By Tiffany Meekins
The Outer Banks of North Carolina—known as the OBX—is considered one of the best shelling destinations on the East Coast. From Carova to Portsmouth Island, there are many beaches to explore along the OBX with abundant varieties of seashells. I live on Hatteras Island, but love exploring beaches to the north and south too.
One of the most important things to keep in mind about shelling is every day is different. One day there could be shells all over the beach, and the next day, nothing! Even the tide can change everything; there could be shells all over and then the high tide will wash them right back out. I always tell people to not get discouraged when they don’t find anything right away. Always explore different beaches and different tide cycles. Sometimes there can be so many shells covering the beach you have to be very selective. Those are the kind of days I try to look for the less-common and harder-to-find shells. On days when the beach looks bare, I just look for another spot.
I put together a checklist for shells and other beach treasures that can be found along the beaches of the OBX. I grouped them based on my experience. Sometimes finding shells is just luck—some people find a bunch of a certain kind while others may have better luck finding another, and beaches to the north or south may get more or less of what we find on Hatteras Island beaches.
💙 My favorite OBX finds
I hope you can mark some of these off your checklist if you visit the OBX.
Learn more about seashells
Learn more about identifying shells, the history of seashell collecting, great shelling beaches, and the lives of the animals who make the shells we find on the beach. Articles ›
No live shelling: Be sure shells are empty and sand dollars, sea stars, and sea urchins are no longer alive before you bring them home.
All photos by Tiffany Meekins
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine July/August 2023 issue