OBX Beachcombing & Shell Guide

Free souvenirs from the sea! This guide provides images of shells and other items found on the beaches of Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head.

OBX Beachcombing & Shell Guide

Hand holding a scallop shell

Beachcombing is one of our favorite things to do.

Who doesn’t love free souvenirs from the sea? This guide provides images of shells and other items found on the beaches of Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head.

Where is the best place to find shells on the Outer Banks?
Weather, currents, and our shoreline are constantly changing, so you never know quite where the best shell beds will be day-to-day. If you aren’t having luck at your nearest beach access, give a different one a try! There are many public beach accesses to choose from.

When is the best time to go shelling?
Beachcombing is in-season all year round. If you’re an early riser, head to the shore for sunrise. Some great shells may have washed up overnight, plus there’s nothing quite like watching the sun rise over the Atlantic. (This is also a common time of day to spot dolphins swimming offshore!) It’s also helpful to follow the tides. Low tide is the ideal time to beachcomb, before the water rises to cover what the waves brought onto the sand.

Scotch Bonnet Shells

Scotch Bonnets

Scotch Bonnets are the official North Carolina state seashell! The shell is grown by a type of sea snail and can be 2-4 inches on the longest side. They can be shades of brown, yellow, and orange.

Quahog Shells

Ocean Quahogs

Ocean Quahog shells are hinged clam shells, but it’s rare to find the two sides still attached once they wash up on the beach. These are thick shells that tend to have a white interior with a purple rim, but some have no purple coloring at all. The oldest living animal on the planet was a quahog at 507 years old!

Broken Pieces of Quahog Shells

Broken Pieces of Ocean Quahogs

When quahog shells break up into pieces, it can expose more of the purple coloring commonly found in the deeper layers of the shell. Over time these pieces become worn and smooth. White and purple quahog pieces were used by Native Americans to create wampum beads, which were used at currency.

Cockle Shells

Atlantic Giant Cockles

Cockles are radially-ribbed hinged clam shells, but it is uncommon to find the two sides still hinged together on Outer Banks beaches. Atlantic Giant Cockles range in size from about a half inch to six inches at their widest part. They are usually off-white with brown and red markings, and their interior is commonly smooth and pink.

Scallop Shells

Scallops

Scallops are clam shells, and they can be found in a wide variety of colors on the Outer Banks. They are typically about three inches at their widest width and are radially-ribbed with “ears” sticking out slightly on either side of their base where the hinge would be. It isn’t common to find the two sides still hinged together on the beach.

Coquina Shells

Coquinas

Coquinas are small hinged clam shells that grow to be smaller than an inch. You can find these on Outer Banks beaches at the tide line with both sides still held together by the delicate hinge, which give them a butterfly-like shape. They are typically white on both sides. The interior can have tinges of purple and yellow.

Whelk Shells

Whelks

A variety of Whelks are sea snails. A variety of whelk shells can be found on Outer Banks beaches, but the knobbed whelk and lightning whelk are the most common. Lightning whelk shells have their opening on the left side, and knobbed whelks have their opening on the right side. These sprial shells can be found in a variety of sizes.

Clam Shells

Atlantic Surf Clams

Atlantic Surf Clams are hinged clam shells that are usually white, gray, yellow, and brown. They can grow to be nearly 9 inches, but it’s very rare to find them that large.

Mussel Shells

Mussels

Mussel shells are wedge-shaped, hinged, and are typically black and dark blue or purple. It’s common to find these shells still hinged on the beach at the tide line.

Ark Shells

Ark Clams

Ark Clams are thick, hinged shells with radial ridges. They can be found in a wide variety of colors on the Outer Banks, but white and gray are the most common.

Oyster Shells

Oysters

Oyster shells are usually teardrop-shaped but can be found in other more freeform shapes as well. They’re comprised of many layers depending on how old they are.

