Searching for Sea Glass in Seaham - How to Find it

If you ever dreamed of discovering buried treasure, then head over to the small harbour town of  Seaham – on the Durham Heritage Coast and surprise yourself with it’s riches.

We visited as part of a short break in Durham and were surprised by the size of our haul. Read on for tips on how to find sea glass for yourself…

2 Days in Durham Sea Glass

What is Sea Glass?

Sea Glass – or beach glass as it is sometimes called – is the ultimate in recycled glass.  Glass that gets dumped into the sea all around the world gets tossed and turned by the tides which – over time – gradually turn it into smooth jewels worthy of any jeweller’s stash. 

Where Can you Find Sea Glass in the UK?

Seaham is one of the very best places in England to go hunting for sea glass.  Sea glass aficionados from all across the world come here to do their beach combing.  On our short trip, we talked to visitors from as far away as America and Australia during our beach walks.

The most popular beaches to search for sea glass are Seaham Hall Beach (SR7 7AF) and nearby Vane Tempest Beach.  Whenever you visit, you are likely to see a crowd of beach combers slowly plodding across the shoreline looking for buried treasure.

Searching for Seaglass in Seaham - Vane Tempest Beach
Searching for Seaglass in Seaham - Vane Tempest Beach

Our best sea glass finds by far though were from nearby Blast Beach (see previous post).  It is much quieter than the Seaham beaches and less well known, so you are more likely to get your hands on the buried treasure before someone else beats you to it!

Other good beaches to search  for sea glass in the UK are Marazion Beach in Cornwall and Lulworth Cove in Dorset – but there really is nowhere quite like Seaham!

Why is Seaham so good for Sea Glass?

Seaham was once home to the Londonderry Bottleworks – the largest glass bottle works in the country.  At the peak, the factory produced over 20 million hand-blown glass bottles a year.  Drinking bottles, medicine and perfume bottles and bottle stoppers in a myriad of colours, shapes and sizes were shipped worldwide from Seaham.

At the end of the day’s production, waste glass (slag) was tipped straight into the North Sea.  Many years later (the factory closed in the 1920’s), that waste glass is still being delivered to Seaham’s beaches in reliable quantities – thrilling sea glass collectors and artists alike.  Imagine how surprised those factory workers would be to discover just what a treasure trove they were inadvertently creating all those year’s ago?

2 Days in Durham - A Haul of Sea Glass

How to Find Sea Glass - Tips for Future Travellers

Seaham’s beaches are shingle, which can make the sea glass difficult to spot.  You will primarily see a couple of tried and tested techniques in use by avid glass hunters:

  1. The Zombie Stoop.  Sea glass hunters bend their head slightly and walk slowly and determinedly, scanning the shingle for the buried jewels beneath their feet.  How far they stoop depends largely on how good their eye sight is.  My neck ached quite a lot after half an hour of zombie stooping!
  2. The Determined Delve.   For this, you need a small stick,  a spade or – best of all – a little hand held rake.  Then, you can really get up close and personal with the shingle and discover the buried treasure beneath it.  If you adopt this method, it is probably the case that you are getting hooked.  Caution:  Searching for Seaglass can become very addictive!

What Does Sea Glass Look like?

Searching for Seaglass in Seaham - What Sea Glass Looks Like
What Sea Glass Looks Like
Searching for Seaglass in Seaham - The Zombie Stoop
The Zombie Stoop
Searching for Seaglass in Seaham - The Determined Delve
The Determined Delve

Special Sea Glass - What to Look Out For

The most popular glass produced by the Londonderry Bottle Works were clear and green glass, so it is no surprise that this colour of glass is the easiest to find on Seaham’s beaches.  If you look really carefully though, you will find all sorts of different colour of glass ranging from aqua blue, yellow, red (rare) and black (VERY rare – the oldest glass produced by the Londonderry bottle company!).

Multis (striped glass of different colours) are also highly prized among collectors.  You may be particularly fortunate and turn up a Codd Marble – once used as a seal for fizzy drinks.

