Calling all Ocean Isle Beach seashell lovers—this blog post is especially for you! Shelling and beachcombing are popular pastimes for visitors, vacationers and residents alike. They are family-friendly activities for all ages that won’t cost you a dime. If you’re planning your next North Carolina beach vacation, then be sure to bookmark this page and save this free Ocean Isle Beach Seashell Scavenger Hunt that you can download, print or just reference while you’re here. Make it an individual goal or work together as a family to find as many as you can, and learn more about each of these North Carolina shells as you go. Enjoy!
Ocean Isle Beach Shell Identification Guide
Here is some helpful information to assist you in identifying some of the most common NC seashells that you may stumble upon during your beachcombing adventures, while also learning some fun facts about them all at the same time. This information and more can be found on the OceanIsleBeach.comwebsite. Don’t forget to download and/or print the NC Seashell Scavenger Hunt at the bottom of this page.
Atlantic Bay Scallop & Calico Scallop
The shell of an Atlantic Bay Scallop is broadly fan shaped with more than 14 radial ribs. It usually has a mottled pattern incorporating dark gray, black, or brown with orange, red, or yellow hues. The Calico Scallop grows up to 3 inches in maximum width. The stripes are often more pronounced and the colors feature pinks, reds, purples, oranges, and browns.
Atlantic JackknifeClam or Razor Clam
The Atlantic Jackknife Clam shell is most noted for its length. It is primarily a silver, grayish color and is shaped like a straight razor. Also known as a Razor Clam, it gets its name from the rim of the shell being extremely sharp. Be careful when picking this one up!
The Banded Tulip shell is a smooth, gracefully shaped beauty with a moderately thin shell. Colors range from pearly gray with splotches of olive green or tan. It may also have dark brown bands in parallel lines around the shell, and can be from 2 to 4 inches in length.
You’ve probably seen these little cuties on the beach that resemble butterfly wings when open. Generally less than 2.5 cm (1 inch) in length, the Coquina Clam is characterized by its smooth surface and its dual shell. They can range in color from orange, to brown, to purple, or pink with banded white or cream stripes.
Keyhole Sand Dollar
Although technically not a “shell”, we are including the Sand Dollar here. This round sea urchin is tan to light brown and ranges in size from 5 to 6 inches. It has five slots that look like keyholes, hence the name. Remember that when it is found in the water and feels “fuzzy”, it is still alive and should be left alone. Those washed up on the shore that are no longer living can be collected.
The Lettered Olive shell can be about 6 cm (2.5 inches) long with a maximum size reaching 9.1 cm in length. It is a smooth, shiny, cylindrical shaped shell with a short spire. The shell coloration can vary from cream to a grayish exterior with reddish-brown zig-zag markings.
The Lightning Whelk has a grayish-white or tannish-white shell with uneven purple or brown streaks. This shell can also be easily recognized by its left-handed spiral. It can range in size from 4 to 16 inches long.
The carnivorous creature that left behind this seashell consumed three-to-four small clams per day. Whoa! A Moon Snail shell measures 2 to 3.5 inches, has four or five whorls, and is typically lead gray with a glossy finish.
Saw Tooth Pen Shell
Look for this Saw Tooth Pen Shell on Ocean Isle Beach after a winter storm. It’s thin and fragile, so be gentle when handling it. It has a 6- to 10-inch shell that’s smooth overall with some ridging and is colored a deep, smoky brown or gray.
The Scotch Bonnet is the state shell of North Carolina. The creamy white-colored shell has yellowish brown squares and 20 spiral grooves on the body. It ranges in size from 1.5 to 4 inches. TheQueen Helmetis a giant version of the Scotch Bonnet that can be as big as 10 inches with a rich chocolate brown interior. The lip, also called the shield, is large and contains 10 “teeth”.
The Soft-Shell Clam is found living approximately 6-10 inches (15-25 cm) under the surface of the mud. These shells are very thin and easily broken, hence the name “soft shells.” They can be white, cream, brown, gold, or gray in color.
FREE Ocean Isle Beach Seashell Scavenger Hunt
Save, download, and/or print and bring this along with you on your next Ocean Isle Beach, NC vacation. Have fun and let us know what you find. 🐚
The Beachcomber’s Companion
One more thing! If you’re looking for a more complete NC seashell identification guide, we recommend you pick up a copy ofThe Beachcomber’s Companion.
You can buy it locally during your Ocean Isle Beach vacation here:
Island Arts & Books
6885 Beach Drive SW Unit 3
Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469
WHO’S READY TO GO SHELLING?
You might want to read this, too. ⤵