Shelling on Topsail Island: How to Find the Best and Most Beautiful Seashells

Collecting seashells is popular for beachgoers, and Topsail Island remains a great place to find them. Whether you’re a seasoned shell collector or a beginner, these tips will help you make the most of your shelling adventures.

Hunting for shells is a beach activity that anyone can do, and everyone will love. It requires no special equipment, doesn’t cost a thing, and provides new excitement every time you embark on a shelling adventure.

So where are the best shelling spots on Topsail Island? Where should you go to find the most shells? What else do you need to know before you hit the sand? The good news is that any ocean-facing beach is a beautiful place to find seashells, so you’re already off to a good start just by being in Topsail, NC.

Take seashell hunting to the next level by checking out these Topsail shelling tips.

1. Check the tide level and beach conditions.

Before heading out, check the weather conditions and tide schedule. Low tide is still the best time for shelling, as it provides more beach area to search and reveals what high tide left behind. After storms, keep an eye out for newly washed-up shells. You can easily access the Topsail Island Tide Chart to know when you should be out on the sand searching for treasures.

  • Go shelling near low tide. The hour on both sides of low tide is the best time for finding shells, with more beach space available to search and the best opportunity to see what high tide left behind.
  • Scour the beach for shells after storms. After storms, especially those with strong easterly winds, many seashells are churned up and brought ashore. Shells wash ashore most frequently after major winter and tropical storms in summer and fall. The volume and variety of shells washed ashore after storms can be astounding. Immediately after a storm, the beach may be clean, but in a few days, seashells often begin to wash ashore on gentler waves. Stay vigilant!
  • Know the daily Topsail tide schedule. You can check this Topsail Island Tide Chart to know when you should be out on the sand searching for shells.

2. Go shelling as early and as often as you can.

As with any endeavor, you want to make sure you get the best results. Shelling can be a lesson in patience and endurance, but rest assured that the payoff is well worth your time and effort.

  • Get out on the beach early. You know how the saying goes: The early bird gets worm. Well the same applies to sea shells. Get out there early to avoid the crowds and up your odds of finding coastal treasures. You also want to get out there before others have had the opportunity to give the beach a once over. You’ll have less competition and a better chance of finding the good ones.
  • Be ready to go at the prime shelling times. Use that Topsail tide chart we referenced earlier to your advantage and be prepared to be on the beach on those hours that flank low tide. As the waters recede, you’ll be right where you need to be. Keep a close watch both on the sand and in the shallow waters for shells and other visible (sometimes buried) treasures.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Shelling requires dedication and a sharp eye.  Get out there as often as you can to increase your odds of finding the best and the most seashells. Don’t be dismayed if you don’t find anything your first time out. Shelling does involve time and chance—as well as being at the right place at the right time. The more you’re out there the better your chances will be!

3. Visit Topsail’s best shelling spots.

While opinions vary, there are a few shelling hot spots on Topsail Island where seashells are plentiful. Look for shells in tidal pools, near piers, and at the island’s extreme ends. These places often have less traffic and offer better conditions for finding shells..

  • In tidal pools. When the tide recedes, those little pools of water on the beach are a fantastic place to find hidden treasures. Take notice of them on your search for shells, and be bold and put your hands in there (and get a bit wet and sandy) to see what you might find.
  • Near the piers. Some locals and vacationers have had great shelling success near the piers (three are on Topsail Island—one in each town). Check around the pilings and under the pier to see what you might discover. The docks are busy, so try to go before the fishing crowds arrive for the best chance of success.
  • At the extreme ends of the Topsail Island.  You want to check out the northernmost tip of Topsail Island and the southern end of this island (known as The Point), where there are fewer people in general and good conditions to find those coveted seashells.

4. Know your North Carolina shells.

Brushing up on your North Carolina seashell identification skills is still a good idea. Knowing what to look for and what you might find before you head out on the beach can help you identify shells more quickly. Some of the most popular NC shells include auger shells, conch shells, sand dollars, and tulip shells. The ncshellclub.com website is still an excellent resource for shell identification.

Here are some of the most popular NC shells that you might come across in your seashell hunt.

  • Auger Shells
  • Conch Shells
  • Coquina Clam Shells
  • Lightning and Channeled Whelks
  • Moon Snail Shells
  • Oyster Shells
  • Pen Shells
  • Sand Dollars
  • Scallop Shells
  • Scotch Bonnets
  • Slipper Shells
  • Tulip Shells

We also recommend you spend some time on this website, ncshellclub.com, if you want to brush up on your shell identification. It provides information, professional photographs, scientific names, and more! It has all the information you need to learn about the most common North Carolina shells and how to identify them. It’s an incredible resource you’ll want to bookmark on your browser and return to after you’ve gone shell collecting to determine what you’ve found if you don’t already know.

Pop Quiz: Do you know what the state shell of North Carolina is? It’s the Scotch Bonnet! It’s a beautiful shell, and you will be fortunate if you find one. It’s a cherished treasure, for sure.

5. Keep an eye out for shark teeth.

Shark teeth are still a common find on Topsail Island. Keep an eye out for bull shark teeth, tiger shark teeth, and sand shark teeth. Tom’s Teeth on Facebook is an excellent resource for learning more about shark teeth.

The most common shark teeth finds on Topsail Island are:

  • Bull Shark Teeth
  • Tiger Shark Teeth
  • Sand Shark Teeth

6. Don’t forget about sea glass hunting.

Sea glass is still a beautiful and unique find on Topsail Island. Keep your eyes open for different sea glass colors while walking on the sand. Island Girl Glass is a great website to learn about local sea glass and its location.

If you’re in search of ready-made sea glass treasures to take home with you, check out these local Topsail businesses that sell sea glass jewelry.

7. Stay in an oceanfront Topsail rental.

Staying in an oceanfront Topsail beach vacation rental still provides the most convenient and direct access to the beach for shelling, shark teeth, and sea glass hunting. Choose a rental that suits your needs and preferences, and make the most of your Topsail beach vacation.

Peruse our favorite Topsail Island, NC, oceanfront and oceanside vacation rentals right here.

Topsail Island remains a treasure trove of seashells, shark teeth, and sea glass for beach lovers and shell collectors. Following these tips will increase your chances of finding the best shells and other coastal treasures.

The best way to ensure you have the most convenient and direct access to the beach is by staying in an oceanfront Topsail Island rental. Whether you’re planning a family vacation or a romantic getaway, many rental options are available to suit your needs and preferences. So why not book a Topsail Island rental today and start your shelling adventure right at your doorstep?

Happy shelling, and enjoy your stay on Topsail Island! And don’t forget to search for the perfect rental using the keyword “Topsail Island rentals” to make your trip even more special.

Let us know if we can help you find the perfect fit for you and your family. Happy Shelling!

When is your next Topsail shelling adventure? We’d love to see your best Topsail Island seashell finds. Drop us a picture in our comment section!