Best Places to Metal Detect

Find out why these are some of the best places to go metal detecting
Marc McDermott

In this chapter of our metal detecting guide, we take a look at some of the best places to metal detect.

Metal detecting and real estate have at least one thing in common: location, location, location. The most advanced metal detectors and the most experienced detectorist won’t find items of interest if people weren’t there to lose things in the past.

Places to use a metal detector near me

One of the most important considerations in choosing a place to metal detect is who owns it. A friend or family member? State or local government? A total stranger? Private property permissions can be some of the best places to hunt, but you must have permission from the landowner to be there. To do otherwise is illegal and reflects poorly on those who responsibly enjoy the hobby of metal detecting.

The feasibility of detecting on public land varies from country to country and state to state, if you’re in the US. As a general rule, any publicly owned historical site is going to be off-limits. However, some states allow detecting in certain state parks, though they require may you to apply for a permit. County- and city-owned properties like courthouses and local parks are the most likely candidates for permission-free metal detecting. That said, check your local laws, rules, and regulations – bigger cities tend to regulate detecting on public land more carefully, while rural areas are often more relaxed.

How to find places to metal detect

If you’re just getting started, it’s always best to hit your own yard first, if you have one. Learn how to cut a plug and get to know your detector. Most importantly, learn how to avoid making a mess before you start on that promising old house or public park.

When you’re ready to graduate from your own yard, ask family and friends for permission to hunt. Chances are you know at least one or two people who live in older homes that might yield some old coins or interesting relics. They might even own land with old home sites that could yield some truly old finds. Using those relationships first is a great way to get permission without knocking on strangers’ front doors.

Best Places to Metal Detect for Old Coins and Jewelry

  1. Parks and schools
  2. Old houses
  3. Public beaches and swimming holes
  4. Churches
  5. Sports fields
  6. Fairgrounds
  7. Abandoned home sites
  8. Tourist Sites
  9. Abandoned Mines
  10. Ghost Towns
  11. Battlefields
  12. Your Backyard
  13. Campgrounds
  14. Amusement Parks
  15. Playgrounds
  16. Picnic Areas
  17. Fishing Areas
  18. Old Sawmills
  19. In the Woods
  20. Drive-in Theaters
  21. Roadside Stands
  22. Ski Resorts
  23. Old Bars and Taverns
  24. Old Barns
  25. Old Chicken Coops
  26. Florida

Parks and schools

If your area allows metal detecting on public land, parks and schools are good places to start. Kids are prone to lose all sorts of belongings, so there is great potential for modern coins and other worthwhile finds. If the school is old enough, you may also have the potential to find silver coins. Just be sure to confine your activities to times school is not in session, such as on weekends or in the summer months. Even modern school sites can be a good place to hunt – especially if the land used to contain an older school.

Parks can hold a great deal of potential. Depending on the park, people may have been going there for more than a hundred years to picnic, play games, and socialize. Before you venture out, find out how old the park is and, if possible, what was there before the park. Almost any public park will give up decent amounts of modern change to a metal detectorist, but older and more interesting finds probably won’t surface if the park has only been there since the 1970s. One more thing: be prepared to dig plenty of trash at sites like these – there is no shortage of litterbugs in public parks.

Around old houses

When you walk through a neighborhood, what houses seem old to you? The older the house, the better. The yard of a house built in 1860 or 1900 has had many years to accumulate losses from the people who lived there and those losses are potential finds for the detectorist.

But sometimes it isn’t clear exactly how old a house is from a brief glance, so how can you know? Two fairly reliable indicators of age are the foundation and the chimney. Most houses didn’t have concrete block foundations until c. 1930, so houses with block foundations will have been built more recently. That isn’t to say that they aren’t worth detecting, but a house with a stone foundation is generally going to be older. As for chimneys, they are not a surefire sign of age, but houses with multiple chimneys are almost always older and a house without a chimney is probably a fairly new build.

Public beaches and swimming holes

Depending on where you live, you may have easy access to saltwater beaches where people swim, sunbathe, and play. And, unfortunately for many folks, there’s no place like the beach to lose coins, a ring, or your keys. But even detectorists without access to the ocean can search freshwater beaches or swimming holes where people cooled off in years past. Lakes, rivers, and creek beds are also great.

