Walking on the beach is a great way to get some exercise, soak up some Vitamin D, and spend time near the beautiful ocean. We’ve come up with a fun way to enhance that beach walk with a scavenger hunt! You can try to get them all in one walk, in a year, or even in a lifetime, it’s up to you. It’s just a fun excuse to scout for some interesting beach sightings.
1. Spot a Sandpiper
Sandpipers are shorebirds that wade in the shallows of the tide. They have long bodies and legs, and narrow wings. Most species have a narrow bill, but otherwise, the form and length are quite variable. They are small to medium-sized birds and they are most often seen in large groups.
2. Find a Scotch Bonnet
The Scotch bonnet is the official state shell of North Carolina. The shell’s inhabitant is a member of the helmet family, marine snails whose shells are characterized by short spires, large body whorls, and thickened outer lips. The scotch bonnet is distinguished by its pattern of small orange squares, which give it a plaid appearance (hence its name). The shell usually reaches 3 to 3½ inches in length when fully grown.
3. Snag a Piece of Sea Glass
Sea glass is weathered glass found on beaches along bodies of saltwater. These weathering processes produce natural frosted glass. Sea glass takes 20 to 40 years, and sometimes as much as 100 to 200 years, to acquire its characteristic texture and shape. Naturally produced sea glass originates as pieces of glass from broken bottles, broken tableware, or even shipwrecks, which are rolled and tumbled in the ocean for years until all of their edges are rounded off, and the slickness of the glass has been worn to a frosted appearance. Learn more on how to find sea glass with this guide.
4. Catch a Glimpse of a Crab
If you catch it at the right time you might be able to see a crab popping out of a hole and skittering across the sand, but you better get a good look quickly because ghost or sand crabs (the most often found on North Carolina coastlines) are swift runners, darting away at the slightest sign of danger. Ghost crabs dig deep burrows near the intertidal zone of open sandy beaches. The burrows are usually composed of a long shaft with a chamber at the end, occasionally with a second entrance shaft. They are semi-terrestrial and breathe oxygen from the air through moistened gills. They must periodically wet their gills with seawater, usually by taking water from moist sand or by running into the surf and letting the waves wash over them. However, they can only remain underwater for a limited amount of time, as they will drown. This is most often when you’ll catch a quick peek at a crab.
5. See the Sunrise
The North Carolina Coast gets some spectacular sunrises. In summer you’ll have to get up a little before 6 am to see this sensational show of lights, but in the winter you can see the sunrise as late as 7:15 am! But trust us, it’s worth the early wake-up call.
6. See a School of Dolphins
If you see everyone on the beach stop what they’re doing and stare at the horizon there’s probably a school of dolphins jumping in and out of the water. Typically you’ll just see their dorsal fins popping up and down on the surface of the water, but sometimes you’ll see them jump! It’s no secret that dolphins love to play, so when they jump, it’s just to have fun! For dolphins, playing and jumping keep their senses sharp. Dolphins communicate through sounds and movement, so they will use jumping to communicate with a mate or with another pod as they can hear and interpret the splashes. Some scientists believe that dolphins jump while traveling to save energy since going through the air consumes less energy than going through the water, but that has yet to be proven.
7. Pick Up a Sand Dollar
Even the most seasoned beachcomber is excited and pleased to find a whole, intact sand dollar on the beach. On a good day at most North Carolina Beaches, you might find many sand dollars ranging in size from one to approximately four inches in diameter. Sand dollars live on sandy or muddy flat areas of the ocean floor in shallow water near land. Just make sure that if you find a sand dollar that is brownish and covered with short, dark, fur-like spines, the animal is alive and should not be removed from the beach. Read more about these sea creatures here.
8. Watch a Pelican Dive for Food
The coastal bird engulfs fish as they plunge into the water from over 60 feet up—all while avoiding injury, they are supreme hunters. Brown Pelicans, what’s typically found on North Carolina’s coast, open their bill and expands their pouch, trapping small fish inside. Then the bird pops to the surface, spills out the water, and gulps down dinner. Pelicans are well equipped for this food dive, they have air sacs beneath the skin on their breasts act like cushions. Also, while diving, a pelican rotates its body ever so slightly to the left. This rotation helps avoid injury to the esophagus and trachea, which are located on the right side of the bird’s neck.
9. Find a Shark’s Tooth
Sharks have 4 rows of teeth and lose hundreds of them daily. When the lost teeth sink to the bottom of the ocean and become buried in sediment. Most shark’s teeth range in size from less than a half-inch to over six inches. Rarer finds such as a tooth from a prehistoric Megladon are over 7 inches. On average the tooth of a great white shark is about 3 inches. Along the tideline of a beach, keep an eye out for triangular shapes. Newer teeth are still white, black teeth—which are more common finds—have been fossilized over time. Get More Tips Here.
10. See a Good Sunset
This one is easy to accomplish, but it’s one of the more spectacular things to see. And the best part? There’s one every day!