Your Topsail Island Shelling Guide
Posted On Thursday, July 16, 2015
Let's go shelling! It's a beach-time favorite that requires little to nothing in the way of equipment and preparation—and best of all, it's free. Shelling is a family-friendly activity for all ages and a must-do for your Topsail Island beach vacation. Topsail has some really great shelling spots, since it's a barrier island set off from the mainland of North Carolina and has both an ocean and sound side. Grab a bag or bucket, a small shovel if you choose, and start out on your Topsail Island seashell adventure.
We've compiled a handy Topsail Island shelling guide for you with pictures and a short description of some of the most popular shells found here on our island. It's a great way to preview what you might find on your seashell excursion and also a great shell identification guide for after you've picked up a few.
Take a look at some of our Topsail Island treasures! Happy Shelling!
This grayish white shell has subtle purplish-brown streaks and a distinctive left-handed spiral. It ranges in size from 4-16 inches. There are many types of whelks that can be found on our shoreline. Keep an eye out for another popular favorite, the channeled whelk
The moon snail shell typically has a glossy finish and smooth, polished look. It measures 2-3.5 inches and usually has four whorls. The carnivorous creature that once inhabited this shell is a mighty specimen indeed. It can consume 4-5 small clams a day and has the ability to drill a neat, beveled hole in the shells of other mollusks and slurp up the soft tissue within them. (You might want to make sure your shell is empty when you're collecting.)
The ever-popular oyster shell is pretty common and easy to recognize. The shell is usually bumpy gray or tan on the exterior with a smooth, shiny, opalescent interior. Be careful not to step on these barefoot, as they can be pretty sharp.
The scallop is another very common shell found on the beaches of Topsail Island. They come in many shapes and sizes, as well as with many different markings. They are easily identifiable by their fan-like shape.
Finding a whole, intact conch shell can be somewhat of a challenge. You might get lucky and stumble upon a few after a storm, but they often have small holes or pieces missing. You never know, you could uncover an unblemished treasure, though. It's worth the search!
After the snail-like auger leaves its shell, it's a great find to add to your North Carolina shell collection. The auger shell can sometimes be re-inhabited by hermit crabs, so be sure to take a peak inside. The auger gets its name from its drill-bit or screw-like appearance and comes in a variety of sizes, colors and patterns.
The coquina clam shells come in a variety of colors from white to purple to red. They are the shells that you see on the beach that are often times still attached in the center, making them look like butterfly wings. They are delicate, but if you're careful with your handling, you can keep them attached and transport them home that way.
The Keyhole Sand Dollar is a not a shell but a round sea urchin that is tan to light brown (sometimes it even has a greenish tint to it) with five slots that look like keyholes. It usually ranges in size from 5-6 inches, but smaller ones are also common. Don't be fooled: Those bright white sand dollars you see are that way after they've been cleaned up and sun bleached. They are much less visible than you think, as they are often camouflaged in the sand.
Last but certainly not least, we have the North Carolina state shell the Scotch Bonnet. The creamy colored shell has yellowish-brown squares in rows and 20 spiral grooves on its body. It ranges in size from 1.5-4 inches. The shell resembles a traditional Scottish woolen cap, hence the name Scotch Bonnet, partly in honor of early Scottish settlers. The Scotch Bonnets wash up on our shores and along the Outer Banks, just north of us but are rarely found elsewhere in the state.
We hope this shelling guide has helped you to learn a little more about the seashells that awash on our beautiful Topsail Island shoreline and help you identify what coastal treasures you've found.
What's your favorite Topsail Island seashell find? We'd love to hear about your shelling adventures!
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