Metal detecting at beaches tends to produce more in the way of gold and silver jewelry than most “landlocked” sites, but water hunting comes with plenty of unique challenges. Your detector may not work well in water, especially saltwater, unfavorable tidal patterns can cover good targets with feet of sand, and waves can knock you off your feet. However, with some preparation and patience, water hunting can be very fun and productive.

Churches

Anywhere that people have consistently gathered has the potential to be a productive site for metal detecting and churches are no different. People may have worshipped, had picnics, or even held outdoor services at a particular site for decades or centuries. Older church sites can be very productive, but it is up to you to do the research. A church may have been founded in 1820, but the original building may be long gone and the site miles away from the current building. Find out all the information you can and make sure to get permission before you start swinging.

Sports fields

Sporting events, gameplay, and concessions. Sunburnt parents in camp chairs with questionable spinal support. Sports fields, as another place where people congregate, are great places to hunt. They are good places to find coins and can also yield silver and gold jewelry. It is also useful to find out where old baseball or football fields used to be as these can yield silver coins and older jewelry too.

However, any detectorist hunting ballfields must be especially certain to leave no trace of his/her presence. Athletes or spectators could trip or turn their ankle on an open hole or poorly replaced plug. Especially when the sport is in season, it’s best to detect the sidelines and leave the field itself to the players.

Fairgrounds

Whether historic or modern, fairgrounds are great places to find lost coins,  jewelry, and other desirable targets. They have the advantage of generally being wide open fields that are relatively simple to grid out with your detector and there are usually photos available that can be used to pinpoint a potential hot spot. Some fairgrounds are also publicly owned, which may mean that you can metal detect without permission when the fair’s not in town. Renaissance fairs are especially great to hunt.

Old home sites

The roads and population centers of today don’t always tell the story of where people lived and worked in the past. In many places, it’s not uncommon to have cellar holes or the remains of old, long-abandoned cabins and outhouses in the woods, waiting to be rediscovered. Sites like this can yield coins, relics, tools, and everything in between, but don’t get discouraged if you come up empty at an old home site – some folks in the past barely got by and didn’t have much to lose.

Tourist Sites

Tourist sites are a great spot to find old coins. They’re usually owned by a local authority and as such you will need to get permission. Tourists and visitors leave all sorts of objects, money, and other valuables behind without thinking about them. The best times for this kind of search are early evening or early in the morning when there are fewer people or staff around.

Abandoned Mines

Abandoned mines are also very popular with treasure hunters. Abandoned mines are usually considered dangerous places, but it’s surprising the number of people who enter them every year. Abandoned mines pose a very real risk to detectorists who might venture too deeply into one.

Ghost Towns

Ghost Towns are full of history and relics and are really great hunting grounds. Ghost Towns are towns that have been abandoned after a disaster or because of economic hardship. There is often still valuable finds there like old coins, jewelry, pottery, and other objects. To find old ghost towns you have to do a bit of research as they’re often in isolated areas

Battlefields

Battlefield sites are always popular with metal detectors. You will likely need to get permission from the Battlefields Trust to access a battlefield site. In many cases, metal detectorists have been involved in conserving and preserving the battlefields they’re hunting on. You can find things like old buttons, musket balls, bullets, cannon balls, and plenty of other relic types.

Your Backyard

Don’t forget that detecting in your own backyard is always an option. You’d be surprised at what you can dig up in your own yard – especially if you live in an old house.

Campgrounds

Old Campgrounds are a great place to metal detect. Camping sites and old scout camps often have a wealth of old coins, jewelry, and camping-related objects. It’s a good idea to get permission before you set out to do some camping ground detecting, but once you’ve got it in writing you shouldn’t have any trouble getting started. RV campgrounds are also great.

Amusement Parks

Coins can be found all over amusement parks, but are most commonly found at the food and game booths. Also, check near the rides area as coins may have been dropped by patrons waiting in line. Also, try checking around the bathrooms and entrances of the park. 

