In 1715, eleven Spanish galleons left Havana Harbor. Their sails picked up the trade winds as they followed the Gulf Stream along the Florida Straits and close the shorelines off Florida’s central east coast. They hoped to remain on a northerly course until ultimately branching off and crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Spain.
None of the ships made it, wrecking and scattering their cargo close to the shorelines from Stuart to Cape Canaveral. Millions of dollars worth of gold and silver coins, jewelry, ship artifacts and other relics were strewn along the east-central coast of Florida. While much has been salvaged from the wrecks, plenty remains – which means there’s plenty for you to find!
Not only do finds large and small continue on a daily basis, you get to keep what you find on the beaches (note that this is on the beaches only; not in the dunes, the water or any state parks) for a few miles north and south of Sebastian Inlet – the epicenter of what’s become known as the Treasure Coast. I found my first reale about two miles south of the inlet just above the beach’s high-tide line.
Where to Look
Look for the high-tide line where the sand is softest and walk along it, as that’s frequently proven to be productive. Sort through the debris and inspect anything unusual. A screened device at the end of a handle can reduce a lot of stooping, but simple garden tools, such as a hand scoop or pail, will suffice.
Another good zone involves the “wet sand” that’s exposed as the surf recedes after each wave. If you notice something worth checking out, keep your eyes fastened on that spot so you don’t lose it and move quickly before the next wave washes in.
When it’s safe to do so, hit the beach soon after a storm’s come through off the ocean. The heavy wave action stirs up the sediment and at times picks up objects, like coins, and tumbles them right onto the beaches.
Look for areas with more shell deposits than others, as this might indicate where strong currents are sweeping across the bottom and depositing loose objects onto the beach sand.
The Right Stuff: Equipment and Etiquette
While use of the Mark 1 ' eyeball' can and has resulted in thousands of treasure coins being found, you can’t beat having the ability to detect what’s under the sand as well. A metal detector does just that, and they’re easy to operate.
Of course, such equipment varies in capability, with simple metal detectors costing only $100 or so and more sensitive models exceeding $1,000. One of the more popular types for a saltwater environment is the MineLab Excalibur. Check out www.kellycodetectors.com/indexmain.php for a closer look!
I’ve found the most success being methodical. I’ll mentally grid an area and work it slowly, taking one step per sweep of the metal detector in front of me as I hold it just above the sand. Depending on the quality of the detector and the buried metal object, I’ve found things as small as a dime 12 inches below the surface. Larger objects or those buried a long time that emanate a metallic “halo” effect can be dug up several feet down.
Using a metal detector is easy once you get the hang of it, and to me and many other enthusiasts it’s just plain fun. I like finding things, and when it’s something of value it’s really a blast. Even though none of the coins I’ve found exceed $100 in value, the fact I found them and perhaps they would have remained hidden in the ground for many more years – or forever – makes it that much more special.
Besides the Vero Beach Holiday Inn area, sites where I’ve had the best luck include:
- Any of the beaches three miles north or south of Sebastian Inlet State Park, in particular, Bonsteel Park north of Sebastian Inlet
- Wabasso Beach
- Melbourne Beach
- Aquarina Beach, about 11 miles south of Melbourne Beach
- Pepper Park Beach near Fort Pierce - many Gold coins have been found near here!!