A few weeks before we were scheduled to go to the Outer Banks for vacation, my sister sent me a news story about a mile-long island made of shells that appeared this year at the tip of Cape Hatteras, in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. We grew up shelling on Florida beaches and we have a special sisterly bond over searching for our favorite shells, whether perfect scallops or shapely corals or holey whelks. We could spend hours searching the sands. So of course we were going.


I was searching on Instagram for posts about the island, and came across some stunning drone footage on the Twitter account @loflandcody. The two brothers of Cygy Media normally film cars in Richmond, Virginia, but while in the Outer Banks they put their drone to work. They were kind enough to let me borrow their footage for use here.

How to get to Shelly Island

Shelly Island is at the southern tip of Hatteras Island, near the lighthouse. To get there drive from Buxton down the road toward the lighthouse, and follow it until the end. Look for Ramp 44, which leads to the point. If you plan to drive out to the point, you will need a beach driving permit (available   ) and four wheel drive vehicle. If you don’t have a 4×4, you can park by Ramp 44 and walk to the point, but it’s not a very pleasant walk, what with all the trucks driving along the same mile-long beach.

To get to Shelly Island, from the point, you’ll need to cross a shallow channel. Time your crossing for low tide to avoid the strong currents that come with high tide. If you’re going with children, be sure they wear life vests. The channel and currents change with the weather, tides, and currents.

Please note: Islands like this can change quickly due to weather and currents. This information may be totally irrelevant by the time you read it.