4 Reasons Why the Offseason is the Best Time for Shelling


One of the perks of owning a home on the Outer Banks is year round access to the beach. While the crowds tend to stay away from the sand in the fall and winter, one intrepid group that flocks to the beach during that time is the shell collector. The best collectors know that the shoulder and off-season are the peak times to go shelling on the Outer Banks.

There are certain treasures that people always hope to find while combing the shores. These include common shells like Sand Dollars and Whelks, to more rare specimens like the Scotch Bonnet and Olive Shells. But no matter what your target is, your chances of finding that treasure are greatly increased in the fall and winter.

Here are four reasons why the offseason is the best time to go shelling on the Outer Banks.

Less Traffic

This can mean less people or literally less cars depending on the beach you are on. Either way, both lead to better shelling.

Your odds of making a terrific find increase if there are fewer chances of someone else finding it first. During prime shelling hours, you will want to be out hunting early to beat other collectors.

Many of the best shelling areas on the Outer Banks are also four wheel drive beaches where SUV’s travel on the sand. In the winter, there are far less automobiles which means diminished chances of shells being destroyed by tires.


Hurricanes and Nor’Easters are common in the fall and winter. They are also known to be the catalyst for the best shelling sessions. But please, wait until the storm is over before heading out.

The intense wave action that occurs during storms churns up a lot of shells from the ocean floor and moves them closer to shore. After the storm subsides, the tides then slowly move the treasures into accessible areas for discovery.

It is possible to find whelks scattered up and down the beach after bad weather has left the area. On the four wheel drive beaches this allows for “Drive-By-Shelling” where you can explore large areas and sometimes not even leave your vehicle to pick up your shell. Many people swear that the best time to go shelling is on the first incoming tide a day after a storm ends.

More Variety

Storms can dredge up shells that usually reside in much deeper water than those normally found on the beach. They can also bring shells from warmer waters to the shores of the Outer Banks. Any southern facing beach can feel the effect of the Gulf and Labrador Currents. On those beaches it is possible to find Florida Fighting Conchs, Spiny Murexes, and Pear Whelks.

More than Just Shells

There are a multitude of treasures you can find while on a shelling expedition that are not shells. These include driftwood, beach glass, and starfish.

Since Hurricane Joaquin glanced the Outer Banks in October, people have been reporting finding pieces of shipwrecks, Spanish Coins and even fossilized Megalodon teeth along the coast.

No matter what your target item is during a shelling expedition, your chances of success are greatly increased during the offseason. Even if you are unsuccessful, at least you got to spend a few peaceful hours in a beautiful setting. Isn’t that what living at the beach is all about?

For more information on the Outer Banks, please check out our blog.


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