Water and sunscreen have a sneaky way of slipping rings from the fingers of swimmers and sunbathers, and it’s for this reason, beaches have become lucrative spots for metal detecting.
But rings aren’t the only finds on saltwater beaches.
Beachcombing can unearth loads of treasures ranging from necklaces, watches, bracelets, rare coins to historical artifacts.
While it’s rare you’ll strike it rich by beachcombing; metal detectorists can tell you beachcombing isn’t about unearthing gold-crusted rings or diamond necklaces – it’s still a possibility, though.
Instead, it’s simply the thrill of the hunt, wondering what it’s buried beneath-whether a button, a buckle, or a quarter.
Beachcombing is a fun pastime for most detectorists and mostly about connecting with the past at a personal level.
But beachcombing isn’t easy as it sounds.
For one, there’s plenty of junk in there, and you don’t want to spend your time unearthing fishing rods, aluminum foils, bottle caps, or nails.
While most beach metal detectors can discriminate junk, serious beach hunters know most great finds are either in the surf, shoreline, or the saltwater itself.
Unfortunately, saltwater beachcombing presents challenges to your metal detector as most of these devices can’t handle the mineralization of saltwater.
But you don’t have to worry about any of that because we’re here to help.
Here, we shall help you find the best beach metal detector for the beach. We’ve also thrown in five of our favorite beach metal detectors for beachcombing.
Table of Contents
Best Metal Detectors for Beachcombing For The Money
#1 Garrett AT MAX - All-Around Option
Our top pick, the Garrett AT Max, is the latest saltwater beach metal detector in Garrett’s popular “All-terrain” series consisting of the Garrett Pro, Gold and now the AT Max.
It’s a follow-up to the popular Garrett AT Pro.
While it’s not designed to replace the AT Pro, it adds a new dimension to metal detection and comes with a few extra features for buyers who want to do more but don’t mind spending a bit extra.
The Garrett Max is also easy to use, yet it doesn’t limit detectorists who want more control over its performance.
According to Garret, these and other features make this metal detecting device a versatile and most advanced all-terrain VFL detector.
But how does this metal detector compare to other options within its class, and more importantly, how well does it perform on the shoreline?
Let’s find out.
Features and Benefits
AT Max is waterproof and submersible-a staple feature of the AT series.
These detectors are designed to be the ultimate tool that gets you hunting in every type of terrain regardless of the conditions.
It’s designed for serious hunting and is suitable for almost any environment.
When it comes to water hunting, the AT Max has water resistance up to 10 feet.
While you won’t take the metal detector with you for diving, it’s a great option for metal detecting in streams, shorelines, and anywhere else with shallow saltwater.
It’s a hardy machine, too, and can easily take a beating during transit and even hunting on rough terrain.
Z-Lynk Wireless Technology
Another feature that has been carried over from the Garrett AT Pro is the wireless technology that allows you to pair any wireless headphone with your metal detector.
Here’s why you love this technology- it has zero pulse delay or lag.
In fact, it operates nearly six times faster than the speed from BlueTooth, and what it means is you get a signal when your detector is right over your target.
And that’s not all!
The technology has a nice touch because it eliminates the pesky ground cords that get in your way with the wired technology. I’m personally ready to break out the champagne over this!
13.6kHz Operating Frequency
The operating frequency is where the AT Max differs from the Garrett AT Pro.
The Max has an operating frequency of 13.6kHz, while the Pro has a slightly higher operating frequency of 15kHz.
In theory, it means Max should have better penetration and less target separation.
Fortunately, because of the increased transmit power and enhanced electronics, you get even greater depth detection.
This is to mean I can go over old stomping grounds, and you’ll find some signals you missed with other machines because they didn’t go deep enough.
However, for maximum depth and sensitivity, we recommend using the true all-metal mode. It’s an essential feature lacking in the AT Pro and will help with the increased depth penetration. This is particularly handy for a VLF machine.
So, what can you hunt with the AT Max?
Pretty much everything, including coins, jewelry, and relics. It can also pick the small gold nuggets most VLF detectors can’t register. However, I wouldn’t recommend it for gold-prospecting.