Starfish

Sea Star

Sea Stars (or starfish) found on the Outer Banks have five tapered arms, also called rays, radiating out from their body. Sea stars are a wonderful beachcombing find, but they should not be taken out of the water or picked up from the sand if at all soft or limp — they could still be alive and are very fragile animals. Once dead, sea stars are dry and stiff.

Moon Snail Shells

Shark Eye Moon Snails

Shark Eye Moon Snail shells can be 5 inches at their widest point. They are smooth, spiral-shaped, spherical shells found in a variety of color ranging from brown to blue-gray.

Two Disc Dosinia Seashells

Disk Dosinias

Disk Dosinias are white, flat hinged clam shells. They can be about 3 inches wide.

Baby's Ear Moon Snail Shells

Baby’s Ear Moon Snails

Baby’s Ear Moon Snails have thin and fragile shells. They have a flattened spiral shape that resembles…and ear! They are typically white, yellow, brown, or gray.

Razor Seashells

Razor Clams

Razor Clam shells are smooth and delicate with a hinge on their long side. They can be up to 9 inches long and resemble the shape of a straight-razor.

Sand Dollar

Sand Dollar

Sand Dollars found on Outer Banks beaches are flat discs that can be about 1 to 4 inches at their widest point, and they have a flower-like shape in the center of their body. Sand dollars are brittle, fragile, and white from sun-bleaching. If you find a sand dollar that is a darker color and has fur-like growth on it, it may still be alive and should not be handled.

Driftwood

Driftwood

Driftwood is simply worn pieces of wood that have washed up on the shore. Salt water and wave action lighten and smooth the wood over time, removing any bark.

Sea Glass

Sea Glass

Sea glass comes from glass objects that made their way into the ocean, broke up, and eroded to small smooth pieces over time. The most common colors that wash up on the Outer Banks are white, amber, and green. Learn more about Outer Banks sea glass on our blog.

Fulgurite

Fulgurite

Fulgurite is sand and sediment fused together by lightning strikes! These pieces of petrified lightning are often mistaken for concrete because of their color (often gray on the Outer Banks) and odd shapes. Although they may not look like much from the outside, they’re usually hollow, and the inside is smooth glass.

3 Skate Egg Cases

Skate & Ray Egg Cases

Skate and Egg Cases, often called “mermaid purses” are black capsules with two skinny tendrils at the top and bottom.

We’d love to see your beachcombing finds!

Tag us in your shell photos on Instagram or send them to us on Facebook.
If you’re feeling creative, we’re always sharing new shell display and DIY ideas on Pinterest.

The Sanderling Spa | Duck, NC

The Sandering Spa provides a space to unwind on the northern end of Duck, NC, offering massage, nail services, facials, hair styling, and more. Find out more about them, other activities and things to do, and additional information to enjoy your stay on the OBX at CarolinaDesigns.com.|{ “@context”: “http://schema.org”, “@type”: “LocalBusiness”, “address”: { “@type”: “PostalAddress”, “addressLocality”: “Duck”, “addressRegion”: “NC”, “postalCode”: “27949”, “streetAddress”: “1174 Duck Rd” }, “image”: “https://pages.carolinadesigns.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/03/Screen-Shot-2018-03-28-at-11.17.22-AM.png”, “aggregateRating”: { “@type”: “AggregateRating”, “ratingValue”: “4.5”, “reviewCount”: “1381” }, “name”: “Sanderling Resort”, “telephone”: “252-261-7744”, “url”: “https://www.sanderling-resort.com/spa.php”, “openingHours”: [ “Mo-Su 9:00-18:00” ] }

The Sanderling Spa

The Sanderling Spa

1461 Duck Road,
Duck, NC 27949
855-412-7866
Website

Facebook icon Instagram icon

Located across the street from the luxe Sanderling Resort, the Sanderling Spa provides a space to unwind on the northern end of Duck. This central location is easily accessible to guests staying in Pine Island, and on towards Corolla as well. Offering an extensive menu of massage, facial, and nail treatments, this tranquil spa also offers soundview rooms that overlook the water.

