The beaches of South Carolina attract millions of tourists every year. Thirty million years ago, things looked very different. Where humans now splash in the waves, mega sharks once swam in their hundreds.
Not only did those sharks thrive, but they also chewed their way through thousands of teeth, many of which now litter the beaches just waiting for someone like you to discover them.
Sharks constantly shed old teeth and grow new ones throughout their lifetime. Within a shark’s mouth, there can be up to five rows of teeth at any one time, and a single shark can get through 50,000 teeth before reaching the end of its days.
That’s a lot of shark teeth, especially as the world’s shark population is currently estimated to be around one billion!
It’s no wonder South Carolina is a popular shark tooth hunting destination. However, you can find shark teeth in some weird and wonderful places, including gravel roads and inland creek beds.
Some of the best places to look for shark teeth are situated along South Carolina’s 2,876 miles of tidal coastline.
Keep reading to find out which beaches are most likely to yield an exciting fossilized find.
10 Best Beaches to Find Shark Teeth in South Carolina
#1 Folly Beach
There are around 40 different species of the modern-day shark lurking in the warm waters off Folly Beach, although the chances of finding fresh, white teeth from today’s sharks are much slimmer than those of discovering a blackened, fossilized specimen from one of the long-extinct mega sharks.
If you head towards the southern end of the beach beyond Folly Beach Pier, you’re liable to hit shark tooth heaven, especially if you head out in the early morning when the tide is low.
Hunting shark teeth just after an off-shore storm increases your chances of finding something really special, like a great white tooth or even the fossilized tooth of a megalodon shark.
Rather than bringing new teeth onto the shore, an off-shore storm exposes those that are already there, but have been hidden under layers of sand, says Bryan Frazier of the SC Department of Natural Resources.
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In addition to larger teeth, you’re liable to find a host of smaller teeth belonging to species like sand tiger and reef sharks, many of which still frequent the coastal waters of Folly Island.
Once you’ve completed your search, use this handy identification guide to figure out to who your fossil teeth once belonged.
#2 Morris Island
This uninhabited island is situated at the outer reaches of Charleston Harbor and is accessible only by boat.
Fortunately, it only takes around 20 minutes to get there with one of the local charter companies.
Once there, there are so many shark teeth, that it shouldn’t take you long to find what you’re looking for.
Morris Island is a great place to find shark teeth, especially if you head towards the island’s northern end. Look for the cliffs that have been carved out of the old sand dunes and concentrate your search there.
This is one of the hotspots of shark teeth fossils so you stand a good chance of finding fossilized shark teeth from various species, both modern and extinct.
Morris Island is one of the most tranquil beaches in South Carolina, giving you a more relaxed atmosphere in which to unearth your prized megalodon teeth.
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If sand dollars and unusual shells appeal as much as shark teeth, stop off by the historic Morris Island lighthouse on your way back and scout around there for a bit before hopping on the boat back to the mainland.
#3 Edisto Beach State Park
This section of the South Carolina coast is geologically unique, combining fossilized remains from three different eras.
At Edisto Beach State Park, you can hunt for shark teeth from the Miocene, Holocene, and Pleistocene eras all at the same time and could even uncover some ancient land vertebrate specimens during the hunt.
Wet sand makes shark teeth hunting easier and more rewarding, so head towards the tide line but stay far enough back that you don’t risk losing your treasures to the waves.
Most shark teeth on Edisto beach state park are found along the South Edisto inlet, where they are often easily visible, lying on top of the sand and glinting in the sunlight.
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While you’re unlikely to find any megalodon teeth, you stand an excellent chance of going home with a handful of smaller teeth.
These most commonly belong to extant species like hammerheads, tiger sharks, and sand sharks.
#4 Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach is one of the most popular vacation spots along the South Carolina coast. It’s so popular that it’s almost too crowded during the summer season to hunt for sharks’ teeth.
Despite that, the whole Grand Strand area is well-known as a shark tooth hunting destination.
Central Myrtle Beach is one of the best places for finding shark teeth, although North Myrtle Beach has also yielded some incredible finds, including highly coveted megalodon teeth and those of more common species, like bull sharks and lemon sharks.
While it’s usually better to hunt shark teeth at low tide, on Myrtle Beach some seasoned shark teeth hunters say they’ve had more success when the tide is rolling in.
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Early morning, before the crowds descend, is also a good time to find shark’s teeth, especially if it coincides with an incoming tide.
The best places to look for shark teeth on Myrtle Beach include creeks and tidal pools, shell beds and piles, and areas where there’s been recent dredging or beach regeneration.
#5 Pawleys Island
Situated 25 miles south of Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island is better known for its “hammocks and cheese,” but once you’re suitably rested and full of pimento cheese, why not while away a few hours hunting shark teeth?
There are lots of shark teeth to be found on Pawleys Island but most of them are close to the inlet at the northern end so you’re better off parking at Pawleys Island Nature Reserve than at the southern parking lot.
When exploring this section of the beach, look out for shell debris and deposits, where many shark teeth tend to collect. Sift through these piles carefully, looking out for black teeth that glint in the sun.
Pawleys Beach has a wide variety of shark teeth, many of them belonging to smaller shark species, but it’s also a great spot for finding fossil teeth belonging to the great white.
