Chapter 10: Summer in PEI: Beach Combing and Clamming

footprints in sand

Footprints in the sand.                                                                                                    Photo: EL Roach

“Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.” ~Anonymous

Washed up and strewn across the shores and riverbanks on P.E.I., flotsam and jetsam (debris and driftwood) lay ‘beached’ from high winds and tides. Unfortunately these same weather patterns tear away the unprotected riverbanks, and the trees that have been growing for decades fall prey to erosion from the same tides. Breaking away and drifting for months or years, beach combers will soon delight in finding these driftwood treasures.

Floatsam on ‘Poverty Beach’ PEI.                       Photo: EL Roach

One thing Prince Edward Island has in abundance is beaches. Someone once said you can never get lost on PEI; to keep driving until you reach water.

Our Island is rich in this way. We may be the smallest province in Canada but we possess the largest jewel in the form of an Island.

beach combing 3I have my own beach. Well it is not exactly a white sandy beach – but a dark coarse sandy one rich with shells, broken glass and driftwood. I collect it all – even the broken glass that has not tumbled in the sea long enough to have the smooth edges like the sea glass gathered and coveted by beach goers.

broken beach glass

Jagged broken shards of glass lovingly displayed in a large vintage pickle jar.                         Photo: EL Roach

I can walk for an hour on my beach (at low tide) and not run out of beach. I do not take this gift for granted. I share this time and this beach with our heron that visits us nightly, the crows in the early morning who choose our beach to have their morning chat or arguments; the snipes who pick their way through the water’s edge looking for a snack; and the majestic eagles who patrol the shoreline daily feasting on whatever the river decides to provide them on any given day.

Driftwood on the Brudenell River’s shore.                                                                  Photo: A. Roach

A piece of driftwood this size has been here, on the Brudenell River for some time, and will be a challenge for a beach comber attempting to drag this one home! Sometimes you can discover the most beautiful pieces of driftwood, like this treasure which resembles Burlwood.

This piece of Burlwood drifted in to my beach and is now on display.                   Photo:  EL Roach

Or if you are so inclined you could rescue an old lobster trap washed up on the beach.

Sheep pond beach lobster trap

Abandoned lobster trap on Sheep Pond Beach. Photo: Angie Packer Dunn

The sand flats revealed on low tide are rich with shellfish for the patient, willing to dig for them. Razor fish, soft-shelled clams, and bar clams are there for the taking (as long as your daily limit does not exceed 100). You need a license to fish all bi valves but recreational fishing is allowed (with the exception of scallops and oysters). Daily limits can be viewed on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website. Shellfish areas are monitored closely and signs will be posted if any areas are closed to the public for shell fishing.

beach coombing

Digging with bare hands. Photo: EL Roach

This clam digger is brave enough to use his bare hands, although there are other ways to dig without sacrificing cuts and scrapes.

Beach combers digging for clams here on Argyle Shore is on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. With an unhurried pace and the circling of seagulls, you can still net enough for an afternoon meal of delicious bivalves. Receding tides expose hard packed sand flats perfect for digging clams, or a long, casual stroll at sunset.


Clammers come to shore to dig clams.                                                                      Photo:  EL Roach

“Clammers” who clam for a living use proper rakes and clam baskets to keep their catch fresh. It is back breaking work and they fish in all kinds of weather. If you have the opportunity to watch these fisherpeople, it will guarantee a whole new level of appreciation for the food on your plate!

mussel fishers

Mussel boat harvesting the blue mussels at Seal Cove PEI.                                      Photo: EL Roach

Mussel growers on PEI fish year round and many rivers are harvested with their ‘socks’ marked by the familiar buoys. PEI’s ‘blue mussel’ is a favorite nationwide and is one of the provinces largest industries. As a child I picked wild blue mussels off the rocks on our shore – they have come a long way since then.

As the evening sun sets on this large expanse of sand flats, this father/son duo make their way home, with whetted appetites, to cook up their bar clam and soft shell clam feast.


Photo: EL Roach

Clay shores and sandy beaches are in abundance in this small province. Whether your pleasure is rocky shores or long, squeaky-clean sandy beaches, it is sure to delight even the most discerning beach comber’s appetite.

Island sandstone with vines

A long stretch of sandy beach can be quickly transformed into a beautiful, rugged, rocky coastline.                                                        Photo: Angie Packer Dunn

P.E.I.’s beach combers habitually collect the abundant sea glass shards, deposited on the beaches on low tide. Some of these pieces have been in the ocean waters, tumbling for decades, to become smooth opaque gems. Ocean worn in all shapes, sizes and colors, sea glass is a collector’s dream, and can be found in local artisan shops, fashioned into intricate pieces of jewelry and keepsakes.


Sea glass by the Seashore.                                                                                                  Photo: EL Roach

I hope you enjoyed a walk on the beach in PEI ~ if you haven’t had this pleasure, then my wish is for you to have this virtual walk with me.

“Eternity begins and ends with the ocean’s tides.”


2 thoughts on “Chapter 10: Summer in PEI: Beach Combing and Clamming

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