If you’re in search of seashells and you’re on the Grand Strand, you’ve definitely come to the right place. Our 60-mile stretch of Carolina coastline is a great spot to do some beachcombing and — if you’re lucky and/or know what to look for — find a variety of ocean treasures along the way. (And even if you don’t take home any souvenirs from the deep, are there many better ways to enjoy a beautiful day than with a walk on the beach?)
Among the seashell varieties found on our local beaches, here are some of the most common and sought-after:
Lettered Olive: Sometimes reaching lengths of up to 3 inches, this former home to a large predatory sea snail was named the South Carolina state shell in the early 1980s. Usually cylindrical in shape and characterized by a short spire and brown markings, this shell is typically shiny and smooth and can be found in relative abundance up and down the South Carolina coast. See an example here.
Whelk Shells: Often mistaken for conch shells, these spiral-structured shells also serve as homes to predatory ocean snails and can vary greatly in size — from under an inch in length on the small end to over 2 feet in length on the larger end. Visit this website to see an example of these beautiful shells and to learn more about the mollusks that inhabit them.
Atlantic Moon Snail Shells: Another snail shell (noticing a trend here yet?), the Atlantic Moon’s smooth, spherical, grey to tan shell is more akin to the snail shells we’re used to seeing on land, looks-wise. Learn more about this shell and its ocean-dwelling inhabitant here.
Heart Cockles: Shaped like a heart when both the top and bottom are still intact and viewed from the side, these hinged and ribbed shells are the former homes to a common edible mollusk that can be found along sandy, sheltered beaches throughout the world. They’re usually soft pastel and beige in color and can reach lengths of up to 5 inches. See an example here.
Calico Scallops: With a ribbed look similar to that of the cockles outlined above, these mollusk shells feature signature brown/maroon/red splotches on a cream-colored background. The shells grow up to 3 inches in width, and can be identified by the “ears” found near the hinge, which are common to all scallops. See an example of a Calico Scallop here.
Sand Dollars: Another common beach find is the sand dollar, which is the hard skeleton of a flattened sea urchin that burrows into and lives beneath the sands near the shore. They’re circular in shape, with a star-like shape seemingly “stamped” on one side. Signs that they’re still alive are that living sand dollars aren’t white, but are instead a purple-ish color, and living sand dollars are covered in tiny flexible bristles called cilia. The non-living ones are gray in color and are motionless — and should be thoroughly rinsed and soaked in bleach water to be kept as souvenirs. See examples of live and dead sand dollars here.
While these seashells (and many more) can be found up and down the Grand Strand’s coastline, some of the best spots for finding them include stretches of shoreline that are less traversed, like Myrtle Beach State Park, Huntington Beach State Park and Pawleys Island. Another pro tip: The best time for finding seashells is when the tide is either low or going out, and your treasure-hunting chances can be further improved after a full moon or big storm, as the stronger tides during these times tend to bring in more shells.
And should you come up empty-handed in your searches through the local sands, there are plenty of beach souvenir shops in the Myrtle Beach area where you can purchase some great specimens. Among the most popular are Shell World and Gay Dolphin.
After your stroll through the local sands in search of seaside showpieces, head back to your comfortable oceanfront accommodations at The Cottages at North Beach Plantation to relax with our wide range of amenities while resting up for another day of exploring the Myrtle Beach area. Book your Grand Strand getaway today — and get ready for some good times on the Carolina coast!