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Averaging 1.5 to 2.5 inches long, great white teeth are triangular with coarse serrations along the edges. They’re surprisingly fragile, however, so be sure to handle them carefully.
#6 Kiawah Island
Another barrier island on the Atlantic Coast, Kiawah boasts one of the best beaches in the world. Visitors are attracted by its natural beauty and championship golf courses, but there’s a lot more to this sea island than that.
To access a private beach on the eastern side of Kiawah, you need a resident’s or visitor’s permit, but Beachwalker County Park on the western side is open to the public.
This is the best place to head to in search of shark teeth.
Not only are you likely to find fossilized shark teeth, but you could be lucky enough to discover a fresh, white one from one of the modern-day species that frequent the South Carolina coastline.
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Bonnetheads, Atlantic sharp noses, and black tips are all spotted fairly regularly, so are some likely candidates for dedicated tooth seekers.
#7 Cherry Grove Beach
Tucked away at the northern end of Myrtle Beach, Cherry Grove Beach is something of a hidden treasure.
One of the best beaches in the US, it’s celebrated as a family-oriented destination where sun, sea, and shark teeth are all on offer.
Not only do sharks inhabit the waters just off the coast, but the beach is full of all sorts of different types of shark teeth.
Close to Cherry Grove Pier you’ll a gently sloping beach that’s ideal for finding shark teeth.
Look around for rock piles between the pier and the Inlet Pointe Villas and you’re almost guaranteed to find teeth. Visitors find shark teeth in abundance, with at least one megalodon tooth being unearthed every year.
A good time to fossil hunt along Cherry Grove Beach is as the tides pull out, exposing more sand and if you’re lucky, a shark’s tooth or two.
#8 Sullivan’s Island
Close to the entrance of Charleston Harbor, the sea island of Sullivan is known for its unspoiled and non-commercialized beaches. However, it gets busy in the summer, so it’s better to head there in spring when the water’s colder.
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Finding shark teeth here is more of a challenge than on Folly Beach but, if you stand in the surf and watch the waves, you might well catch a flash of black as a shark’s tooth spins by.
This technique is only really effective when you’ve got around five seconds between each wave, otherwise, the teeth are washed back out to sea before you have a chance to grab them.
Standing in the surf like this is the best place to find a large shark tooth, like one from the great whites that are often spotted off the South Carolina coast.
#9 Isle of Palms
Less than 20 minutes from Charleston SC, the Isle of Palms has six miles of white, sandy beaches for you to explore.
It doesn’t get particularly busy, but early morning is still the best time for a fossil hunt.
It takes a bit of time to train your eye to look for blackened teeth but, once you’ve found your first one, you’ll find subsequent teeth much easier to identify.
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You could always cheat a little by buying a shark tooth from one of the local souvenir shops and using that to practice.
Drop it onto the sand and study it for a while, and suddenly other shark teeth might jump out at you!
#10 Burke’s Beach
Far from the madding crowd, Burke’s Beach is a great place to relax, explore, and search for shark teeth.
You won’t find so many dedicated tooth seekers here, but the lack of competition might be just what you need.
Many shark teeth are found further inland along the rivers and streams, so feel free to expand your search, just bear in mind that there may be local regulations that prohibit certain activities, such as diving or digging for shark teeth.
For example, if you want to dive for shark teeth off Burke’s Beach, or any other part of the South Carolina coast, you need either a hobby or commercial permit.
These can be obtained from the South Carolina Institute for Archeology and Anthropology.
Why Are There So Many Shark Teeth in South Carolina?
South Carolina is a hotspot for both modern-day and ancient sharks, largely thanks to its warm waters.
With so many sharks around, there are bound to be just as many teeth, which is why the beaches, rivers, and creeks of South Carolina harbor so many teeth.
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Geologically, South Carolina is also a fertile environment, featuring fossil-bearing formations from several different epochs.
That means you’re likely to find megalodon teeth from the Miocene epoch alongside the tooth of an extinct Mako shark from the Oligocene era.
The gently sloping coastline makes shark teeth relatively easy to find, while beach renourishment projects stir up sediment from the bottom of the ocean, making new teeth visible all the time.
What Types of Shark Teeth can You Find in South Carolina?
According to the experts, “Great white shark teeth are fairly common along Coastal South Carolina.”
These usually date back to the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs, but, being fragile, are often found broken or cracked.
Other common shark teeth include smaller specimens from common species like lemon sharks, bull sharks, and reef sharks.
Folly Beach is arguably the best place to go hunting shark teeth in South Carolina, but it’s not the only place to find shark teeth.
Various beaches and barrier islands along the Atlantic Coast make for excellent shark teeth hunting, even if they’re not widely acknowledged as shark tooth hotspots.
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Gently sloping beaches and clear waters increase your chances of finding a shark tooth, but only if you are patient and persistent.
Finding the first one is often the hardest. Once you’ve lost your shark tooth virginity, other specimens will seem to magically appear before you, making your shark tooth hunt all the more rewarding.
Better still, once you’re happy with your findings, you can sit back, soak up the sun, and enjoy the pristine beaches South Carolina’s so famous for.
Nicky is a British adventurer and animal lover who spends her time exploring the natural world and writing about her experiences. Whether on horseback, underwater, running, hiking or just standing with a fishing rod in hand, she embraces everything her adopted home of South Africa has to offer.