AT Max is a single-frequency metal detector, and as you know, VLF detectors struggle with saltwater conditions.
So, I would be misleading you to say you can use this detector at the saltwater beach without disclosing the disadvantages.
While VFL detectors aren’t designed for salt water beach use, the Garret Max can handle these conditions, thanks to the manual and automatic ground balance feature.
Ground balance is critical when metal detecting is ground conditions with high mineralization or salt as it eliminates the interfering elements, cuts down the chatter, and increases the depth.
#2 Minelab CTX 3030 - Premium Pick
Minelab CTX 3030 isn’t cheap but comes with an array of advanced features not found in most beach detectors.
Some of the key selling features on this detector include wireless audio, built-in GPS, and superior target separation.
But for me, it’s the multi-frequency operation, which takes on the saltwater conditions and iron soils like a champ.
But is it worth pulling the trigger for such an insane buying price?
Let’s find out.
Features and Benefits
As you would expect from a premium metal detector, the CTX 3030 doesn’t fail in the design department.
The detector is well built, durable, and will take on any conditions like a champ.
As with our top pick, the Garret Max, this metal detector is also an all-terrain pick that will take on any hunting grounds effortlessly.
I love that it comes with a long stem of minimum size 37”, which I can further extend to 55.3”, so there’s plenty of scope for adjustment depending on your height and preferences.
My only complaint with CTX 3030 design is the weight. If you’re looking for a lightweight detector, this pick is probably not the right choice.
But I think it’s a little unfair to complain about the weight considering the features and amount of technology it packs.
Still, it doesn’t feel clunky, and I’m surprised how well-balanced it feels, but it may take time to get used to.
As with the Max, 3030 is waterproof down to a depth of 10 feet.
While not a great pick for diving, it is fantastic for beach hunting, detecting in the creeks and shallow rivers.
At its core, the Minelab CTX 3030 is a multi-frequency VLF metal detector, leveraging FBS 2 (Full Band Spectrum 2), Minelab’s MF technology.
In my opinion, this feature alone is what gives the 3030 a competitive advantage over many other metal detectors in the market.
Let me explain why.
First, the technology combines multiple frequencies, between 1.5 to 100 kHz, so you can easily find the deeper targets.
More importantly, however, the combination of frequencies will help the detector ignore the mineralization on the ground and offer a more precise target ID.
With CTX 3030, there’s no need for ground balance as with the single frequency options. This is because the detector isn’t affected by the noise chatter or minerals in the ground, so it’s a great option for hunting in saltwater and shoreline beaches with plenty of sand with iron content.
Drysand has plenty of trash, and I can’t imagine metal detecting on the shoreline without a detector that can’t ignore undesirable trash.
Minelab has pushed the envelope with the discrimination element thanks to the FeCo Discrimination. This feature analyzes and classifies both the ferrous and non-ferrous targets.
It’s a handy feature, ensuring you spend less time digging unwanted targets.
Integrated GPS and PC Mapping
One of the more advanced CTX’s features is the built-in GPS that records where you’ve hunted and your find locations.
It’s such a useful feature for metal detectorists because they can easily identify the hotspots areas, so they won’t accidentally miss the areas.
While it’s true the GPS isn’t necessary for beach hunting; it’s one of the nice extras that will make your metal detecting more efficient.
#3 Minelab Excalibur II - Best for Deep Water and Diving
Serious beach detectorists know that valuable treasures are found beyond the shoreline, deep in the seawater.
Now, while the two previously-reviewed picks will help with detection in the shallow water, they don’t go further than that.
If you need a detector that will extend from the shoreline deep into the water, you can’t go wrong with the Minelab Excalibur II.
Minelab Excalibur II is a true all-water beach metal detector with a waterproofness depth of 196 feet to help you hunt into the depths of the water.
Features and Benefits
Excalibur II is a high-end model with plenty of awesome design features.
The detector’s durability is at par with CTX or Garret Max, and you shouldn’t have any problem taking the device to the harshest locations.
It’s sturdy and doesn’t break easily.
While the price may be a drawback for beginners, it’s simple enough to use even though it takes some training to understand the audio-only platform.
The only downside with the Excalibur II is the lack of a battery gauge. This makes it hard predicting when you’ll run out of battery. It’s really unfortunate, considering everything else is outstanding.
This is one area the Excalibur II excels.
Minelab knocks the ball out of the park, pushing the limits of waterproofness to offer a completely submersible machine.
So, yes, you don’t have to worry about spoiling the detector when you need to reach the depths of the water. It has a generous depth capacity of up to 200 feet.
While it’s perfectly outfitted for underwater use, it also doubles as a detector for land use.
As with the CTX 3030, Excalibur II is an MF detector, relying on a proprietary Minelab’s BBS (Broad Band Spectrum).
It has 17 individual frequencies, starting from 1.5kHz to 25.5kHz, in 1.5 kHz increments.
With this type of range, the detector can target different types of desirable targets and in greater quantities, starting from coins, jewelry to relics.
More importantly, the multi-frequency system sets the Excalibur II for success when hunting in highly mineralized soils.
It eliminates the need for ground balance and chatter, and electromagnetic interference from the soil and minerals, so you won’t have difficulty identifying targets on the wet soil.
Auto Ground Tracking
The ability to fine-tune the detector’s sensitivity for the existing ground conditions is another awesome feature to have.
I love how the detector tunes itself automatically depending on how the soil changes, and this is essential on grounds with variable levels of mineralization.
Once you learn the ins and outs of the detector’s ground balance, you can confidently use the manual settings as you see fit.
#4 Garrett Sea Hunter MK-II - Best for Gold Prospecting
Fourth on our list, the Garret Sea Hunter has plenty of resemblance with the Minelab Excalibur we’ve just reviewed.
With the Garrett Sea Hunter, you can now dive headfirst into the sunken treasures of the deep.
And that’s not even the selling point!
This detector incorporates Pulse Induction machines that go deeper than the conventional VLF detectors.
If you’re after gold buried deep in the wet sand or at the bottom of the sea, then Sea Hunter would be a great choice.
Features and Benefits
Garrett Sea Hunter has all the desirable features a detectorist would want on a beach metal detector for beach hunting.
The detector is as sturdy as it gets and will brave the rugged conditions without breaking down.
It’s durable and stands up to all beachcombing abuses like a champ.
Garrett Sea Hunter is a fantastic underwater beach metal detector built for those willing to brave the brackish water conditions.
As a fully waterproof option, you can submerge the Garret Sea Hunter underwater completely, making it an excellent option for scuba diving and finding sunken treasure targets.
The detector is completely protected up to 200 feet, and this includes the battery compartment, headphones, and the control box.
Beach Performance- PI Technology
Garret Sea Hunter’s PI technology sets this detector for success in highly mineralized conditions.
PI Technology achieves this in numerous ways.
First, it has deep soil penetration and will go to greater depths-it might be a good pick for metal detecting on the already stomped grounds where other detectors for the beach might have missed targets.
Secondly, the technology can pick up the smallest targets, even those buried within the highly mineralized environments.
However, it’s challenging to achieve metal differentiation because of the high sensitivity, and the detector can be prone to different signal interference.
Nonetheless, the benefits outweigh the cons by far. If you’re particularly interested in gold and other treasure in high-mineralized locations, you can be sure to reap results with the Sea Hunter.
Beginners and intermediates may feel challenged using the Sea Hunter because it lacks a display console to help interpret data gathered.
Instead, you’ll have to depend on audio tones to decipher your finds.
While it makes the process more challenging, I feel it’s a moot point because you’ll be mostly using the detector in the brackish water with reduced visibility.
So, either way, the tones and the memory feature on the control box are the best options for identifying your targets.
Discrete Trash Elimination Mode
Generally, PI detectors have a challenge of discriminating between different metals.
On the other hand, using discrimination mode decreases the depth and sensitivity, so you’re likely to pass over a target.
But for the Garrett Sea Hunter, you get two discrimination modes: Standard Trash and Discrete Trash Elimination.
