Here’s an underrated activity to do on the North Shore: searching for beach glass.
In the state of Minnesota, these tumbled treasures pop up along the northern shores of Lake Superior more than anywhere else in the state.
In this quick guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about sea glass along the North Shore. What it is, where to find it, and other important tips you need to know!
- What is sea glass?
- Where to find sea glass on Minnesota’s North Shore
- Other tips for Finding Sea Glass along the North Shore
- A word of warning about taking beach glass
What is sea glass?
Sea glass is ordinary glass that’s been weathered and eroded by the waves.
As nice as it would be to say this stuff is naturally occurring, the interesting truth is that sea glass starts as actual man made glass, usually from old Coca-Cola bottles, medicine bottles, or other discarded trash. (Some glass even comes from old shipwrecks!)
Over time, the power of the waves work their magic. Give it 30+ years, and the water transforms those sharp glass shards into smooth stones, as vibrant, colorful, and luminescent as nature’s most impressive rocks.
It’s worth noting that technically, “sea glass” is a term that applies to glass that’s been weathered by salt water. For glass that’s been weathered by fresh water (such as our great Lake Superior) “beach glass” would be the appropriate term.
Today, astute visitors can find beach glass all along Minnesota’s North Shore.
Different types of sea glass and beach glass
Interestingly, different colors of beach glass have different rarities.
The most common beach glass colors are clear, green, and brown. Blue, turned luminescent over the years, is also one of the more common colors.
According to the hardcore beach glass pickers, shades of red, purple, yellow, and orange are much more difficult to find, since back in the day those colors of glass often required 24 karat gold to create!
Where to find sea glass on Minnesota’s North Shore
In general, you can find beach glass anywhere on Minnesota’s North Shore.
Since beach glass is formed originally from discarded trash, your best bet will be to consider where trash would have accumulated 30+ years ago.
Popular spots for finding beach / sea glass along the North Shore include:
- Canal Park (Duluth, MN)
- McQuade Small Craft Harbor (Duluth, MN)
- Wisconsin Point (Superior, WI)
- Flood Bay (Two Harbors, MN)
- Burlington Bay (Two Harbors, MN)
Keep in mind, this is a hunt! You’ll have to dig through rocks, turn over piles, and keep a close eye out!
And you may have better luck by following these tips:
Other tips for Finding Sea Glass along the North Shore
According to the true pickers, you can increase your odds if you…
1. Go searching after a big storm
The big waves are more likely to wash new treasures onto the shoreline
2. Go hunting in the morning
The early bird gets the worm!
Every day the waves can bring in new treasures, so you can increase your odds by looking for glass early
3. Avoid the really touristy areas
More tourists = more chance they good stuff is already picked over.
4. Search a few feet inland
Most people search right along the waterline. You can increase your odds by searching in the less trafficked areas further into the beach.
5. Bring a separate trash bag!
If you’re already combing the beach, you might as well do some good and help clean up the shores! Consider bringing a separate bag for any miscellaneous trash you come across during your search.
A word of warning about taking beach glass
Keep in mind that opinions vary on whether you should take beach glass for yourself.
Some purists say the only thing you should take from the beach are pictures. Sea glass and other rocks are part of nature, they say, and tourists should keep it that way!
(I’m reminded of a trip I took to Costa Rica’s Playa Conchal – a popular tourist beach made out of million of sea shells. Unfortunately, the number of shells have diminished significantly in recent years as tourists flocked to the area and took home shells as souvenirs. A group’s actions really add up!)
Others say that since beach glass was originally trash, that picking over the rocks is an acceptable practice. Many local artists even make a living out of collecting beach glass; some even use it to create jewelry!