As you hit the beach, it won't hurt to have a little knowledge of what those pretty shells scattered on the shore actually are.

If you don't know your beaded periwinkle from a fighting conch, you should. And it's pretty easy to identify Florida seashells once you call up the vast gallery of thumbnail pictures at or, the website of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel.

The Shell Museum has more than two dozen permanent exhibits that detail everything from shells' history as the oldest known currency to their inspiration found in fine art and architecture.

The museum, 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with live tank talks. $11, $5 for children 5 to 17 years old, free for 4 and younger.

If you are in Sanibel, make sure you stop by the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, one of the country's largest undeveloped mangrove systems, best known for its amazing array of seabirds.