Off-Season on the Outer Banks: What Treasures Will You Discover?

The summer crowds are gone, and with wide open beaches, the off-season is a great time to visit the OBX and search the shore for ocean treasures and oddities.


Well, obviously you’ll see lots of sand, but did you know that most of these tiny particles travel a long way to get here? They’re transported by rivers all the way from the mountains. The sand here on the Outer Banks is made up mostly of quartz, feldspar, and shells. It’s shifted around by waves and ocean currents, constantly changing the shoreline. 


Searching for that perfect seashell souvenir is a great way to spend a walk on the beach. Here on the Outer Banks, it’s common to find clams, oysters and small scallop shells in an array of bright colors. Whelks, moon shells and the elusive scotch bonnet (the State shell of North Carolina) are always a fun find for any beachcomber. Craft your seashell finds into the perfect Outer Banks vacation memento or gift.

You might also see evidence of other creatures on the beach, like the molts of horseshoe crabs, animal bones, skate egg cases and sea stars, just to name a few.


In fall and winter, water temperatures around the Outer Banks can drop quickly. Sea turtles caught in the cold water may experience cold-stunning, a condition which often causes them to strand on shore because they’re unable to swim. Be sure to call the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles at (252) 441-8622 if you see a sea turtle in need of help.

Dolphins, whales and seals, oh my! These animals are common visitors to our waters, but if you spot any of them on the beach, the best thing you can do to help them is notify the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at (252) 455-9654.

Sea glass

Many would say the ultimate beach find is a frosty piece of sea glass! Being tumbled by the waves turns broken glass into polished perfection. It’s been said the best time to find sea glass and other beachcombing treasures is two hours before or after high tide. Turn your treasure into a beautiful piece of jewelry or collect enough to add to a nice frame.  



This next one you may have seen but walked by simply because it looks like a rock. A fulgurite forms when lightning hits sand. When sand is dry, lightning can melt the sand into hollow tubes. If the sand is wet, like what you’d find on the beach near the breaking waves, fulgurites appear in various strange formations. Keep an eye out next time for these unique geological finds! For safety, always stay indoors when you hear thunder. When a lightning storm comes through, you don’t want to be the tallest thing on the beach.

Marine debris

While looking for beach treasures, it’s likely you’ll find some trash, too. Whether the marine debris was left intentionally or arrived in its sandy resting place accidentally, it never hurts to remove it from the shore. Properly disposing of debris will help keep our beaches beautiful and prevent any potential harm to wildlife that calls the Outer Banks home.




Want to see more? Our friends at Jennette’s Pier put together this great video, perfect for your next virtual fieldtrip!


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