A Guide: Shell Hunting On Your Next Outer Banks Vacation

Do you and your family find yourselves walking along the shoreline of the OBX hunting for shells to take home? If the answer is yes, then allow us with Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates to share some of the seashells you may find along our beaches. Staying in one of our Oceanfront vacation rentals will allow your family to be close to the sand and the water. Let’s take a peek at what seashells you may find while you’re on vacation here on the OBX.

Scotch Bonnets

Did you know that each state that borders either the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean has an official seashell? North Carolina’s official seashell is the Scotch Bonnet. These shells are harder to spot on the OBX, and it’s a treat when you do find them. Scotch Bonnets are about 1 ½ – 4 inches long with around 20 spiral grooves. They are brown and white, and they often resemble a bonnet or cap worn by the Scottish.  

Atlantic Giant Cockles

Atlantic Giant Cockles are like the Atlantic Cockles you often find on the beach but just a little bigger. The shells are easy to find as they look like a heart and come in various colors and shapes. Bring them home with you on your next vacation or use them to decorate sandcastles.

Coquina Shells

Coquina Shells are actual clams, and they are the most common you’ll find on the beach. They are small shells about an inch long, and you’ll find them in different colors. Often, you’ll find the shells are still alive by the water as they burrow themselves back into the sand.

Whelks

Whelks are another shell you’ll find on the east coast, especially here on the Outer Banks. Many people who see these shells will often get mixed up as conch shells as they look similar. Whelk shells come in many different sizes and different colors. There are also various species of whelks such as Knobbed Whelks, Lightning Whelks, and Channeled Whelks. All the whelks will make beautiful shells to add to your collection at home.

Shark Eye Shells

Have you ever found a shell that looks like something is looking at you? Those ones our friends, are known as Shark Eyes or Atlantic Moon Snails. You can spot them along the sand and shoreline as they have large bodies with an inward spiral that will form the “eye.” The eyes come in many different colors, such as purple, blue, and orange. See if you can “spot” one before it “spots” you!

Sand Dollars

Sand Dollars are another fun shell that you may find on the Outer Banks. These are often found by the shore, and they are white or tan. If you happen to find one alive, it will be brown, and please leave it be. Sand Dollars are about 1 – 4 inches in diameter, and they are very delicate. So be sure if you find one or two, just be careful with them as you travel home.

Fulgurite

Did you know that not only does lightning hit the water, but it can also hit the sand? When this occurrence happens, it will form what’s known as Fulgurite. Many people who have seen a popular early 2000’s movie think that when the lightning strikes, it will create glass, but that’s not the case. Instead, it will look more like rocky tubes, commonly in small pieces. Each piece of Fulgurite is unique as lightning doesn’t always look the same when it hits the sand.

Sea Glass

Sea Glass on the OBX is another excellent find and often is one of the best finds for many beachgoers. They are bits of broken glass from bottles, shipwrecks, and tableware that have been weathered down from rolling on the ocean floor & the saltwater. Sea Glass is found on any beach you may visit, but it’s always a treat to see it along our coast. You’ll find it in different colors such as blue, green, brown, and white. Every once in a while you may find red & pink sea glass along the shoreline and if you do, they are the most desirable to have in your collection. 

Scallops

Scallops are another great find on the Outer Banks as they are often easy to spot. They do come in various sizes, and the coloring on them makes it easy to spot them too! Many will think that when they find them, they are cockles. Rest assured that you’ll want to add them to your collection when you see them, as they come in many different colors and often have a pretty pink and red in the coloring to them.

Many other shells can be found along our shoreline, but a few other finds we wanted to mention to round out your collection are Ocean Quahogs, Atlantic Surf Clams, Mussels, Oysters, and Driftwood. For our guests to find these shells, some great local organizations help keep our beaches clean. Some of those organizations are the NC Sea Grant and Surfrider Foundation. Another great thing that you can do while on your vacation to help keep our beaches clean is to do a little cleanup. If you happen to find trash while you’re hunting for shells, pick it up and place it into a bag and then toss it in a trash can. This can help you and your family enjoy the beaches and keep the sea turtles and other sea life safe.

We at Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates look forward to seeing you and your family as you vacation in one of our Outer Banks vacation rentals. On your next stay, take pictures of those shells that you found, and we’d love to see them!


Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates is one of the most trusted vacation rental managers in the local area by growing into a market leader in the Vacation Rental and Sales Industry. Joe Lamb Jr. and his family have played a vital and intricate role in the Outer Banks Community for decades.

Over the past 50+ years, Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates have worked diligently to help promote the Outer Banks for the amazing beach and family vacation destination that it is, helping to increase tourism in the area and grow our beautiful community.

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