If you’re searching for the best beaches in the world to find fossilized shark teeth, you may have come across the enticingly named Shark Tooth Island in North Carolina.
With such an incredible title, you might reasonably ask if this is a place you must visit or if the name is all for show.
Shark Tooth Island in NC is one of the finest locations in the United States to find fossilized shark teeth. Enthusiasts flock to the island to sift through the rich sand deposits for fossils that can include teeth from the giant megalodon shark and occasionally Native American, civil war, and colonial-era artifacts.
So, if you’re interested in checking out this fantastic location, we will tell you everything you need to know. Read on to find out where Shark Tooth Island, NC, is, how to get there, and when to visit.
Lastly, if you were looking for one of the other Shark Tooth Islands in Virginia or Georgia, we’ll tell you a little bit about them too.
Where is Shark Tooth Island, NC?
The island is a top-rated destination for fossil hunting and, in particular, is famous for finding shark teeth.
How Do You Get To Shark Tooth Island, NC?
Shark Tooth Island is one of the smallest islands in the Cape Fear River; accordingly, you won’t find a commercial ferry boat landing there.
So, if you want to make a trip to this shark tooth-hunting hotspot, you’re left with two main options: a private boat or a kayak. Stand-up paddle boarding has also recently become popular if the conditions are calm.
All these methods give you great opportunities to enjoy the beautiful scenery and look for the abundant local wildlife, including herons, brown pelicans, egrets, and even the occasional dolphin.
If you’re unfamiliar with the area, going with a local guide is recommended due to the potentially strong currents and frequently changing weather conditions.
How To Get To Shark Tooth Island by Kayak
The shortest route to Shark Tooth Island by Kayak is found by setting off from the jetty at River Road Park in Wilmington.
From there, you can paddle the short distance across the eastern edge of the Cape Fear River and quickly arrive at the island ready to begin searching.
However, for many visitors, the journey is an essential part of the trip. If this sounds like you, besides being recommended for safety, it’s a great idea to consider one of the locally organized tours that cover more water when visiting the island.
For example, local operators, including the Wrightsville Kayak Company and Mahanaim Adventures, offer three or four-hour shark tooth kayak or paddle board tours that also visit the nearby and much larger Keg and Campbell Islands.
These are very pretty locations and well worth stopping at. However, they’re not quite as good for finding shark teeth.
Can You Get To Shark Tooth Island by Boat?
Yes, you can charter a local private boat operator who will deliver you to Sharks Tooth Island if you don’t feel like paddling for yourself. You’ll need to make sure the boat has a shallow enough draft to reach the island safely.
For example, Captain Charlie operates a 24-foot skiff boat that can comfortably carry your friends and family for a relaxing and fun shark tooth-hunting trip up the river from their home port at Carolina Beach.
Can You Reach Shark Tooth Island by Ferry Boat?
No, the island is much too small for commercial ferry boats to land, and for many visitors, that is part of the appeal.
Because Shark Tooth Island is somewhat harder to reach, it tends to be quieter and less touristy despite its excellent reputation for discovering fossil teeth.
If you want to take a ferry trip in the area, the Bald Head Island Ferry will carry you from the terminal at Deep Point across to Bald Head Island in about twenty minutes.
The beaches on the much larger Bald Head Island might not be as great as Shark Tooth Islands, but they’re still regarded as some of the best to find shark teeth in North Carolina.
The island is especially popular with scuba divers who often find megalodon teeth off the beaches.
Best Time To Visit Shark Tooth Island, NC
Shark Tooth Island isn’t particularly big. It covers about 2 acres and is described as a “kidney-shaped island approximately the size of a baseball diamond.”
The island also isn’t incredibly tall, meaning it can be mostly underwater when tides are high, particularly when the moon is full, or the river is rough.
This all means that the best time to visit Shark Tooth Island is at low tide when most of the island is accessible to search.
If you’re planning a trip without a guide, check the relevant tide tables so you’re not disappointed.
Similarly, if you want to have lunch on the island, allow enough time so you don’t get swamped as you eat.