Aqua Spa | Duck, NC

For a truly relaxing experience, visit Aqua Spa, located above Aqua Restaurant on the south end of Duck, NC, offering massage, facials, and body treatments. Find out more about them, other activities and things to do, and additional information to enjoy your stay on the OBX at CarolinaDesigns.com.|{
“@context”: “http://schema.org”,
“@type”: “LocalBusiness”,
“address”: {
“@type”: “PostalAddress”,
“addressLocality”: “Duck”,
“addressRegion”: “NC”,
“postalCode”: “27949”,
“streetAddress”: “1174 Duck Rd”
},
“image”: “https://pages.carolinadesigns.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/03/Screen-Shot-2018-03-28-at-11.14.46-AM.png”,

“aggregateRating”: {
“@type”: “AggregateRating”,
“ratingValue”: “4.5”,
“reviewCount”: “453”
},
“name”: “Aqua Spa”,
“telephone”: “252-261-9709”,
“url”: “http://spasouterbanks.com/”,
“openingHours”: [
“Mo-Fr 9:00-17:00”,
“Sa-Su 10:00-17:00”
]
}

Aqua Spa

Aqua Spa

1174 Duck Rd,
Duck, NC 27949
252-261-97090
Website

Facebook icon Instagram icon

For a truly relaxing experience, visit Aqua Spa. The spa is located above Aqua Restaurant on the south end of Duck Village. With serene sound views, an extensive menu of offerings, and an experienced staff, Aqua is one of the most relaxing places in Duck for massages, facials, body treatments, and more. Offerings include Swedish, deep tissue, prenatal, hot stone, and Ayurvedic treatments.

Village Yoga | Duck, NC

Quality classes, a welcoming space, and great instructors combine to make Village Yoga in Duck, NC a studio that exceeds the expectations of all who visit. Find out more about this, other activities and things to do, and additional information to enjoy your stay on the OBX at CarolinaDesigns.com.|{ “@context”: “http://schema.org”, “@type”: “LocalBusiness”, “address”: { “@type”: “PostalAddress”, “addressLocality”: “Duck”, “addressRegion”: “NC”, “postalCode”: “27949”, “streetAddress”: “1240 Duck Rd” }, “image”: “https://pages.carolinadesigns.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/03/Screen-Shot-2018-03-28-at-11.09.28-AM.png”, “aggregateRating”: { “@type”: “AggregateRating”, “ratingValue”: “5”, “reviewCount”: “130” }, “name”: “Village Yoga”, “telephone”: “252-564-2219”, “url”: “https://duckvillageyoga.com/”, “openingHours”: [ “Mo-Fr 9:00-19:00”, “Sa-Su 9:00-13:00” ] }

Village Yoga

Village Yoga

1240 Duck Rd,
Duck, NC 27949
252-564-2219
Website

Facebook icon Instagram icon

Quality classes, a welcoming space, and knowledgeable instructors all combine to make Village Yoga a studio that exceeds the expectations of all who visit, from beginners to seasoned practitioners. With two spaces in the Waterfront Shops (one room is heated, the other is not), Village Yoga offers a wide array of classes for varying experience levels, from gentle beginner classes to hot power vinyasa. Loved by locals and vacationers, Village Yoga is not to be missed. They can also arrange private beach yoga classes if you want to rise with the sun and practice on the shoreline. Sounds pretty relaxing to us!

Duck Soundside Boardwalk | Duck, NC

The most distinctive, and perhaps the most beautiful feature of Duck, NC, may be the mile-long boardwalk that meanders along the edge of Currituck Sound. Find out more about this, other activities and things to do, and additional information to enjoy your stay on the OBX at CarolinaDesigns.com.

