FOLKLORE HAS IT that Blackbeard buried his treasure on the island of Ocracoke, and once in a while some zealous devotee goes hunting for a treasure chest of gold. They are not likely to find buried fortune but there is most certainly treasure to be found on the barrier islands of North Carolina. The treasure I speak of can only be found by those who relish in the joy of beach combing.

The beaches along our shores are home to some of the best beach combing the South east has to offer. These gifts from the sea can be found year-round but after an early-spring storm, or during hurricane season are particularly good times for shelling, especially if the wind was blowing from the east. Low tide would prove to be the best time to beach comb because the water has receded and most of the beach is accessible. And remember, tides are their lowest during full and new moons so these are also exceptionally good times to try your luck at pursuing some beach bounty.

They can come from just a few feet out or from hundreds of miles away. They could be relatively new or thousands of years old. Most of these treasures are naturally occurring like seashells and driftwood, but from time to time you will find man-made items such as the much sought after sea glass or pieces of old shipwrecks.

Collectors say some of the best beaches for finding shells along the Crystal Coast are Cape Lookout National Seashore and Shackleford Banks. Both are particularly great for treasure hunting due to their seclusion and limited foot traffic so shells last longer. These beaches offer many different types of shells and there is lots of beach to be explored. Cape Lookout National Seashore is an especially great source for locating beautiful pieces of driftwood.

Some of the most popular seashells around these parts are the Banded Tulip, Channeled Whelk, Keyhole Sand Dollar, Lightning Whelk, Moon Snail, Saw-Toothed Pen Shell and Scotch Bonnet. The Scotch Bonnet is North Carolina’s state shell and was made official in 1965 in part to honor early Scottish settlers. According to, the Scotch Bonnet was so named in 1778 because of its resemblance to the caps worn by Scottish peasants and because the color pattern resembles a Scottish plaid or tartan. Additionally, North Carolina was the first state to adopt a seashell symbol and now thirteen other states also voice claim to state shells.

Beach combing is a relaxing past time and a wonderful activity the entire family can enjoy. So next time you are strolling down the beach, don’t forget all the wonderful treasures that could be resting at your feet!

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