Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is the only museum in the U.S. devoted solely to shells and the living mollusks that create them. A renovation that began last year has added to their already extensive collection with eleven new aquarium tanks. The tanks, ranging in size from 100 gallons to 900 gallons, bring a whole new world to the museum, where visitors can see living sea mollusks up close.

Tank residents include gastropods, octopuses, nudibranchs, giant clams and nautilus. Two 15-feet long touch tanks let young visitors touch mollusks, adding to the museum’s already exemplary educational initiatives.

One special occupant is the mollusk that creates the stunning junonia shell, one of the island’s favorite finds. The aquariums that house the living sea creatures will add to visitor’s enjoyment, adding the living animal experience to the museum’s outstanding shell collections.

According to the museum’s Executive Director Dorri Hipschman, shelling on the beach plus a visit to the Shell Museum give visitors a chance to explore the best of both worlds. “Visitors should stop by the museum too, because once they see these exhibits, they’ll never again look at the beach the same way.”

Interactive interpretive exhibits also focus on conservation. For instance, the giant Pacific octopus is a mollusk too. Its shell has just disappeared over millions of years of evolution.

During your next visit to Sanibel, make sure to visit the stunning new aquariums exhibition. The renovation of the Shell Museum, which includes a different layout inside the building plus extensive exterior changes, comes as the Museum celebrates its 25th year on Sanibel. The museum has also welcomed over one million visitors to date.

For information on Museum hours and directions, and any restrictions due to COVID – 19, visit their website at or call (239) 395-2233. Happy shelling!



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