Duck Soundside Boardwalk

Duck Soundside Boardwalk

The most distinctive, and perhaps the most beautiful feature of Duck Village, may be the boardwalk on the edge of Currituck Sound. With multiple access points from the shopping district and the town center, the boardwalk runs for a mile along the waterfront and is a remarkably relaxing and appealing way to experience the beauty of the Outer Banks. The boardwalk starts on the south end at Aqua Restaurant and ends at the Waterfront Shops near Blue Point Restaurant.

Town of Duck Park | Duck, NC

No other town on the Outer Banks has done as good a job of creating a unique environment with a special feeling as the Town of Duck. The Town Hall and offices are at the center of the Town Green and Amphitheater. Visit the Town Of Duck Park during your stay on the Outer Banks.

Town of Duck Park

Town of Duck Park

1200 Duck Rd,
Duck, NC 27949
252-244-1234
Website

Facebook icon Instagram icon

No other town on the Outer Banks has done as good a job of creating a unique environment with a special feeling as the Town of Duck. The Town Hall and offices are at the center of the Town Green and Amphitheater. The setting is park-like and quite beautiful with interconnecting walking trails that lead to the multi-use paths and integrate with the shopping district to create a pedestrian-friendly town.

Throughout the summer and into the early fall, the town center features daily and evening performances, including but not limited to: weekly yoga and fitness classes, live music from local and visiting musicians, a magic show, and book readings for children throughout the summer season, shows from the Lost Colony theater actors, educators that bring animals from the local aquarium, and outdoor movies on the lawn. All events are free and open to the public, visit their website for additional information, and a schedule of events!

Nor’Banks Sailing & Watersports | Duck, NC

One of the best ways to check out the Currituck Sound in Duck, NC is by sailboat. Nor’Banks is one of the few sailing outfitters on the Outer Banks. Find out more about them, other activities and things to do, and additional information to enjoy your stay on the OBX at CarolinaDesigns.com.|{ “@context”: “http://schema.org”, “@type”: “LocalBusiness”, “address”: { “@type”: “PostalAddress”, “addressLocality”: “Duck”, “addressRegion”: “NC”, “postalCode”: “27949”, “streetAddress”: “1314 Duck Rd” }, “image”: “https://pages.carolinadesigns.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/03/Screen-Shot-2018-03-27-at-4.06.37-PM.png”, “aggregateRating”: { “@type”: “AggregateRating”, “ratingValue”: “5”, “reviewCount”: “325” }, “name”: “Nor’Banks Sailing & Watersports”, “telephone”: “252-261-2900”, “url”: “https://www.norbanks.com/”, “openingHours”: [ “Mo-Su 9:00-18:00” ] }

NorBanks Sailing and Watersports

Nor’Banks Sailing & Watersports

1314 Duck Rd,
Duck, NC 27949
252-261-2900
Website

Facebook icon Instagram icon

One of the most unique ways to check out the Currituck Sound is by sailboat. Nor’Banks Sailing, just north of the village center in Duck, is one of the few sailing outfitters on the Outer Banks and the only one on the Currituck Sound. They offer rentals, instruction, and classes, especially ideal for young sailors, and provide a wonderful water adventure for all.

North Duck Watersports | Duck, NC

Get out on the water with a trip to North Duck Watersports, a facility with something for everyone, including parasailing and jet skiing, in Duck, NC. Find out more about them, other activities and things to do, and additional information to enjoy your stay on the OBX at CarolinaDesigns.com.|{ “@context”: “http://schema.org”, “@type”: “LocalBusiness”, “address”: { “@type”: “PostalAddress”, “addressLocality”: “Duck”, “addressRegion”: “NC”, “postalCode”: “27949”, “streetAddress”: “1194 Duck Rd” }, “image”: “https://pages.carolinadesigns.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/03/Screen-Shot-2018-03-27-at-3.58.15-PM.png”, “aggregateRating”: { “@type”: “AggregateRating”, “ratingValue”: “4.7”, “reviewCount”: “73” }, “name”: “North Duck Watersports”, “telephone”: “252-261-4200”, “url”: “http://duckjetskirentals.com/”, “openingHours”: [ “Mo-Fr 9:00-17:00” ] }

