Aislinn Sarnacki arranges an assortment of sea glass, pottery shards and other beach treasures on a piece of driftwood on March 9, on a beach in midcoast Maine. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

Clutching a plastic bag in one hand and the end of my dog’s leash in the other, I ambled across the beach, my eyes focused on the ground. Sand, rocks, shards of white clam shells, broken barnacles and hunks of wave-tumbled brick were among the many things that made up this particular beach in midcoast Maine. But I was searching for something specific.

Call it treasure. Call it trash. Colorful sea glass, rounded and frosted by the water, is one of my favorite things to find on the Maine coast. Another exciting find is broken pottery and dinnerware that displays fragments of artwork or writing.

Beachcombing — also known as seaglassing — is a fun activity that can be enjoyed year round in Maine, although most people wait for warmer weather. For me, winter is a great time to get out there and search without the competition of other beachgoers.

On that particular morning in early March, I’d arrived at the beach just after low tide, which is a great time to beachcomb because it’s when the greatest amount of beach is accessible (not underwater). My plan was to start my search at the water’s edge, then precede the tide up the beach.

A thin crust of frosty ice covers mounds of seaweed on a beach in midcoast Maine on March 9. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

To reach the water’s edge, I navigated around hills of rockweed, which were encased in a frosty layer of ice. My dog Juno, with all her puppy energy, wasted no time crashing through that ice to dig through the greenish-brown mounds of seaweed. I think she likes how it squishes beneath her feet.

I won’t tell you the exact location of this little adventure because prime sea glass spots are similar to fishing holes. You have to hear about them through experience and by word of mouth. I was shown the beach by a friend and avid sea glasser, and I don’t know how she’d feel about me advertising it.

The good news is, there are countless locations along the Maine coast to find sea glass, pottery and other ocean-tossed treasure. I suggest visiting coastal parks, preserves and other places with public access to coastal beaches.

Once I reached the water’s edge, I started to walk back and forth in neat rows, much like one might mow their lawn. The idea is to not search the same patch of beach twice.

Meanwhile, Juno sprinted in circles, stuck her head in the sand and found a large piece of driftwood (about the size of a small tree), which she dragged onto the frozen seaweed to chew. She was on the end of a long leash, so, as you can imagine, my search for treasure wasn’t quite as orderly as I intended.

A discarded piece of tableware sits among the rocks on a midcoast Maine beach. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

At first, I was discouraged. I could only find shards of dinnerware, and all of them were completely white or tan. No patterns or letters or bright colors. I flipped over every piece I spotted, just to make sure.

Early on in my search, I was leaning down to flip over a white triangular shard when my finger met a cold, smooth barrier. I was confused for a fraction of a second, then laughed when I realized that the shard (possibly ceramic) — and all the gravel and shells around it — was under a thin layer of ice that was so clear and smooth that I couldn’t see it.

I stomped my foot, breaking through the ice so I could inspect the shard. Yet again, it was white on both sides. Nothing exciting.

With beachcombing, some days you find all sorts of treasure. On other days, even if you’re searching the same beach, you won’t find much at all. I was starting to think that I was experiencing one of those unlucky days.

A gull cried out as it wheeled overhead. A sheet of clouds blocked the sun, and a cold breeze swept over the beach, prompting me to pull my knit hat down over my ears. My fingers were going numb, and I was starting to feel downright gloomy.

Then, with the flip of a small, square piece of dinnerware, my luck changed. Its edges rounded by the ocean, the piece featured a red leaf and stem, a fragment of a botanical pattern.

By then, I was nearing the high tide mark, and all of a sudden, there it was — sea glass. It was all over the place. There were the more common colors: brown, clear and green (mostly from beer bottles). But I also found some rarer colors, such as light purple, teal, pea green and royal blue. And some of the glass pieces had interesting textures and etched letters, as well.

Colorful glass, pieces of pottery and other bits of tableware are popular beach treasures. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

Realizing I’d found a treasure dump — a spot where the waves, for one reason or another, had left behind a great deal of glass and other items — I sat down and sifted through it. Occasionally, Juno would come over and dig a hole. I’d thank her for helping.

I found the tiny mouth of a clear glass bottle, a piece of a baby blue plate and a tiny shard of pottery covered with brown flowers and curling lines. The sun broke through the clouds. The air felt a little less cold.

When it was time for lunch, I pocketed a few of my favorite pieces and carried them home to be placed in a jar with beach finds from past trips. Maybe someday I’ll use them all in an art project. Maybe I won’t. For me, it’s mostly about the fun of the hunt.


Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...