All You Need to Have for the Best Shelling on Topsail

All You Need to Have for the Best Shelling on Topsail

So, what do you need to find the best seashells on Topsail Island? We're so glad you asked! You'll be pleasantly surprised that it doesn't take much to have a very successful shelling adventure. It's not complicated. It's not expensive. It doesn't require special equipment or training. Best of all, anyone can do it. 

What are some of the most popular shells on Topsail Island? Scotch bonnets (the North Carolina State Shell) and conch shells rank high as local favorites. You'll also come across whelks, coquina clams, moon snail shells, scallops, banded tulips, pen shells and more as you comb the beaches. Not only can you find abundant seashells on your Topsail treasure hunt, but you'll also stumble upon sea glass, sand dollars and shark teeth to add to your prized collection. 

Are you ready to get started? Let's dig in! Here's all you need to have for the best shelling on Topsail. 


1. A willing spirit and a watchful eye. Watchful Eye


A good attitude, a little patience and a lot of persistence go a long way. The more you get out there, the more you'll find.

As you're walking along the shoreline, be observant and pay close attention to everything around you. Don't ignore that glimmer or interesting reflection from the sunlight. It might be a partially hidden treasure just waiting to be unearthed. Be willing to dig a little deeper and get your feet (and hands) wet by going below the surface of what you see both on the sand and in the water. You never know what you'll find!

2. Close and convenient beach access.


It just makes sense that if you want to comb the beach every day, then you'll want close and convenient access to the beach. Stay right on the beach to make the most of your time so that every morning you can get up, get dressed, grab a cup of coffee, throw on some flip flops and walk right out the door of your oceanfront vacation rental and right onto the sand. Getting out there early and often are two of the best ways to capitalize on your seashell hunting adventure. 

3. Knowledge of the tides and beach conditions. Knowledge of Tides and Beach Conditions


Knowing the Topsail tides during your time on the island is really important. Low tide is by far the best time to get out there and see what's been left behind by the ebb and flow of the receded ocean. Low tide offers up optimal beach surface area with lots of sand to explore. Don't forget to check the high water mark to see what's been left behind and wade a few feet into the water to dig around and see what's below the surface—and of course, check on everything in between those two points.

Other helpful shelling conditions include going out on the beach after a storm to see what's been swirled around and washed up to the shore. Knowing the moon phase is also helpful as full moons and new moons have the most extreme tides and are excellent times to go shelling.  


4. A container for your shells.


Stuffing seashells into your pocket isn't the ideal way to collect shells as you stroll the shoreline, but it works in emergencies. It's best to bring a bag or bucket along with you to help you carry the load. You may want to consider bringing a shovel or sifter too, but those aren't a necessity. You've got two hands, put them to good use!

5. Tips on the best Topsail Island shelling spots.

The good news is that anywhere on the ocean side of Topsail Island is a really desirable place to go shelling. Being a barrier island on the coast of North Carolina means that Topsail receives a lot of shells washing to and fro around the oceanside of the island.


Tips on finding the best shelling spots on Topsail Island:


  • At the northern and southern most points of Topsail Island: These areas are usually less crowded areas and can be hot spots for good seashell finds. Less competition means better odds for you. 
  • Around Topsail's fishing piers: Each Topsail town has its own fishing pier and they're good places to comb around and see what's caught along the pylons and strewn under the pier. 
  • In tidal pools: Tide pools are formed when the tide recedes from the shoreline and leaves pools of saltwater along the seashore. They can be teeming with buried treasures just waiting to be discovered, so you'll definitely want to take some time to check those out. 
  • During winter: Did you know this is the best time to go shelling? It is. Seasonal changes in wind and weather combined with less people on the beach add up to more shells for those who get out there and go beachcombing. Keep an eye out for sea glass and shark teeth, too. 
  • Ask around: Locals and long-time vacationers know the island and have a lot of experience with the lay of the land. Don't be afraid to ask around and get first-hand insight from those who know the beaches best. 


Are you a frequent beachcomber on Topsail Island, NC? We'd love to hear your shelling tips and tricks for scoring the most seashells on our Topsail beaches.

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