Locals Guide to Shelling

Treasures can be found on the beaches of the Cape Fear Coast

Grab your shelling bag, a bottle of sunscreen and get going. The Cape Fear Coast is one of the best areas to find shells along the North Carolina coastline. Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Oak Island, and holden Beach are just a few of our local beaches that are great spots to hunt for shells. Here’s a few things you should know before you go.

  1. Timing is everything: If you want to find the best shells, you need to plan accordingly. You will be able to find more shells right around low tide. Check your tide table before you go so you can grab the best ones as they roll onto shore.
  2. Watch the tidal pools. Many shells often wash into these pools of water along the beach or in isolated places like Masonboro Island.
  3. Plan a shelling excursion during the off-season. Less people and less crowds mean more shells for you.
  4. Follow the storm. Right after a storm or even a hurricane, shells tend to wash up on the beach which gives you the opportunity to find some hidden treasures that may have been sitting much further out. Just be careful to wait until the storm has passed before you make your way out there.
  5. If the water looks clear, wade out a bit and search for the shells that may be buried close to the shore but underwater. This is a great spot that some people miss and there are always a few good finds out there.

The Cape Fear Coast is also a great place to find sea glass and sharks teeth in addition to these amazing shells:

Scotch Bonnets-This is the official shell of North Carolina, look got the spiraled top and brown and white speckled exterior

Whelks-They look like a conch shell, have a tight spiral top and a large opening

Olive Shells-These shells measure 1-3” long and are notable for their shiny patterned exterior and light violet interior

Moon Snails-Fat and circular, these have a central spiral that gets wider until it connects with big and equally circular opening

Scallops-Two varieties you can find on the Cape Fear shoreline-bay scallops and calico scallopsAugers-Look for the tight little spirals often can be found in the piles of shells along the shoreline

Discover why shelling is a favorite Cape Fear pastime that locals and visitors alike love to enjoy. You can turn a beach stroll into an expedition for the perfect shell, shark’s tooth or even sea glass. Now go have fun!