www.atocha1622.com/mclarty.htm - Consider it an absolute must to visit the McLarty Treasure Museum, a small but fascinating museum on A1A just south of Sebastian Inlet. Besides hearing informal presentations by staff about the 1715 Plate Fleet and the history of all the treasure that’s been salvaged, they have a movie room that offers a flick showing treasure salvors, various finds and other interesting details.
Glassed showcases display gold and silver coins, glittering jewelry and historical objects such as navigational equipment used in the 17th and 18th centuries found among wrecks. Since it’s finders-keepers, people often come by to show off their finds – and the staff is glad to tell you where recent discoveries have been made.
Park Services Specialist Ed Perry is also glad to provide insights on the area’s treasure history and even advice on improving your odds of finding something.
Though the museum is replete with valuable treasures, it only costs a buck to enter. There’s a short boardwalk behind the building that overlooks the beach where many treasure discoveries have taken place over the years. Some of the galleon cannons were found literally right where the tide breaks onto the beaches.
When I recently visited the museum, the kindly woman at the entrance offered that the hottest site where finds were being made involved Bonsteel Park. Off I headed to the park about three miles north of Sebastian Inlet. After parking, I strode to the beach via the boardwalk. I noted three people metal detecting to the north along the beach, so I sauntered about a quarter mile south before seeing a promising location with lots of debris and shells near the high-tide mark.
After about an hour of sweeping the detector over the sand and turning up nothing but junk, I registered a faint hit. My scoop dug into the soft sand, and a subsequent sweep of the hole with the detector resulted in a stronger tone in my headphones. I sank to my knees and scooped out the sand with a right hand as the left kept the detector aloft.
I grasped a clod of sediment and held it over the hole. Lightly cleaning away caked-on sand and small shells, I broke open the mass. I couldn’t believe it.
Something resembling an old tin container pulverized in my fingers. In a frenzied excitement, I swung the detector back over the hole – another strong signal.
My hand felt something solid and seconds later I clutched two silver reales. The coins possibly were kept in the tin along with perhaps tobacco, and the heavier coins eventually sank beneath the deteriorative tin.
To say I felt overjoyed would be an understatement – I let out a whoop so loud that a nearby seagull walking the beach took to the air. I had once again found Spanish treasure.
If you’ve got gold fever in your heart – and so many of those with an adventurous heart do! – plan on spending an extra day or two on your next vacation looking for real Spanish treasure. Not only might you literally strike gold, the whole family will enjoy the beach experience that much more.
And when you happen upon all the men, women and children waving metal detectors, give them a thumbs-up signal – you just might be wishing me good luck as well.