Both these modes will help with the precise elimination of unwanted targets without affecting the response against good targets.
#5 XP DEUS Wireless Metal Detector - Best for Professionals
Our final pick, the XP Deus Wireless Metal Detector, is among the most feature-rich metal detectors on our list.
Even better, the XP Deus has an array of the most advanced features and upgraded software for the best metal detecting performance.
Features and Benefits
The first thing you’ll notice with the XP Deus is the sleek and awesome build quality design.
A signature feature of the XP’s design is the wireless technology, so there’re no wires tangled around the stem or hanging loose.
It’s lightweight and well-balanced, so you should have no problem swinging the detector for extended periods without fatigue.
Another key selling point on the XP Dueus’s design is the unique 3-element design allowing the search coil to function as the detector as it has its processor and a battery source.
The other two elements, headphones, and remote control, also have independent battery sources.
Simply put, all the three elements on this detector communicate wirelessly, and this setup allows for an extremely adaptable form for metal detecting.
Beach Hunting- Selectable Frequency
Deus’ key selling point is a selectable frequency technology.
While it’s not a true multi-frequency detector, Deus boasts of multiple frequencies.
It’s a single frequency VLF detector, coming with five frequencies that shift depending on the conditions on the hunting ground.
This “multi-frequency” design gives it an edge over the true single-frequency detectors as it increases the range of what it can detect.
For instance, the 4kHz range is suitable for large objects, both ferrous and non-ferrous. 8 kHz is a general-purpose frequency suitable for coins and medium-size targets in low mineralized conditions.
The highest frequency, 18 kHz, is suitable for identifying small and fine objects with high and low conductivity, such as gold nuggets, fine coins, copper, and more.
As we had mentioned in the introduction, XP Deus isn’t a metal detector for beginners.
Intermediates and seasoned metal detectorists will also find this machine challenging to learn and use as it has plenty of features, including a pin pointer, volume control and customization option.
While having plenty of features may sound like a good thing, it can inhibit the learning curve and effective metal detecting on the ocean beach.
In particular, this detector isn’t forging users who make errors when setting the programs.
Overall, this would be a great pick for the experienced users familiar with the intricate workings of metal detectors and are willing to spend time learning how Deus works.
Best Beach Metal Detectors for Beachcombing Buying Guide
If you’re still undecided on the metal detectors for beachcombing to go for, we’re here to help.
In the beach metal detector buying guide below, we shall share everything you need to know about metal detecting in the ocean beach.
But first things first, let’s look at the hot spots for beach metal detecting.
Beach Metal Detecting Dry Sand Hotspots
Generally, beaches are vast, and sometimes, it can be intimidating not knowing even where to start.
However, there’re beach metal hotspots that should increase your chances of unearthing treasures.
Generally, the best beaches for beach hunting are the upscale beaches with many tourists, such as Vero Beach.
Here, you’re likely to increase your chances of finding treasures of higher value because there’re lots of people visiting.
Let’s now come to the beach metal spots where you should be focusing your beach hunting efforts.
While there’s not just one best place for beach metal detecting, there’re hotspots likely to have plenty of treasures.
These hotspots include:
The towel line is usually the first place to check for beach metal.
This is where tourists lay their towels and belongings and put on sunscreen.
If you want to pick on this section alone, be sure to concentrate on the location with the highest concentration of people as some towel lines can extend pretty far.
If you’re new to a beach and unsure of the towel line, look for sand build-up before the wet sand, as many people like to perch on these mounds.
The second place to take your beach metal detector is the activity centers such as volleyball courts, horseshoes, or where people play soccer or football.
Also, check where they place their belongings when playing and where spectators watch the game from.
Scanning along the walkaway areas on the entry/exit points such as restroom or candy spots may also serve as a great spot for your beach hunting.
In the heat of summer, beachgoers will look for shade.
Hunt in areas with piers or large rocks that offer afternoon shade; people are likely to have spent some time there.
Wide Open Spaces
This should be the last place to check.
While it may produce a target, the odds are slim. This is not to mention that you’ll take a long time to cover the wide-open beach spaces.
