Beachcombing can be a relaxing, pleasant pastime. Kids can simply bring their buckets and shovels and spend hours along the shore finding treasures… and it’s just as fun for the adults, too. No phone. No itineraries. Just fresh water stretched out before you.
When you visit Michigan in the summer, you can’t help but to keep a keen eye to find riches on the beach and as you wade into the water. You’ll encounter other collectors along the way, many of which are jewelry makers and artisans who like to use their findings in their craft. Here are some things you may find:
Petoskey Stone: Michigan’s state stone is a beauty to behold. It has a distinctive hexagonal coral pattern, fragments of reefs from millions of years ago. You’ll most likely find them along Lake Michigan beaches in the northern portion of the state, and along the shores of northern Lake Huron. More tips here.
Beach Glass: Mother Nature takes garbage and turns it into a prize. Beach glass isn’t a stone, it’s literally discarded bottle glass that has spent years tumbling and rubbing against surfaces in the fresh water so that it becomes smooth and “frosty.” Beach glass can be discovered in many different colors, the most common being white, brown, and light blue. Occasionally, beach glass takes on more tropical tones, such as green, dark blue, purple, and red.
Leland Blue Stone: Again, not a stone. It’s slag. What on earth is slag? It’s a waste product from the smelting process, which was common in the late 1800s. Basically, it’s cooled natural impurities from heated iron ore. Leland blue stone can be aqua blue, deep blue, gray, or even a shade of purple or green. It can have a wave pattern running across it, or it can be “pitted” from burst air bubbles. Each stone is unique and the character refined whether you leave it raw or polished.
Horn Coral: The obvious fossilized pattern gives this beach gem away. The pattern is reminiscent of a plant, with strands that navigate outward like the sun or lengthwise. Horn coral is a favorite find of children, as it is obviously different than any other rock along the shore. It’s actually fossilized coral animals that are millions of years old. Like the Petoskey stone, it’s a link to history.
Besides rocks, you’ll also come across small shells, zebra mussels (invasive and sharp on the feet but pretty nevertheless), driftwood, and bird feathers. You’ll find flat rocks that are perfect for skipping – and a little friendly competition. Let’s face it, a day at a Michigan beach is a day you’ll never want to end.
What do you need when you scour the beach in search of rocks and other items? Not much. The biggest need is sunscreen. Michigan summers are typically mild, and the wind coming off a big lake can cool down the air temperature significantly, making it seem like the sun isn’t as strong. So lather up and reapply after you’ve been in the water. Wear a baseball hat or sun hat with a wide brim to help shade your face. If you know you’ll be collecting, don’t just count on pockets. Bring a small bucket or mesh bag in which to drop your discoveries.
Please don’t discard any trash into the water or on the beach so that it all can be kept clean and pure for all to enjoy. Most importantly, have fun! Don’t put pressure on yourself to find something in particular. Enjoy the search. You never know what you’ll find.
One more tip: Visit a less popular beach after a storm for a greater chance of finding one of the rocks described above.