(WVUE) - This time of year, many families from Louisiana are headed to the beaches in Alabama and Florida for a little fun in the sun. But if you just want a relaxing day on the Gulf - and if you want to collect seashells - Louisiana may have a perfect alternative.
When you drive along Highway 82, you're travelling Louisiana's Gulf beach highway. That's the Gulf of Mexico. And that's a sandy beach that stretches on for 26 miles.
"Most of the rest of the state doesn't know Cameron Parish exists, much less that we have all these beaches," said Cyndi Sellers.
Sellers writes for the weekly Cameron Parish newspaper. And in her spare time, she plays the part of beachcomber, looking for seashells.
"We have over 60 species that you can find here on Cameron beaches," Sellers said.
And she's probably found samples of all of those shells.
"I found these in three hours just walking along a couple of stretches of beach," she said. "You just have to have a little persistence. Oh, we've got very common lightning whelk, and this is a bigger one. And the newly common fighting conch, Florida fighting conch. And we've got lettered olives, lots of lettered olives.
So what's the strategy for finding great sea shells? Do you simply have to get out before dawn, before everybody else?
"You have to get out here right after the high tide when most of the shells are on the beach, before anyone else has had a chance to pick them, and the tide is necessarily in the morning," Sellers said.
You can learn about these Louisiana seashells at the Cameron Parish library that's only a few hundred yards from the shoreline.
"This is a really, really good example of a perfect horse conch," said librarian Sherry Seat.
Seat has collected and studied seashells and loves to share her knowledge with visitors. And if you're wondering where seashells come from, she will show you how a shell begins in an egg sack.
"And you can actually see the very, very tiny whelk here as it's starting as the mollusk is starting to make the shell. And this whelk, here's a larger whelk.
And you can learn about sea beans.
"Seabeans are actually tropical seeds from trees and bushes along African coastlines especially, and they do float into the Gulf area," Seat said.
For the beachcombers, collecting shells is a treasure hunt.
"Some people like to get volume, get as many shells as possible," Sellers said. "Some people are more selective and just want perfect shells."
And you find something else - the sound of the waves, the shorebirds, the sea breeze and the relaxation that comes from a quiet walk on the beach.
To get to the beaches in Cameron parish, take I-10 to Sulphur, and then drive due south about 35 miles until you reach the Gulf of Mexico. And in Southeast Louisiana, you can find a public beach at Grand Isle State Park.