How to Score the Best Seashells on the OBX


Seasoned beachcombers and shelling connoisseurs know that the Outer Banks of North Carolina is home to some of the best shelling around. Do you? And exactly how do you go about scoring the best seashells on the OBX? We can help you with that!

Read on, coastal treasure hunters. Read on.

Know the Best Locations on the Outer Banks

The good news is that some of the best shelling found on the East Coast is located on the barrier islands that run along the Atlantic. Guess what? The Outer Banks is a string of barrier islands along the North Carolina coastline, so you're already on the right track.

Carova, thanks to its limited accessibility and shallow, sloping ocean floor line, makes a desirable shelling spot. Coquina Beach on the southern tip of Nags Head offers up what its name promises: lots of coquina clam shells spread upon the shoreline. South Beach is located next to Cape Point in Buxton and is a south-facing beach, as its name suggests. It's located at the southern end of the famous Hatteras Island hook so conchs, whelks and Scotch Bonnets are frequent finds there. If you're up for a day trip to Ocracoke Island, you'll quickly see why it's named one of the 10 Best U.S. Shelling Beaches by Travel + Leisure.

Interested in reading more about the best shelling spots on the OBX? Go for it!

Find the Ideal Conditions for Your Hunt

Once you know where to go, you have to know when to go. Seashell hunting is part skill and part luck, but you can stack the odds in your favor by choosing the best times to search for seashells.

Tides: Just getting out there on the beaches and keeping a watchful eye is the first step. Going an hour before or after low tide is helpful so you can see what's been washed up. Don't forget to sift through any seaweed that's been brought ashore to see what hidden treasures await you. You can find the local OBX Tide Charts here.

Moon Phase: Moon phases influence the tides, so going shelling during a full moon or new moon can be helpful since the tides are most extreme at those times. You can find the local OBX Moon Phase Charts here.

Storms: Once of the best but most unpredictable shelling conditions is after a storm. If a storm has just passed through, you might want to see what's been churned up on the beaches. You can often find buckets of beach treasures just waiting to be scooped up.

Offshore: Don't rely on just the sandy shoreline. Go a bit deeper and get your feet wet. Check the ocean wash and the knee-deep waters to find some of the best and most abundant shells. You have to have a keen eye and quick hand, though. Those suckers move quickly!

Inlets: The inlets have a conversion of sound and ocean waters along with rushing, deep currents that can toss up a really wide variety of seashells. Keep your eye on the perimeter of the inlet and see what surfaces.

Have the Proper Shelling Tools for the OBX

One of the best things about shelling is that it's a free endeavor that requires very little when it comes to tools. You have a pair of hands—put them to good use! You have two eyes, so keep them wide open. You'll probably want to bring a bag or bucket to keep your collected treasures in.

In fact, why not bring two buckets? One for your seashells and one for picking up any trash you see during your seashell hunting adventure. You'll be doing double duty! Some say that by doing so you'll not only help keep our beaches clean, but you'll also bring some good karma in the form of some fabulous finds. So, why not?

Follow These Expert Seashell Hunting Tips

In addition to the above recommendations, we'll throw in a few more expert shelling tips from the best beachcombers. Here's what else you need to know to score the best shells on the Outer Banks.

Choose OBX accommodations on the beachfront. When you choose an oceanfront rental on the Outer Banks, you're giving yourself prime access and opportunity to get out on the beach and search for seashells. The more you get out there, the better your chances will be of scoring shells.

Go off the beaten path. Busier beaches tend to have less shells for obvious reasons. More people means less shells for you! Don't be afraid to go off the beaten path and explore the less-frequented OBX beaches for the best selection and less competition.

Search during the off-season. Off-season on the Outer Banks is fabulous for many reasons, and awesome shelling is one of them. You'll have ideal conditions, less crowds, gorgeous weather and plenty of motivation to get out their and hunt for seashells. Make the most of it!

Get a beach driving permit for the OBX. If you have a 4WD vehicle and an OBX beach driving permit, consider doing some drive-by shelling in the mornings. You can cover a lot of ground and make good time of it, while hopping out when you spot a cluster of shells or a special find. This is best done in the shoulder and off-seasons and only at places that allow for vehicles to be on the beach.

Do you have any tips or tricks you'd like to share for scoring the best seashells on the Outer Banks of North Carolina?