern city in Germany on a fjord that empties from the Baltic Sea. It’s famous for its Kieler Woche – which is filled with sailing boats and tall ships – and as the entry point to the Kiel Canal, which connects the Baltic Sea to the North Sea. Beaches line both sides of the fjord, but many parts of the coast are also occupied by harbors and shipbuilding sites. If you head to Leuchtturm Friedrichsort, a green-and-white lighthouse, you’re far enough outside of town and the port area to not only enjoy the tranquility of the beach, but also a good chance of finding long-gone glass discarded from ships.
Pro tip: Look out for amber. These ancient, yellow-hued droplets of tree sap are common on the Baltic coast, albeit further east than here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find them. To test that it is amber and not sea glass, mix a glass of warm water with plenty of salt and if your potential piece of amber floats, it is in fact amber.
5. Beach du Ponteil
Sea glass is also found in the Mediterranean region, especially around larger cities and ports. But head straight to Antibes to combine sightseeing, soaking up the southern French beach vibe, and hopefully finding some sea glass balls. A perfect day trip from Nice and about halfway to Cannes, Antibes is not only charming with its pastel colored buildings and harbor full of sailboats and huge luxury yachts, it is also one of the French’s favorite seaside resorts. So to have the beach to yourself for a bit of sea glass hunting, you’ll either need to get up early or visit it off-season. Whilst most of the beach is perfectly smooth sand towards the water’s edge there is a range of pebbles and generally washed up flotsam and flotsam and this is where you should look.
Pro Tip: From Plage du Ponteil you can walk across the peninsula to the beautiful suburb of Juan-les-Pins on the other side. It’s about a 20-minute walk through the residential district before emerging on the chic beach of Juan-les-Pins. Have a coffee at the Café de la Plage and take a stroll along the narrow stretches of beach here as well. You never know what you’ll find.
6. Llan-non Beach
Cardigan Bay, West Wales
While sea glass is indeed found in the Baltic Sea and Mediterranean Sea, the best spots in Europe are certainly the British Isles and the various coasts, be it the North Sea or the Atlantic coast. Wales boasts some spectacular coastline and, to be honest, pretty much all the beaches along Cardigan Bay can be treasure troves. Located south of the Irish Sea and north of the Celtic Sea, there’s enough land – and plenty of shipping traffic – to make this a good place to collect discarded glass.
As it is always useful to have a larger town, preferably with some industry and a port nearby, the beaches north and south of Aberystwyth are perfect. And because pebbles on the beach are always better than sand when it comes to good hunting grounds, Llanon Beach, also known as Lan-non Beach, and nearby Llanrhystud Beach are the best. You can find all sorts of colors here, even the coveted stoppers have been found on these shores.
7. Lisfannon Beach
County Donegal, Ireland
Across the Irish Sea, at the very top of Ireland’s north-western tip, you’ll find a rugged coastline of dunes and bay-like seascapes pounded by the North Atlantic. Lisfannon Beach is a perfect mix of sandy beach with the odd rocks and pebbles that make it quite famous as a sea glass beach. The good thing is that few people get to this far end of Ireland as to reach it is a 3 hour, 162 mile drive from Dublin to the northernmost end, passing the narrow corner of the Republic of Ireland which the north surrounds Ireland. There isn’t much up there that attracts tourists, which is good news for sea glass collectors.
This part of Ireland is spectacular when it comes to the outdoors, and scenic Donegal is the place to base yourself to explore the region one step at a time. There are many sea glass beaches, although the consensus seems to be that Lisfannon is the best.
Pro Tip: Combine your trip with a visit to Northern Ireland, just a few miles to the east. You are not far from the Giant’s Causeway, one of Northern Ireland’s biggest tourist hotspots.