By Kate O'Neal

Two of my favorite places on the planet are the twin islands of Sanibel and Captiva, off the coast of Fort Myers. Everyone should go there at least once in their lifetime -- or maybe a dozen times a month.

And one of Sanibel's must-sees is the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum.

Picture-perfect tides sweep thousands upon thousands of shells upon the shores here, and every day, there are people scouring the sands to find exquisite of examples of nature’s artistry. You can find approximately 275 varieties of exotic seashells along the shoreline and the islands’ ties to seashells made Sanibel the obvious choice for the only museum dedicated solely to shells of the world.

At first I assumed I’d find the entire topic of seashells deadly dull, but I’ve never been so wrong. The first floor exhibits portray the important role seashells have played in ecology, medicine, literature, religion, art and as a food source. Then the curators dazzle you with beautiful displays of shells used in cameos, buttons, sailor’s valentines, and presented in stunning geometric patterns. Plus, there are Sea Life Summer Camps throughout the season and the learning lab features a hands-on play area for children, displays, games and a tank with indigenous mollusks.

Two fun facts learned here: Actor Raymond Burr was one of the museum’s founding malacologists, and clams have blue eyes.

Most of us are moving pretty fast all the time. This is a wonderful destination where you won’t mind slowing down and taking a closer look at the something most of us overlook – the intricate and infinite beauty of seashells. Pure Florida.

You'll find the museum at 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road in Sanibel, and you can give them a call at 239-395-2233. For more information on the twin islands, be sure to visit VISIT FLORIDA's own pages on Sanibel Island.