North Duck Watersports

North Duck Watersports

1446 Duck Rd,
Duck, NC 27949
252-261-4200
Website

Facebook icon Instagram icon

Get out on the water with a trip to North Duck Watersports, a waterfront rental facility with something for everyone in your family. Want to take it easy? Rent a 24’ pontoon boat and explore the Currituck Sound. Looking for a bird’s-eye view of the OBX? Try parasailing, which puts you 300 feet in the air. Feel the need for speed? North Duck’s got you covered with jet ski rentals, too! Whatever your pace, North Duck is the spot for your next water adventure.

Ocean Atlantic Rentals | Duck, NC

From beach chairs and umbrellas to golf carts to baby gear, Ocean Atlantic Rental’s in Duck, NC offers rental items – so you don’t have to haul everything! Find out more about them, other activities and things to do, and additional information to enjoy your stay on the OBX at CarolinaDesigns.com.|{ “@context”: “http://schema.org”, “@type”: “LocalBusiness”, “address”: { “@type”: “PostalAddress”, “addressLocality”: “Duck”, “addressRegion”: “NC”, “postalCode”: “27949”, “streetAddress”: “1194 Duck Rd” }, “image”: “https://pages.carolinadesigns.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/03/Screen-Shot-2018-03-27-at-12.21.05-PM.png”, “aggregateRating”: { “@type”: “AggregateRating”, “ratingValue”: “4”, “reviewCount”: “16” }, “name”: “Ocean Atlantic Rentals”, “telephone”: “252-261-4346”, “url”: “https://www.oceanatlanticrentals.com/”, “openingHours”: [ “Mo-Su 9:00-17:00” ] }

Ocean Atlantic Rentals

Ocean Atlantic Rentals

1194 Duck Road,
Duck, NC 27949
252-261-4346
Website

Facebook icon Instagram icon

Carolina Designs Realty guests get 10% off select gear.

You need it, Ocean Atlantic Rental’s got it. From beach chairs and umbrellas to golf carts to baby gear (cribs, high chairs) – OAR’s extensive list of rental items gives you a break from hauling all of your gear down on vacation. They also provide your basic rental items: bikes, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, etc. As an added bonus, they can provide delivery right to your rental home, depending on where you’re staying.

Duck Village Outfitters | Duck, NC

Duck Village Outfitters in Duck, NC is a surf and rental shop that get you geared up for any adventure, with two other location is Kill Devil Hills and Salvo. Find out more about them, other activities and things to do, and additional information to enjoy your stay on the OBX at CarolinaDesigns.com.|{ “@context”: “http://schema.org”, “@type”: “LocalBusiness”, “address”: { “@type”: “PostalAddress”, “addressLocality”: “Duck”, “addressRegion”: “NC”, “postalCode”: “27949”, “streetAddress”: “1207, 4561, Duck Rd” }, “image”: “https://pages.carolinadesigns.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/03/Screen-Shot-2018-03-27-at-12.19.05-PM.png”, “aggregateRating”: { “@type”: “AggregateRating”, “ratingValue”: “4.5”, “reviewCount”: “135” }, “name”: “Duck Village Outfitters”, “telephone”: “252-261-7222”, “url”: “http://www.mydvo.com/”, “openingHours”: [ “Mo-Su 9:00-18:00” ] }

Duck Village Outfitters

Duck Village Outfitters

1207 Duck Road,
Duck, NC 27949
252-261-7222
Website

Facebook icon Instagram icon

With a location in Salvo and its namesake store in Duck, D.V.O. is a friendly surf and rental shop that get you geared up for any Outer Banks adventure. Super knowledgeable and helpful staff can help you with bike rentals, surf lessons, kayak tours, and so much more. Need some beachwear? They’ve got an extensive selection of clothing, bathing suits, board shorts, sunglasses, shoes, and so much more. D.V.O. = great people, great gear, and great rentals.