I’ve never been a big fossil hunter, but earlier this year I found out Texas’ coastlines boast some of the richest spots for shark teeth hunting! At first thought, it doesn’t seem like it would be, I admit I was a little skeptical myself before learning the technique from a Bolivar local. But when you look back at Texas’ ancient lands, much of the state was actually a shallow sea used as a dinosaur breeding ground and a thriving deep water swamp for all kinds of life. Miles of reefs covered the grounds luring in over 40 species of sharks according to Texas Parks & Wildlife, that today call the Gulf of Mexico home.
Some of the most common species of sharks are: bull sharks, spinner sharks, bonnethead sharks, blacktip sharks and Atlantic sharpnose sharks. Even whale sharks have been known to visit the waters off Texas in established artificial reefs! We can’t forget about the ever changing tides and weather patterns though. These changes can affect others like great white sharks, mako sharks, hammerheads, nurse sharks and tiger sharks that will feed or breed in Texas’ waters for a short amount of time.
There are thousands of sharks swimming in our seas right now and they lose teeth daily. Some sharks have 15 to 50 rows of teeth per jaw that amount to 300 teeth in their mouth at any given time and over 50,000 teeth during their lifetime… imagine how many shark teeth from different species lay deep below the surface shifting with the tides! Trillions I’m sure.
So now that you know why sharks are so prevalent around the Texas coast, plan a trip to my favorite shark teeth hunting destination in Texas, Bolivar Peninsula!
What to Pack
No matter the weather, grab your beach essentials plus a clear stasher bag to put your finds in. I love using these instead of plastic bags because they’re durable enough wash to reuse again and your shells or shark teeth are less likely to break. If you’re headed to Bolivar Peninsula during the fall, grab a light wind-resistant jacket.
Arrive by Ferry
Take the ferry from Galveston across to Bolivar Peninsula on a day where there is to be a low tide present during your visit. We recommend starting your day off early and getting in the ferry line by 7:30 AM to beat the crowds and Texas’ infamous heat. You’ll drive onto the ferry in your vehicle (or RV!) for free and get to walk around while the ferry is in transport for about 20 minutes. If you’re lucky you’ll spot a pod of dolphin, catch a glimpse of a WWI tanker named the S.S Selma, spot the Point Bolivar Lighthouse, have a beautiful sunrise to watch and take pictures of all the seagulls flying. Be sure to use the restroom on the upper deck before leaving, they’re usually very clean and you won’t have to worry about finding one once you’ve found the perfect beach spot.
Get a Beach Permit on Your Vehicle
Most out of town visitors don’t know that if they want to park on Bolivar Peninsula’s beaches they should buy a parking permit and place it in their front window. You can get a permit for $10 from The Big Store. We recommend this location because if you happened to forget anything else like sunscreen, hat, water shoes, drinks, snacks or want souvenirs you can find it all there while you also fill your vehicle’s tank with gas.
If you’re in need of breakfast, swing by Dannay’s Donuts for some kolaches or fresh baked donuts.
Know Your Trash Barrel Number
Pick your starting barrel! As you arrive, along the beach you’ll see trash barrels by the sand dunes that are numbered from lowest to highest as you move further down the coast. We prefer to start in the mid-80s on Crystal Beach, but where you see a good shell bed and not a lot of people is a good spot.
Remember that parking permit I mentioned? A portion of funds from that purchase go towards maintenance on Crystal Beach. Leveling the sand, filling holes that have been dug, picking up trash and making the entry points safer to drive onto. For what you pay, it’s definitely worth it and you will be able to tell the difference between this location and others.
Time to Hunt
You’ve found your spot, now it’s time to learn the shark tooth stoop!
It’s been recommended and I can personally attest that looking without sunglasses on is much better in order to see the small defined shape and color of a tooth. Stoop down and look closely. Patience is key. Teeth are relatively light compared to most of the surrounding shells so you might see a tooth glide in the water. Keep your eyes pealed for the darker brown to black tops of the teeth, you’re more likely to see that part first.
Decide where you want to begin looking: along side the dunes, shoreline closest to where the water touches, or the wrack line left by a receding high tide. Shark teeth have been found in any of these spots and you can always switch up where you look as you move along.
While you’re looking you might find these types of shells and marine life:
Blue button jellyfish
If you spend half a day on the beach, I hope you have a handful of teeth to take back home with you! To see what type of teeth you collected, check out this teeth reference pin. My goal is to eventually find enough teeth to place on a piece of wood shaped like Texas and enclose in a frame.
Fresh Seafood for Lunch
After spending hours on the beach, you’re going to be hungry and craving cool air conditioning. I’ve got a couple recommendations for you to pick from! We’ve been to these restaurants and had great experiences.
If I had to pick a favorite food spot, this would be it. Not only is ALL the food delish, but they have amazing teak wood palm architecture inside, swings under a covered porch, outside patio dining, great views of the intracoastal and plenty of parking. You can also dock you boat for lunch and bring in your fresh catch for their kitchen to prepare for you. When it comes to freshness, they have their own herb garden, partner with local wineries and seafood markets to create the dishes they’re known for.
If views overlooking the intracoastal paired with fresh seafood are your thing, this is another good spot. You’re able to bring your catch to their kitchen and they’ll cook it for you too! They have plenty of seating but typically pretty busy and a little louder than other places, so if you’re not in any rush for food then it should be fine.
Covered in sand and just want to get in, get your fill and get out? This spot is very laid back and casual with a menu that has the same vibe. They’re right off the main road and their location relative to getting back on the beach is the closest you’ll be compared to others.
Not ready to head home quite yet but want to switch things up to do a different activity?
On the far west side of Bolivar Peninsula you can get a $8 per day/per sanctuary pass (or a one time $30 pass for the year and all sanctuaries) to visit the Houston Audubon High Island Field Station, Smith Oaks Sanctuary and Boy Scout Woods Bird Sanctuary. Dozens of bird species can be sighted and some spots even have a photography blind so that you can get closer to them in their natural habitats. Only downside is they don’t allow dogs or drone flights, so plan accordingly. Woomp woomp.
I also highly recommend Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge that has 34,000 acres to explore from your car thanks to a paved route tour.
Bolivar Peninsula is an outdoor activity-packed destination full of nature and coastal history. Hope you enjoy your next trip to the beach! If you find a fun activity to do that you’d recommend to others, leave a comment below to share your insight so others can make awesome memories with friends and family. Happy shark teeth hunting!
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