Acorn barnacles are sessile crustaceans common in shallow-water settings, both in modern oceans and in the Miocene geological record. Barnacle-rich facies occur from polar to equatorial latitudes, generally associated with shallow-water, high-energy, hard substrates. The aim of this work is to investigate this type of facies by analysing, from the palaeontological, sedimentological and petrographical points of view, early Miocene examples from Northern Italy, Southern France and South-western Peru. Our results are then compared with the existing information on both modern and fossil barnacle-rich deposits. The studied facies can be divided into two groups. The first one consists of very shallow, nearshore assemblages where barnacles are associated with an abundant hard-substrate biota (e.g., barnamol). The second one includes a barnacle-coralline algae association, here named “barnalgal” (= barnacle / red algal dominated), related to a deeper setting. The same pattern occurs in the distribution of both fossil and recent barnacle facies. The majority of them are related to very shallow, high-energy, hard-substrate, a setting that represents the environmental optimum for the development of barnacle facies, but exceptions do occur. These atypical facies can be identified through a complete analysis of both the skeletal assemblage and the barnacle association, showing that barnacle palaeontology can be a powerful tool for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction.