Looking for a shelling paradise?
I recently had a great time shelling on Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina and found some amazing shells. (See picture below.) I’m excited to share my tips for having a successful shelling trip there.
In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about finding the best shells and how to identify them.
And I’ll even tell you where my secret shelling spot is on the island. I read about it by scouring online forums.
So pack your sunscreen and get ready to head to Ocean Isle Beach for a fantastic shelling adventure!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 – Where is Ocean Isle Beach?
Ocean Isle Beach is located on the south end of the North Carolina Coast. It’s about an hour’s drive from either Wilmington or Myrtle Beach.
It took me about 3 hours to drive there from the Raleigh area.
2 – What is Ocean Isle Beach like?
Ocean Isle Beach is a beautiful spot with white sandy beaches and beautiful blue waters. There are no lifeguards, probably because the beach isn’t very crowded.
It was clean and quiet when I visited, with lots of shells to be found.
Ocean Isle isn’t far from Myrtle Beach but lacks the commercialism and crowds.
It’s fairly easy to find parking and public beach access along Ocean Isle Beach. If you drive along the road that runs parallel to the coastline you’ll find several free parking lots and beach access points.
Many of the public beach access points also have showers to wash the sand off.
Ocean Isle Beach Community Center has free parking, public restrooms, outdoor showers, and a shelter with picnic tables.
The address of the Community Center is 44 E 1st St, Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469.
There is also paid parking at the pier. It was $10 a car when I visited.
3 – Where is the best spot to find seashells on Ocean Isle Beach?
There are plenty of shells along the entire length of Ocean Isle Beach, but the secret spot is the east end. This is where the inlet meets the ocean, and there are lots of shells to be found.
The inlet is called Shallotte Inlet, and you’ll have to walk about 15 minutes to get to it.
Just park your car in the easternmost parking lot and walk from there. I was able to park at East 3rd Street near Shallotte Blvd and walk east to the inlet.
If that parking lot is full, there are plenty of other free parking lots on the island.
The water in the inlet is calm, and it’s easy to wade in the water to find shells.
And the visibility in the inlet is impressive. I could clearly see the seashells through the water.
I had so much fun scooping up handfuls of seashells, looking for treasures.
(Ok, I freaked out a bit when I picked up a large whelk that still had the snell in it. I quickly threw it back, of course! Never take a live shell from its habitat.)
I would highly recommend bringing a snorkel and mask because of how excellent the visibility is and the calmness of the water.
I plan to come back to the east end of Ocean Isle Beach to spend the day with a good book, snacks, and of course, my shelling gear!
(Update – I visited again when it was a bit windy and visibility probably wouldn’t have been good enough to snorkel. So it will just depend on the weather when you are there. The inlet was also more crowded when I visited on a weekend, but there was still PLENTY of wide-open beach to enjoy.)
4 – What time of day should you look for seashells?
The best time to go shelling is when the tide is low. See my complete guide on how to find seashells HERE!
Check the local tide chart and plan to shell an hour before low tide to an hour after.
I like to go shelling in the morning because it’s not as hot and there are fewer people on the beach. This means you’ll find the shell treasures first!
If you get a chance to go shelling after a storm, take it. This is when you’ll find the best shelling.
The strong currents from the storm will wash up seashells onto the beach. Just be aware of any dangerous conditions if you plan to get in the water. Riptides are more likely on the calm days after a storm.
5 – What time of year should you look for seashells on Ocean Isle Beach?
The best shelling can be in the fall and winter. There are fewer people on the beach, and storms have brought larger shells to the shore.
(I visited in the Spring and found plenty of shells, though.)
It can be chilly visiting NC beaches in the fall and winter, so bundle up. It will be worth it, though. The shelling will be fantastic, and our beaches are gorgeous year-round.
If you go in the winter, consider wearing scuba boots so you can wade into the water without getting your feet cold and wet.
6 – What tools should I bring to collect seashells?
All you really need is something to carry your shells in and your hands. 😁 But the following will make your shelling experience so much better:
- Shelling Bag – This is the #1 most important thing to me. You wear it over your shoulder to keep your hands free to collect shells. It makes it easy to store your shells while you walk the beach.
- Sand Dipper – Use this to search through the sand and water for shark teeth or shells. The long handle keeps you from having to bend over. You can adjust the length and even take it apart to fit in a suitcase.
- Sand Flea Rake – This is an excellent tool for shelling in the water. It scoops up multiple shells below the water’s surface. You can then dump the shells on the beach and look for treasures.
- Shell Identification Guide – I have a free printable shelling guide HERE. For a comprehensive shelling book, I recommend Seashells of Georgia and the Carolinas.
- Polarized Sunglasses – These will cut the glare on the water and help you see what’s below the water’s surface more clearly.
7 – What shells can I find at Ocean Isle Beach in NC?
Below is a short identification guide for the shells you can find on Ocean Isle Beach.
For a more comprehensive identification seashell guide, check out this post.
The above shells are just a few of the treasures you can find on Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina. Click the button below to get a free seashell identification chart.
So there you go!
Now you know everything you need to about shelling on Ocean Isle Beach. Let me know in the comments your favorite place to go shelling and happy hunting!
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