Everything You Need to Know About NC Seashells


Everything You Need to Know About NC Seashells | Century 21 Action


So you want to go shelling during your North Carolina beach vacation? Awesome! But before you embark on your Topsail, NC beachcombing adventures, take a few minutes to learn more about how to have the best shelling experience possible including where to go to find the most shells, when the best times to go shelling are, and how to identify your seashells. Here's our first and most important tip: You'll certainly have an advantage if you choose beachfront accommodations, which allow you to get out on the sand easily and conveniently. Take a look at these oceanfront Topsail Island vacation rentals that give you and your family front row access to the beach and better odds for scoring the most seashells. Happy Shelling!


children hunting seashells on the beach | Century 21 Action

Where to Find the Most Seashells

As we've already mentioned, the best shelling tip we have for you is to position yourself right on the beach. The more often you get out there, the better your chances are of finding the most shells. That way, you can step right outside your oceanfront Topsail Island vacation rental and embark on a new shelling adventure whenever you please. Get out there early and often, and see what coastal treasures lie waiting for you each and every day. 

Here are a few more tips on where to go looking for seashells during your Topsail Island beach vacation.

๐Ÿš At the water line: Don't be afraid to get your feet wet. Head to the water line and dig around to see what you might find. Many of the seashells are being pushed and pulled by the tides, so follow the water and keep a good watch on what lies beneath as the waves ebb and flow. 

๐Ÿš In tidal pools: As the Atlantic Ocean recedes, there are low points in the sand where shallow tidal pools form. Not only do these spots make great play areas for the kids, but they are also the perfect place to check for seashells. Use your hands and feel around for hidden treasures. You never know what you might find.

๐Ÿš Near the fishing piers: There are three fishing piers on Topsail Island, one in each of the towns of North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach. Head toward the pilings where new wave and sand patterns are constantly being formed. The fishing piers can get busy though, so be sure to go at the least crowded times possible for your best chances of finding good shells.

๐Ÿš At the north and south ends of Topsail Island: The tips of the island may be worthwhile exploring since there tend to be fewer people and stronger wave patterns and currents in those areas. You never know what is being churned up on any given day so if you get the chance, check them out!


shelling at sunset | Century 21 Action

When to Go Shelling on the Beach

When you go hunting for seashells is just as important as where you go, maybe even more so! You definitely want to give yourself an edge and beat the crowds. Good shelling finds will quickly be scooped up and there is fierce competition out there on the sand. So when you should go? The earlier the better! Beat those other beach goers and you'll at least have the upper hand on collecting the new arrivals each morning. You'll catch an amazing sunrise, too. 

Here are a few more of the best times to go shelling during your Topsail Island beach vacation.

๐Ÿš During low tide: You absolutely want to check the Topsail Island Tide Charts for the upcoming day and each day of your vacation. Low tide is the best tide for going shelling. The ocean has receded leaving you a glorious display of what it's been hiding under its waters. Take full advantage of discovering what seashells have been uncovered and ready to be collected.

๐Ÿš At night: Don't underestimate the adventure of a nighttime shelling excursion! There are fewer people on the beach and you never know what may have washed up. You'll have to keep an extra keen eye out for those seashells since they'll be harder to spot. Consider bringing a flashlightโ€”as long as it isn't sea turtle nesting or hatching season when artificial lights are prohibited.

๐Ÿš During a full moon, new moon or spring tide: Some of the best shelling is said to happen during a new moon or a full moon when the tidal pulls are the strongest. The phases of the moon (and sun) affect tides. When the moon is at its full or new moon phase, high tides are at their highest, while low tides are lower than usual. Called spring tides, these tides occur when the sun, moon and the Earth all line up. The added gravity of the sun can make the oceans bulge more than at other times.

๐Ÿš After a storm: When the ocean waves are roaring and the sand is being stirred up more than usual, you can bet that you're going to have some interesting beach finds. You really never know what might turn up but you should definitely get out on the sand and check! Have you heard about the giant fossilized Megalodon teeth that have been found all along Topsail Island? Many have been found washed up on a Topsail beach after a storm

๐Ÿš In the off and shoulder beach seasons (late fall, winter, early spring): Planning a Topsail, North Carolina beach vacation in the off and shoulder seasons gives you more beach to enjoy with fewer people to share it withโ€”and therefore more seashells for you! Some of the most beautiful times to be on the beach in Topsail, NC are during the shoulder seasonsโ€”but ssshhh, that's supposed to be a local secret. 


various sea shell types | Century 21 Action

How to Easily Identify NC Seashells

Now that you know when and where to go shelling, what do you do when you find them? Great question! You will want to identify your North Carolina seashells so you know what you've found and perhaps label them for future reference before adding them to a shell collection. Here are a few of our favorite ways to figure out what shells you've found on the beach and to learn more about them. Then you can pass on the knowledge with your family and friends. 

Here are a few North Carolina shell identification tools and resources we love.

๐Ÿš Invest in a North Carolina shelling pocket guide: Why not invest a few bucks in a decent shelling guide? It makes a great beach vacation companion and you can easily tuck one into your beach bag to pull out when you need it. We really like this one! It's waterproof, pocket-sized, and has wonderful color photographs to make identifying your seashells easy and fun. It's a wonderful learning activity for the kids, too.

๐Ÿš Ask a local: If you don't know what you've found, go ahead and ask one of the locals. Chances are they are quite familiar with the most common seashells and beach finds. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with a Topsail local, you never know what you might learn! They may even give you a few insider shelling tips that are not public knowledge. It certainly can't hurt to ask.

๐Ÿš Go online: Of course in this day and age, digital resources abound and you can find many helpful shelling identification tools online. Check out two of our local favorite NC shelling sites where you can learn so much about the seashells of Topsail's beaches and beyond. The NC Shell Club has a fabulous online collection and tons of helpful shelling information. There is also the Shell Collectors of North Carolina Facebook Group which is worth perusing. Both of these provide a great place to start your shell identification journey!


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Everything You Need to Know About NC Seashells | Century 21 Action

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