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Florida puts kibosh on sandy treasure hunting

By   /   July 26, 2013  /   3 Comments

Por Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog

MIAMI —Florida should be a treasure hunter’s dream come true. Except it’s not.

BURIED TREASURE; Spanish fleets dropped gold, silver and emeralds in Florida waters.

Its sand and sea hide riches of the past, thanks to the state’s Spanish colonizers of the 1500s and treasure-laden ships that sank off shores.

Until recently, you didn’t have needed to dig very deep to find valuable booty. With a metal detector, you easily could unearthed treasures left behind by forgetful beachgoers.

A Tiffany & Co. platinum wedding band worth more than $2,000, a 3/4-carat diamond ring, a 2-carat ruby ring and a mint-condition Rolex Submariner watch are just a few of the riches Gary Drayton recovered during his metal-hunting days. His best find was a 9-carat Spanish-era emerald ring.

But that may be the end of it for Drayton and his treasure-seeking ilk.

While it’s legal to use metal detectors at Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf Coast state parks, Drayton told Florida Watchdog, treasure hunters have to get permission from the park manager and hunt only on the dry, sandy beach between the high water line and the sand dune.

PAY DAY: Gary Drayton has written six instructional books on finding treasures using metal detectors.

The Florida Division of Recreation & Parks Department of Environmental Protection says the restriction is to ensure the “preservation and protection of archaeological resources.”

Now, it seems, cities are getting into the act.

St. Augustine recently decided to expand its restrictions by prohibiting the use of metal detectors on public property without the express consent of the city manager or the town archaeologist.

State treasure hunters are up in arms.

“If you lose your watch in the sea, even close to shore, I can’t help you find it with a detector because I’m violating the law,” Drayton said. “They can fine me and I can go to jail.”

The laws were enacted years ago when the state began approving licenses for marine exploration.

If you hunt offshore, where big treasure awaits discovery, you will need a lot more than a metal detector.  Along with special permits, there are numerous regulations and procedures to be met before you can even think about digging. If you actually do hit it big under the seat, the state’s takes a 20-percent share of your booty.

FINDS: Drayton found this platinum wedding band and a 14-karat gold ring with a 3/4-carat diamond in two hours while hunting near to the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood.

Drayton said he doesn’t get too worked up about the state’s heavy handedness in hoarding left-behind objects of value because he’s in it purely for entertainment.

Besides, his greatest discoveries didn’t come from the beach.

“The first treasure I found was my wife, whom I met in Mexico, then my two adopted daughters and then America, the land of opportunity,” Drayton said. “It has been since I got here I found treasures and opportunities everywhere.”

Drayton has written six books on finding treasure with metal detectors. He also conducts conferences throughout the country.

Florida Division of Recreation & Parks Department of Environmental Protection did not return calls seeking comment.

Contact Marianela Toledo at [email protected] twitter @mtoledoreporter



Marianela formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • bigpecs8

    Whoa, hold on there. You’ve missed the biggest part of the story. As I can testify, the majority of these ‘treasure hunters’ are super colossal A**Holes! They think nothing of stepping on or through your beach camp, harassing beach-goers and their children and being the most obnoxious buttheads imaginable. They are universally hated by beach people and any way I can legally get them to leave me any my family alone, I’ll do it.

  • goaway

    Sounds like your the butthead.

  • Bigeasy Jhonson

    Dear bigpecs,
    In 25 years of metal detecting I have NEVER seen another metal detector hobbyist KNOWINGLY step through anyone beach camp – or “harrass” a beach-goer. Define harass douchebag ….was it because you could hear the beeping of the detector? And why pray tell does the sight of someone gently swinging a metal detector seem obnoxious to you? Is that any more obnoxious than people having to see all 280 lbs of you in your euro-speedo? Or is it because you and your sloppy wife and your 14 sand rats have to live on the beach instead of in a home? Sometime you should just check yourself before you come off sounding like JWoow or hooker Snookie!