When to Metal Detect on the Beach
Now that we know where to metal detect on the beach let’s look at the best time for beach metal detecting.
In my opinion, the best time to hunt for treasures at the beach is during a low tide after a big storm.
The water line will have receded, exposing a greater and untouched space. Additionally, the storm may also have dragged treasure from the deep sea onto the beach.
Hunting at night is also a great option. It’s peaceful, cooler, and not as crowded as daytime.
If it’s a beautiful day at the beach, it’s probably not the best time for metal detecting.
Wet vs. Dry Sand
Beach metal detecting tips vary depending on the types of sand.
The two common types of sand you’ll encounter on most beaches are wet sand and dry sand.
Dry sand is similar to sandy soil but with more trash.
Metal hunting on dry sand is more likely to produce junk before hitting the paydirt.
On the bright side, you become an expert at distinguishing trash from treasure before digging.
On the other hand, hunting in wet sand is best done when the high tide recedes.
It’s easy to identify the wet sand because it’s characterized by signs of erosion from wind and water, dips, “scallops” in the sand, and pockets of shells and other debris.
To hunt in the wet sand, you’ll need a beach metal detector with a waterproof coil or an entirely waterproof detector.
Remember, saltwater can also interfere with your beach detector’s ability to find targets because of the high mineralization. This is particularly true if you’re hunting saltwater environments.
Factors to Consider When Selecting the Best Metal Detector for Beach
The metal detector you choose will determine the outcome of your beach hunting and determine the type of treasures you unearth.
While there’re numerous features to consider when choosing a detecting device, the choice generally comes down to technology and the design of the detector.
While most detectors are built for dry land use, detectors for beaches have unique features that bypass the mineralization element and presence of water.
Again, all this boils down to the type of technology and the design of the detector.
The three main detecting technologies are:
- Pulse Induction (PI)
Single Frequency Technology
Single frequency detectors are the most common technology in metal detectors.
As its name suggests, single frequency detectors operate at one frequency and only that frequency.
They’re also known as very low-frequency metal detectors and may not be ideal for use in saltwater conditions.
While you can still use them on saltwater, you’ll need to hunt with extremely low sensitivity settings to limit mineralization effects, which dramatically limits your depth capabilities.
Their target ID can also be wildly inaccurate.
But let me be clear.
While the single frequency detectors are not suitable for saltwater conditions, this doesn’t apply when you need to hunt on the dry, white sand at the beach.
They may be ideal if you plan to hunt on the dry white sand, away from the saltwater.
But the serious hunters know that once you hit the towel line, most of the treasure finds are either in the surf or in the water itself.
And this is where the Pulse Induction (PI) and the multi-frequency detectors come into play.
The MFD transmits multiple frequencies simultaneously, helping penetrate the mineralized soils and offer better depth and precise ID.
They’re versatile, not only good for beach and saltwater use, but also regular land use.
Generally, the multi-frequency technology is used in the higher-end detectors, which also tend to be more expensive.
Pulse Induction (PI)
A Pulse Induction metal detector is unique and looks and feels different than the single-frequency and multi-frequency metal detectors.
Usually, a Pulse Induction machine is considered a specialty machine and typically used by serious beach hunters and gold prospectors.
While the Pulse Induction detectors offer better depth at the beach, I wouldn’t recommend them if you only want to take your treasure hunt to the beach with a lot of trash because it’s much harder to discriminate.
Which Technology is Better?
Assuming the single-frequency detectors are out of the way, you’re left with the PI and multi-frequency detectors.
So, what one of these technologies is best for detecting at the beach?
Neither is better, but they’re all different and serve different purposes.
Here’re some of the reasons you should opt for a multi-frequency detector over the PI:
- You only need a single all-around option that you can use for all types of hunting and not just at the beach.
- You need a detector for discriminating targets and eliminating trash
- You need to take your beach hunting to spots with plenty of iron sand
On the other hand, here’re some of the reasons you should opt for a Pulse Induction (PI) OVER A MULTI-FREQUENCY OPTION:
- You own another detector for land
- You only want a detector for use on the beaches or for gold prospecting
- You’ll be spending most of your time on the beach/surf or water
While all the metal detection technologies have their benefits and compromises, serious beach hunters have at least two separate metal detectors-one for the beach and the other for everything else.
