Sandcastle or Sand Castle? – The Ultimate List of Sandcastle FAQs!

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How much do you know about sculpted sand? Is it sandcastle or sand castle? What holds sandcastles together? Did you know they can be illegal? Here you’ll find answers to all that and lots more!

Sandcastle or Sand Castle?

Sandcastles are magical to children. For beach lovers that fascination never fades, but how much do you really know?

While writing answers for my list of FAQs About The Beach, I realized that sandcastles needed a list of its own. For one, I discovered answers to questions I didn’t even know to ask. I hope you enjoy my facts and fun finds, and maybe some of them will surprise you too!


  1. Sandcastle or sand castle? Is it one word or two?
  2. Who invented sandcastles? Where did they originate?
  3. How do sandcastles stay together?
  4. What is the best kind of sand for building sandcastles?
  5. Can you build sandcastles on a freshwater beach?
  6. Are sandcastles illegal in some places?
  7. What is the biggest sandcastle in the world?
  8. Where can I find sandcastle festivals and contests near me?
  9. What is a famous sandcastle quote or saying?
  10. Where can I find sandcastle-related items?


  1. Sandcastle or sand castle? Is it one word or two?

    According to Merriam-Webster, both “sandcastle” and “sand castle” are correct. It is listed in the dictionary as a single word, and the two-word version is given as a variant.

    Both MacMillan and list only the one-word version.

    Both The Britannica Dictionary and the Collins English Dictionary list only the two-word version.

    At least they all pretty much agree on the definition, “a small model of a castle or other structure that is made with sand on a beach”. Some specify that it is made by children. I respectfully disagree with that, as well as the word “small”. These days the world is full of adult master sand sculptors, and their creations are anything but small!

  2. Who invented sandcastles? Where did they originate?

    After much research it’s clear that credit can’t be given to any specific person or territory. My guess is that the first sandcastle was built by the first person who ever had the time and opportunity to play on a beach. For kids it’s fun. For adults it just seems the natural thing to do. Sitting on a long stretch of beach surrounded by tons and tons of sand, your hands automatically move to fashion something familiar, even if it’s only a simple pyramid.

    Speaking of, some say that before building the great pyramids, the Egyptians first created models from sand. Others dispute this as mere conjecture. Unfortunately for us, nothing is documented about sculpting sand until the late 1800’s.

    Around the turn of the century a man named Philip McCord created the first sand sculpture in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His creation was a drowned mother and her baby, which I find horrifying, yet it somehow captured the fascination of beach goers and artists alike. Turns out there was money to be made, but these first sand artists had a reputation of being a little on the sketchy side.

    At the same time, Professor Eugen Bormel had begun creating sand sculptures on the beaches near Nordeney, Germany. His favorite sculpting subjects were mermaids and the Sphinx. He made money too, but he donated all his earnings to charity and was apparently a much more reputable fellow than his American counterparts.

  3. How do sandcastles stay together?

    It’s all about surface tension. Obviously, you can’t build anything with dry sand, except a pile of sand. The sand has to be damp, and the water fills the tiny spaces between grains of sand, which forms the same kind of surface tension you find on a pond. When you see bugs walk on water, it’s the surface tension that enables them to do so. That same surface tension is what holds damp sand together.

    So there you go. Who knew the answer to such a simple question would involve physics?

    Sandcastle with Bridge, Pensacola Beach, Florida
    You don’t have to be a master sculptor. The kids who built this little sand castle figured out the exact ratio of sand to water needed to build an arch bridge to connect their little castles.
  4. What is the best kind of sand for building sandcastles?

    The kind of basic sandcastles that kids and most of us adults build are easy. They will work well enough on any beach no matter the sand type. But then, the artistic creations of master sand sculptors are an entirely different matter.

    Ironically, beach sand is not the best for master sculpting. Tides and winds make the grains too round, and there is no clay or silt mixed in. What works best is river sand that does contain some silt and clay, and that has grains that are more angular than round. One sand artist described those grains as having edges like tiny little bricks.

    Only a few competitions use actual beach sand. Two that come to mind are those at South Padre Island and Port Aransas, Texas. Most of the other serious, master level competitions have the sand trucked in. That gives contestants the best sand possible so they can create truly magnificent sculptures.

