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Discovering Sunken Treasures: Metal Detecting at the Delaware Beaches

Delaware, with its rich history and scenic coastlines, offers a unique treasure-hunting experience for metal detecting enthusiasts and history buffs alike. The Delaware beaches, known for their natural beauty and historical significance, are a prime location for those seeking the thrill of unearthing hidden treasures. In this blog, we’ll explore the exciting world of metal detecting and sunken treasure hunting along the Delaware beaches.

The Allure of the Delaware Coast

The Delaware coast is steeped in history, from colonial times through the World Wars. This history, combined with the natural action of tides and storms, means the beaches are constantly revealing new secrets from beneath the sands and waters. Sunken ships, lost coins, and historical artifacts are just some of the treasures that might be waiting to be discovered.

Metal Detecting: A Popular Pastime

Metal detecting is a popular hobby in Delaware, with the beaches offering a unique landscape for this activity. Whether you’re a seasoned detectorist or a curious newbie, the Delaware beaches can be a rewarding place to start your treasure hunt.

Equipment and Techniques

To get started, you’ll need a quality metal detector suitable for beach and underwater use. Learning effective sweeping techniques and understanding your detector’s signals are key to successful finds. Remember, patience and persistence are as important as the equipment you use.

Knowing the Law

Before you start, it’s crucial to be aware of the local laws and regulations. Some areas might be off-limits or require a permit for metal detecting. Always respect private property and protected historical sites.

Famous Shipwrecks Off The Delaware Coast

The waters off the coast of Delaware, part of the historically rich and sometimes treacherous Atlantic, have been the final resting place for numerous ships throughout the centuries. These sunken vessels, some famous and others less known, hold stories of maritime history, tragedy, and sometimes treasure.

Here are a few notable examples:

  1. De Braak: Perhaps the most famous shipwreck off Delaware’s coast is the HMS De Braak, a British warship that sank in a storm in 1798. The De Braak was rumored to be carrying a wealth of gold and silver from a Spanish prize it had captured. Its wreck, discovered off Cape Henlopen in 1984, sparked a treasure-hunting frenzy, although much of the rumored treasure was never found.
  2. The Roosevelt Inlet Shipwreck: Discovered in 2004 near Lewes, this unidentified colonial-era shipwreck dates back to the late 18th century. It was found during a beach replenishment project, and subsequent excavations revealed a cargo of ceramics, glassware, and other goods, providing a fascinating glimpse into colonial trade and daily life.
  3. SS Atlantus: While not exactly a traditional shipwreck, the SS Atlantus is famous for its visible remains off Cape May, near the Delaware Bay. It was a concrete ship built during World War I due to steel shortages. After its decommissioning, it was towed to Cape May in 1926 with plans to use it as a ferry dock, but it broke free during a storm and grounded. Its eerie, partially submerged remains are still visible today.
  4. Thomas Tracy: The Thomas Tracy, a four-masted wooden schooner, sank in a collision during a storm in 1903. It now lies about 16 miles off Fenwick Island. It’s known among divers for its relatively intact structure and the diverse sea life it attracts.
  5. Moonstone: Sunk during World War II, the Moonstone was a trawler converted into a navy patrol boat. It collided with another ship in dense fog and sank quickly. The wreck is popular among advanced divers, offering a chance to explore a piece of WWII history.
  6. SS Sinaloa: A victim of World War I’s U-boat warfare, the SS Sinaloa was an American merchant ship torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1918. It sank about 20 miles off the Delaware coast, and its wreck, discovered many years later, serves as a reminder of the global reach of the war.

These shipwrecks, each with its unique story and historical context, contribute to the rich tapestry of maritime history off the coast of Delaware. They attract historians, archaeologists, and treasure hunters, all drawn by the allure of the past and the mysteries still lying on the ocean floor.

Best Time of Year for Metal Detecting in Delaware

The prime time for metal detecting on Delaware beaches is arguably the late fall through early spring. This timing has several advantages:

  1. Fewer Crowds: Post-summer, beaches are less crowded, offering more space and less interference for metal detecting.
  2. Erosion and Beach Renourishment: Winter storms and tides often erode beaches, potentially exposing items buried deeper in the sand. Additionally, beach renourishment projects in the off-season can unearth older items.
  3. Milder Weather: Although colder, the fall and spring provide more comfortable conditions for prolonged searches compared to the summer heat.

Ideal Beaches for Treasure Hunting

Delaware’s coastline boasts several beaches ideal for metal detecting, including:

  • Rehoboth Beach: Known for its boardwalk and busy summer season, it’s a hotspot for lost items.
  • Lewes Beach: Near historical sites, this beach might yield older artifacts.
  • Bethany Beach: Quieter than Rehoboth, it offers a good balance of recent and older items.

What Can You Find?

Treasure hunters on Delaware beaches can find a variety of items, some of historical value and others of monetary worth:

  1. Coins: From modern currency to older, potentially valuable coins.
  2. Jewelry: Rings, necklaces, and earrings, often lost by beachgoers.
  3. Historical Artifacts: Given Delaware’s history, items like old buttons, bullets, or colonial-era relics might surface.
  4. Beach Memorabilia: Items like old beach tags or tokens specific to Delaware’s beach towns.

Sunken Treasures: More Than Just Coins

The Delaware coast’s history includes tales of shipwrecks and sunken treasures. While finding a sunken treasure ship might be a long shot, the possibility adds an exciting edge to the hobby. Coins, old ammunition, and other relics from shipwrecks can sometimes be found along the coastline, especially after storms.

Research and Exploration

Research is a vital part of treasure hunting. Understanding the history of the area and known shipwrecks can guide you to more fruitful locations. Local libraries, historical societies, and maritime museums can be great resources for information.

Notable Finds and Stories

The Delaware beaches have been the site of some fascinating finds over the years. From colonial-era coins to remnants of shipwrecks, detectorists have uncovered pieces of history that offer a glimpse into the past. These discoveries are not just about the value of the items found but also about connecting with the history and stories they represent.

Responsible Treasure Hunting

While the thrill of discovery is a significant part of metal detecting, it’s important to practice responsible treasure hunting. This means respecting the environment, not disturbing wildlife, and properly disposing of any trash uncovered during your search.


The Delaware beaches offer a unique opportunity for those interested in metal detecting and treasure hunting. Whether you’re drawn by the thrill of the hunt, the love of history, or the beauty of the coast, there’s something incredibly rewarding about uncovering hidden treasures. So grab your metal detector, do your research, and head to the Delaware beaches – who knows what treasures await you under the sand and waves!

Remember, the real treasure is in the adventure and the stories you’ll have to tell. Happy hunting!

If this interests you, you might also be interested in Pirates of Lewes Expeditions!

Pirates of Lewes Expeditions” offers a unique and adventurous experience for families in Lewes, Delaware. This pirate-themed cruise invites participants to embark on a thrilling quest, complete with dressing up, face painting, and engaging in a playful battle against a “bad pirate.” The experience is enhanced by the use of water cannons and a treasure hunt, culminating in a lively celebration with music and dancing. Ideal for children, this excursion provides an entertaining and interactive way to explore the historic Lewes canal and indulge in the captivating world of pirates. For more information, please visit Pirates of Lewes Expeditions.