Playgrounds

Playground areas are full of different kinds of coins and other valuable finds. Kids tend to lose items, parents forget to pick them up, and playgrounds are generally pretty safe. So it’s a great place to metal detect

Picnic Areas

Picnic areas are great places to metal detect, especially when they’re in old parks. One issue with picnic spots is that they can have a lot of trash which makes detecting a bit difficult. Be sure to only metal detect picnic areas when you have permission.

Fishing Areas

Fishing Areas can be a good place for metal detecting. Fishing Areas tend to have a lot of foot traffic, but there may also be a high volume of dropped items like old fishing gear or old pocket knives which make good finds.

Old Sawmills

Old Sawmills are a great place to metal detect. Old sawmills usually contain old coins, jewelry, and other valuable items like buttons or belt buckles. Old Saw Mills are generally owned by the local council so you will need to get permission first before you can go metal detecting on one of them.

In the Woods

Metal detectors are not just for beaches anymore. You can also use them to comb the woods, looking for lost treasure or buried relics. Be on the lookout for old foundations and homesites, old wells, barns, stone fences, and other types of structures. 

The woods might not seem like an area where you would be able to find much in the way of treasure, but that’s not always the case. For example, if you find an old foundation, it’s possible that someone simply dropped a coin or other relic at some point in history. The same might be true if you find what appears to be a stone fence. 

Drive-in Theaters

Drive-in Theaters are currently becoming more and more of a rare sight and metal detecting these spots will help you find coins, jewelry, toy cars, and more.

Roadside Stands

The thought of metal detecting at roadside stands may sound strange to some, but it can be a great place to find dropped coins. 

Ski Resorts

Metal detecting at ski resorts has become a prime spot for many people. It is not uncommon to find coins and other metal objects on the ground under ski lifts – especially where they get on and off the lift. It is also important to have an understanding of where you are allowed to hunt so that you don’t trespass on private property.

Old Bars and Taverns

Coins, coins everywhere! I love finding coins at old bars and taverns. You never know what you might find. Similarly, meeting houses are also great places for metal detecting because they were often built near mines. Bars and taverns have lots of other neat things to find including guns, knives, bottles, etc. These can be a fun find, but coins are probably the easiest to find at bars and taverns.

Old Barns

Old barns are great places to start your hunt because they have plenty of metal objects that were left behind over time. Looking for caches of coins buried in the ground? Check the corners of the barn as that could be where the farmer made his deposits of cash since he didn’t trust the bank. You’re always likely to find plenty of iron items like old farm tools and parts.

Old Chicken Coops

What if I told you that there is buried treasure in old chicken coops? Would you believe me? Probably not. But it’s true. Farmers would often bury money in old chicken coops if they had the chance. It served as a built-in alarm because of the cackling of chickens. But besides that, it was extremely important for farmers to keep their money safe since they wouldn’t always trust banks. Banks were not always an option and these days we still see people filling up holes with cash because that’s where they feel the safest keeping. 

Florida

Florida is a very popular vacation destination. Beachgoers come from around the world to vacation in Florida and usually leave a little something behind with jewelry, coins, and other valuable finds. Detecting on their beaches is a great way to find the vacationer’s lost treasures.

Places to hunt for gold

Not all of us are fortunate enough to live near goldfields or regions rich in precious metals, but if you do, a metal detector can be used to find gold in its natural form. Any detector could sniff out a nugget large enough, but a gold metal detector designed for finding gold nuggets are best suited for this task. In these gold-bearing regions, some have had success searching old mining sites and detecting tailings or dredged material from previous operations. Naturally occurring placer gold can also be found in creeks, streams, and rivers or the dry beds where these once flowed.

Final thoughts

As you can see, there are so many places to metal detect. Always remember to look up the local laws before setting off into any unknown areas. If you are wanting to metal detect at historical places, be sure that it is allowed and not against the law (look it up). 

No matter where you live, you can find great metal detecting sites that will produce worthwhile finds. Don’t get too discouraged by striking out – with patience, knowledge of your machine, and a good location, you’ll be finding treasure soon enough.

Next chapter: Metal Detecting Research