  5. Can you build sandcastles on a freshwater beach?

    Yes, indeed. As mentioned above, the sand around freshwater may contain silt and clay. As well, the grains of sand have not been shaped into round marbles by the constantly rolling surf of the ocean. Both of those factors make a freshwater beach an excellent place for building and sculpting.

    Another advantage of a lake or river beach is that you don’t have to worry about a rising tide destroying your creation before you can finish it.

  6. Are sandcastles illegal in some places?
    No Sandcastle Building Allowed!

    Surprisingly, yes! It’s illegal to build sandcastles on the beaches of a few countries or parts thereof. Some of those places include:

    • Spain – specifically Jamorca, Vilia de Ariko in the island of Tenerife, Arteikho, Galicia, and possibly other locations. Fines for violators can run up to 1,500 euros.
    • Italy – Eraclea (Even collecting shells and playing ball on the beach are banned in this area!)
    • Germany – including Schleswig–Holstein, Fehmarn, and Sylt

    The above is NOT a complete list. These are the documented areas I found, but laws and ordinances are always subject to change. If you’re traveling overseas be sure to find out what is and is not legal on the beaches you plan to visit.

    Why are sandcastles forbidden? Reasons sited are: to bring order to the particular area; to prevent sculptors from blocking the view for tourists; to keep paths open and unobstructed for emergency teams or vehicles; and for the safety of beach strollers.

    What about in the U.S.?
    For the most part you are free to build sandcastles on U. S. beaches, but there are some exceptions.

    Building sandcastles was illegal in Belmar, New Jersey until the law was changed in 2011. You are now free to build, but anything you create with sand must be destroyed before you leave the beach.

    Walton County, Florida has banned the use of any type of metal digging tools on the beach. The same goes for Panama City Beach, where problems arose largely due to criminals digging holes to hide drug activity. The intent of the rule is to address crime and safety concerns. There is at least one case on record of a man being fined for using a metal shovel on Panama City Beach.

    In addition, there are also varying laws and ordinances pertaining to what you can and can’t do with sand on the beach. For instance, digging huge holes is not allowed in many places. One reason is the danger to people who might get injured stepping in a hole while strolling the beach. Extremely large excavations can also be a hazard to night patrols and other vehicles that provide services such as sand grading or trash pickup.

    Virtually every locale will have specific ordinances or rules pertaining to the use of their beaches. Be sure you know what is and isn’t allowed. Most all reputable property rentals provide this information. Just be sure you read it and understand that they aren’t kidding.

  7. What is the biggest sandcastle in the world?

    As of 2021 the new world record is located in Blokhus, Denmark.

    Some interesting statistics about this magnificent sand sculpture:

    • created by Wilfred Stijger and 30 sand sculptors
    • height of 69 feet (That’s 3 meters taller than the previous record holder which was built in 2019 in Germany.)
    • built with over 5,000 metric tons of sand
    • has a layer of glue applied to help it stand up against weather through the winter for several months

    Perhaps most interesting is that the inspiration for the castle was COVID. Its creator says it represents the fact that the pandemic ruled every aspect of our lives, telling us everything we can’t do, where we can’t go, and who we can’t see.

    The video below gives you a look at this amazing sandcastle.

  8. Where can I find sandcastle festivals and contests near me?

    That’s easy! I’ve made a complete list for you right here on this site. Check out Sandcastle Festivals & Contests – U.S. Sand Sculpting Competitions All Levels. It includes everything from full fledged festivals with loads of activities to one-day simple contests for rank amateurs.

    If you’ve never seen the work of master sand sculptors, you’re in for a real treat. The article above includes a few photos that will whet your appetite.

    Master Sand Sculpture
  9. What is a famous sandcastle quote or saying?

    Quote from author Pamela Moore:
    “That’s the hell of sand castles. They are always doomed. That’s part of their beauty – their impermanence.”

    Sandcastle Being Washed Away by the Ocean

    My personal favorite, which is attributed to Anne Frank:
    “But I don’t think building sand castles in the air is such a terrible thing to do, as long as you don’t take it too seriously.”

    For lots more see my complete collection of Sandcastle Quotes – For Optimists, Pessimists & Those In Between.

  10. Where can I find sandcastle-related items?

    The following is just a random collection of “stuff”. In no particular order, these are links to products and resources that I think might interest sandcastle lovers.

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