Special stocks of seashells by LI's seashore

A bucket of seashells lies on Shell Beach

A bucket of seashells lies on Shell Beach in Shelter Island. (July 30, 2010) (Credit: Randee Daddona)

Sometimes it's the simplest things that bring the most pleasure, like strolling along the beach, hunting for shells, sand dollars, driftwood and other treasures.

While Robert Moses and the other larger beaches have their share of shells, a visit to some lesser-known spots is likely to yield some unusual beauties.

BEFORE YOU GO

When it comes to collecting shells, Long Island's beaches aren't an all-you-can-gather smorgasbord.

While you're free to take as many shells as you'd like at state-governed beaches, such as Jones Beach and Orient Beach, according to officials, Nassau and Suffolk county beaches and parks require visitors to leave the natural setting as-is - in other words, don't take large amounts of shells back home.

There are no "shell police," says Emily Laurie, community relations director for Suffolk County Parks, so keeping a handful is no problem.

WHEN TO GO

Good to know: Low tide is the best time to find shells on the beach. Head out after a storm, and you're likely to see an even larger array. Never handle a shell with a live animal inside.

WHERE TO GO

Orient Beach State Park, End of Route 25, Orient, 631-323-2440; nysparks.state.ny.us

ADMISSION $10 parking 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Columbus Day.

If you love tiny shells in pinks, creams and even shades of lavender, walk out during low tide for the best viewing. You'll also find plenty of fan-shaped scallops, along with razor and other clam shells.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE Take a hike through the maritime forest with red cedar, blackjack oak trees and prickly-pear cactus. Then take in the view from the beautiful wood deck overlooking Gardiners Bay.

Shell Beach, End of Oak Tree Lane, Shelter Island, 631-749-1166, shelterislandtown.us

ADMISSION $35 one-week parking permit through Labor Day (you must be staying on Shelter Island to get one). No fee for walkers or bikers.

This pristine beach lives up to its name, with an abundance of seashells including translucent orange and yellow Jingle shells (also known as Mermaid's Toenails), clams, snails, mussels and scallops.

Meschutt Beach County Park, Canal Road and Old North Highway, Hampton Bays, 631-852-8209, co.suffolk.ny.us

ADMISSION $9 charged 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily ($4 for Suffolk residents with $20 annual GreenKey)

David and Mary Sussman of Old Bethpage, drive to this Hamptons beach with their boys Ben, 8, and Jack, 6, for late afternoon swimming and shell gathering - and they often stay to watch the sun go down. "It's much better shell pickings than we've found during our visits to Jones Beach or Long Beach," says Mary, 42. They favor tiny conch shells - long, narrow shells with spiral holes at the top - to use for mosaics and necklaces.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE The bay waters are calm, which makes it a great spot for young swimmers (lifeguards on duty in season). There are areas for windsurfing and sailing.

Smith Point County Park, End of William Floyd Parkway, Shirley, 631-852-1313; co.suffolk.ny.us

COST $9 parking 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Labor Day ($4 Suffolk residents with GreenKey)

Known for its white sands, huge clams and moon shells (not to mention surfing and swimming), you might also see periwinkles. There's plenty of room to beachcomb, but be sure to heed the signs designating protected areas, where endangered shorebirds like the piping plover make their nests.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE You can bring your own food, of course, but the Smith Point Beach Hut specializes in (you guessed it) seafood dishes such as yellowfin tuna and crab cakes.

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