Check Out the Sanibel Island Shell Museum During Your Vacation

For lovers of nature, the ocean, or seashells, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum in Sanibel Island is an absolutely amazing place to visit. As one of the top activities in all of Sanibel Island, the museum offers plenty for those of all ages and is conveniently located near top-tier Sanibel Island rentals.


girl holding shells in her hand

This Sanibel Island Shell Museum can trace its roots all the way back to 1984 and Charlene McMurphy. Before this time, shelling on Sanibel Island was strictly a hobby, but Charlene McMurphy had alternative plans. With a gift of $10,000 from McMurphy, as well as help from her husband and many others, this loose collection of collectors evolved into The Shell Museum and Research Foundation, Inc.

Between 1986 and 1995, the Research Foundation collected support from not only scientists abroad, but from local organizations, the government, and the City of Sanibel Island. Land for a museum was donated in the memory of Frank P. Bailey and Annie Mead Matthews, the namesakes of the museum. Once the land was acquired, construction began with the museum opening in June 1995.

Newly Renovated

Over the years, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum has done its best to keep its facility up to date since it holds the responsibility as the only shell museum in the United States. In 2019, the museum began construction on a new wing of the museum devoted to live mollusks after a live forum on this increasingly threatened species a few years prior. In addition to this wing, the museum underwent other various renovations totaling $6 million. One of the many eye-catching renovations includes replacing the staircase inside the entrance of the museum with a multi-story glass atrium.


With the new renovations at Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, the exhibits are bigger and better than ever before making them a must visit in Sanibel Island. Start your trip off by visiting the Shells of Sanibel & Captiva exhibits. These exhibits include fig snails, pen shells, and the prized Junonia shell. These exhibits also feature factual information on how to shell and where the best spots are on Sanibel Island. Even better, these exhibits also teach you how to clean and safely travel with your one-of-a-kind shells.

The Shells from Around the World exhibit is a truly breathtaking spectacle. This wonderful exhibit at Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum offers visitors a chance to view a variety of exotic seashells. Key regions featured in the exhibit include Japan, the Indo-West Pacific, and so much more!

The Sailors’ Valentines exhibit may truly be the most loving exhibit in the entire museum. This prized art form created sometime in the 19th century is a fantastic date destination. These trinkets were crafted with shells by women in and around Barbados brought home by local sailors. These handcrafted trinkets were then given to loved ones as a means of affection.

Plan Your Next Stay

We offer prime Sanibel Island beachfront rentals that will give you easy access to the nearby museum. Are you ready to book your trip today? Give us a call, or visit us online, to get the process started and book your home away from home today!

Hours & Pricing

The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. These hours do vary on certain holidays. On New Year’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day, the museum is only open from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is closed.

sand dollar

Pricing for entrance into the museum does vary. Tickets for adults 18+ are $23.95. For children ages 12-17, the price for admission drops to $14.95. For children even younger ages 5-11, the price is a mere $8.95. Children five and under and active-duty service members and their families are offered free admission. Discounts are available for seniors over the age of 65, AAA, and AARP members.

With the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum located near Sanibel Island condo rentals, it has become an immensely popular spot, and rightly so! In order to stay nearby, why not stay with us?



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