Searching for Seaglass in Seaham - Multis
Much Prized - Sea Glass Multis

It’s not just the colour of the glass that matters – size and shape are important too.  There are a lot of small fragments of seagrass, so finding an unusually large piece always brings joy.  Unusual shapes – like a heart shape for example – are also guaranteed to elicit a whoop of joy from the treasure hunter that lays claim to them.

When is the Best Time to Visit?

Although Spring and Summer mean that your coastal walks will be punctuated with wildflowers, Winter time is the best time to visit if sea glass is your main reason for going.  The best time to find it is after a period of rough, stormy weather.  Don your warmest coat – preferably one with a hood to keep the icy rain off – and head down to the beach just after high tide to see what loot King Neptune has bestowed on the shingle for you.

Seagalass - Now I've Found It - What Can I Do With It?

It depends how creative you want to be really.  You could just fill a pretty glass bottle or bowl with your sea glass haul.  They look lovely with a light shining through them to capture the beauty of the glass.

Or – you can make lovely jewellery out of it.  You can find several pieces in local shops to give you inspiration.

Many people turn it into pictures – like these.  I think that’s what I will do with mine?

Searching for Sea Glass in Seaham - Sea Glass Robin Picture
Sea Glass Robin Picture
Searching for Sea Glass in Seaham - Sea Glass Birds Picture
Seaham - Sea Glass Birds Picture

Of course, if you are not crafty minded at all, then you could just sell your glass.  Lots of people are looking to buy nice pieces.

Collecting Sea Glass - Responsible Tourism

Currently, there are no restrictions on how much sea glass you can collect in Seaham, but that isn’t the case on other famous sea glass beaches elsewhere in the world.  It makes sense to take just a small collection home with you, leaving plenty of treasure for others to enjoy finding and meaning that everyone can continue to enjoy beach combing in this beautiful part of the world.

What Else Can I See in Seaham?

Eleven-O-One - Tommy's Statue

When you visit Seaham, you can’t really miss seeing Tommy’s Statue.  Sitting on his ammunition box on the green lawn of Terrace Green – right on the seafront – and looking with downcast eyes at the adjacent war memorial, this huge 1.2 tonne steel sculpture of a First World War soldier stands nearly 3 metres high.  It is a truly impressive impressive piece of work by local artist Ray Lonsdale.

Tommy sums up the emotions of the archetype private soldier Tommy Atkins as the first minute of peace came into force at 11am on the 11th November 1918 – Armistice Day – hence his name “Eleven-O-One”.

Tommy's Statue - Seaham

Seaham Glass Centre

It’s definitely worth paying a visit to the Sunderland Glass Centre during your trip – Postcode SR6 0GL for your Sat Nav.  Situated just 6 miles or so north of Seaham, entry is free and there is free parking too.  

There are some interesting glass art exhibits there and you can discover more about the history of glassmaking in the area too.  If you are looking for sea glass souvenirs, this is a good place to find them.

Time your visit to catch a glassblowing demonstration.  Ours began at 3pm and was very entertaining.

Foodie Firsts

Seaham may only be a small town – but it has it’s own slice of award winning British cuisine to offer:

Downey’s Award Winning Fish & Chips

Fish and chips and the British seaside – they are inseparable?  If you are going to have a fish and chip supper, you may as well treat yourself to the best.  Downey’s on the seafront (North Terrace) –  Winner of the 2023 Best Chippy Award – is hard to beat.

Lickety Split Ice Cream Parlour

Nominated for more than 50 awards, and 2 times winners of the National Ice Cream Awards, Seaham’s Lickety Split ice cream parlour is the perfect way to finish your visit.

Glad I Packed

  • A small bag for my sea glass haul.
  • Sturdy walking shoes for getting down the steep steps to the beaches.
  • A windproof jacket – this is Britain’s North coast, and the weather can be very changeable, even in the summer.

Wish I'd Packed

  • A rake (!)

2 Days in Durham

We visited Seaham as part of a 2 day trip to Durham.  You can read more about other things you can see and do in this area on my previous post.