Once you’ve decided what metal technology you need, here’re other critical features you should be on the lookout for:
Waterproof, Water resistant, or Submersible?
A majority of beach detectors come with waterproof, submersible coils.
But the rest of the coil isn’t even water-resistant and can’t be used underwater.
I always say that if you’re going to hunt on the beach or close by the water, it’s a good idea to get a fully submersible underwater detector and not only the coil
You might be confident that you’ll keep your control box out of the water, but you may never know when you get hit by an unexpected wave.
Another vital element to consider when choosing beach metal detectors is the search coil size.
There’re numerous reasons you may want to choose one size of a search coil over the other.
But mainly, it boils down to weight, sweep area, and surface tension.
Large Search Coils
Often, larger search coils give better depth and a larger sweep area, so you can cover more ground faster.
The tradeoff for a larger coil is the extra weight.
Of course, you can always change the size of your search coil, but remember manufacturers design detectors to be well-balanced with the stock coil.
Simply put, the weight is evenly distributed.
When you switch to a larger or smaller coil for your sweeping convenience, the weight balance is thrown through the window.
Some search coil size increments or decrements might not seem much on paper, but you’ll certainly feel the effects out in the field.
The other downside with a larger search coil is manifested in the water.
The larger search coil has more surface drag when swinging in the water compared to the smaller coils.
However, you can always consider an “open coil,” which has much less surface resistance.
Using a small search coil in the water is beneficial because it gives more accurate pinpointing, which is a big help when you can’t see the bottom of the ocean floor.
The other reason you should opt for a smaller coil is the precise target precision, especially when detecting trashy beaches.
Best Metal Detectors for Beachcombing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Can I use a metal detector on the beach?
A: Yes, you can use any detector on the beach, but its performance will be affected by the detecting technology and extra features the detector has.
The best metal detector for beach hunting in the wet sand balance mineralization is submersible.
Q: Can metal detectors get wet?
A: Yes, if the beach detector is waterproof.
But understand there’ a difference between waterproofness and submersible.
Most detectors have waterproof coils, so they only offer waterproof protection on shallow saltwater beaches.
On the other hand, submersible metal detectors can be submerged in water, including the control box.
Q: How deep can a metal beach detector go?
A: There’re plenty of factors determining how deep a detector can identify targets, including where and how it sits on the ground, ground conditions, the detector’s capabilities.
But generally, the multi-frequency and PI detectors can acquire signals on targets at greater depths than the single-frequency detectors.
Q: Is it Legal to Metal Detect on the Beach?
A: Generally, it’s legal to metal detect on the beach, but each state has its regulations.
For instance, some beaches may require a permit, while others are considered private/leased properties, so they’re out of bounds.
Q: Do I need a permit for beach metal detecting?
A: Again, it all depends on your state’s metal detection policies and regulations.
It’s a good idea to contact the park office and acquire more information on how to go about detecting and whether you need a permit.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
Our picks could have easily scooped the first position, but we choose to go with Garret AT.
It may not be a multi-frequency beach detector, but it has numerous other features that help detect beach and mineralized soil conditions.
First, it has both manual and automatic ground adjustment, and these features make up for the lack of multiple frequencies.
Using the adjustment, a detectorist can adjust the detector to eliminate chattering and electromagnetic interference.
But that is not all about this saltwater detector!
It comes with Z-Lynk, a proprietary wireless technology that offers wire-free detection, and more importantly, eliminates lags in response. Garret says it’s six times faster than Bluetooth, and I agree.
Of course, this detector has its limitations, and in particular, it’s a single frequency pick, so not the best pick for saltwater conditions. Also, it’s not submersible.
The Minelab Excalibur II or Sea Hunter would have been better choices if you needed an option best suited for saltwater environments were it not for the insane price limit.
Both of these are water-resistant too and submersible, so ideal for use in the deep waters.