Hilton Head Island gives beachcombers both front- and back-door approaches to collecting shells, sharks’ teeth and other fossils. The “front door” would be the 11 miles of Atlantic Ocean beach on the island on which one can find literally tons of shells and sharks teeth. The “back door” would be around the bridges and along the shores of creeks and marshes, which are great places to find fossils from prehistoric sea creatures.
Either way, the best times for your searches are about an hour before low tide.
Sharks’ teeth aren’t the teeth themselves, but fossils of the teeth. Thousands of years ago, these teeth came from ancestors of the sharks we see today, dropped to the ocean floor and were buried by sediment. Over thousands of years, the minerals in the sediment gradually replaced the original tooth material. Fossilized shark teeth are different colors, depending on the sediment in which they were buried. Most are black and dark grey, while some are brown or tan. Teeth from living sharks are white and rarely are seen on the beach.
Shells on Hilton Head Island
There are hundreds of types of shells. The state shell is the olive, a small, smooth shell with a pointed end and a zigzag design that resembled script called letter olive. You’ll also find arks and augers, cockles and moon shells and turkey and angel wings.
Where to Look
Try Skull Creek where the old swing bridge crossed onto Hilton Head. You can get there from the Pinckney Island boat landing. Sand bars at low tide are also great places to look but be aware of the incoming tide. You can get stranded in a hurry and the shore gets farther away as the tide comes in.
What to Look For
For sharks’ teeth, look for triangular shapes an inch to 3 inches long. To find whelks and other large shells intact, investigate parts of shells you see poking up from the sand. Do a little digging and you might find buried treasure.
Knowing what to look for and where to look is really all you need to know to find beautiful specimens of the sea on Hilton Head Island. Good luck and please share any pictures of your finds!