Another of the top tips for finding shark teeth is that there will often be more to collect the day after a storm. So, if you get the chance, head out to Shark Tooth Island as soon as the rough weather has cleared.
Wear suitable footwear to protect your feet while climbing rocks and walking on shell-covered sands. You may also want swimming gear, as some of the best teeth can be found by wading off the beach and using a sifting screen.
Finally, remember to protect yourself from the sun.
Is Shark Tooth Island a Good Place To Find Shark Teeth?
Yes, Shark Tooth Island is an incredible place for finding shark teeth!
It is rated as the top location to find shark teeth in North Carolina and is even mentioned in lists of the best beaches to find shark teeth in the world.
Shark Tooth Island is such a great place because of how the island itself was formed.
In the late 1880s, the US Army Corps of Engineers extensively dredged the Cape Fear River to allow safe passage for the growing number of larger commercial barges and ships.
The tremendous amount of sand and limestone rock the dredgers collected from the riverbed was piled up and used to create a string of islands, including Sharks Tooth Island.
The sediment and rock that makes the island is estimated to be between 35 and 40 million years old, and that means it’s filled with fossils along with anything that may have ended up on the riverbed before about 1880.
With every rising tide, new artifacts are uncovered by the water or deposited on the island’s beaches for collectors to discover.
North Carolina is a famous location for finding fossilized shark teeth, including the enormous teeth from the megalodon, thanks to it having been covered by the Atlantic Ocean during prehistoric times.
As sea levels lowered and the modern land was uncovered, rivers like the Cape Fear slowly eroded the rock and released the trapped fossils inside.
When the islands were formed, a literal treasure trove was collected from a vast riverbed area and deposited to make the islands. It just happens that the spoil that made Shark Tooth Island is especially rich in shark tooth fossils.
It’s not only shark teeth that are found, though. It’s also possible to discover whale bones and other ancient fossilized remains. In addition, when it was dredged, the river bed gave up its collection of Native American, civil war, and colonial-era artifacts, which lucky explorers occasionally find.
Are There Other Shark Tooth Islands?
You’re not mistaken if you were searching for information about Shark Tooth Island and were surprised to hear us talking about North Carolina.
There are also Shark Tooth Islands in Virginia and Georgia. Let’s take a quick look.
Shark Tooth Island, VA
The first thing to know about Shark Tooth Island, Virginia, is that it’s privately owned, and you have to buy a pass in advance to visit.
You should check before you travel, as day passes are not always available.
The island at the mouth of Nomini Creek on the Potomac River is officially known as Hollis Island, and you can visit it by private boat, kayak, canoe, or jet ski.
Commercial charters are not allowed.
The beach and marshes of Shark Tooth Island, VA, are the best in the area to find Miocene-era fossils left when the prehistoric oceans covering the area receded.
Shark Tooth Island, GA
Georgia is blessed with several excellent beaches to find shark teeth, and naturally, Shark Tooth Island (aka the northern end of Bird Island) is one of them.
Like Shark Tooth Island in North Carolina, this one was man-made from spoil dredged from the riverbed in the 1800s, and it’s a fossil hunters’ paradise.
Shark Tooth Island, GA, is situated in the Savannah River near the Georgia and South Carolina border and is usually reached by taking a short boat trip from the Bull River Marina or Tybee Island.
Kayaking is not recommended here due to the strong river currents and violent wake from frequently passing ships.
Organized boat trips will usually drop you off on the island with your guide and then come and pick you up at the pre-arranged time.
You’ll need to visit at low tide for the best fossil-finding opportunities. Prepare to be flexible in your planning, as the peak tide times are later every day. High tides almost completely cover the beaches, making hunting impossible.
Getting ashore on the island usually involves wading a little in the muddy sand, so dress appropriately.
Local experts suggest focusing your efforts by looking on the sandy/rocky area by the water’s edge at low tide rather than trying to wade in the shallows and sift sand or search in the mud flats.
You may be surprised at how many shark teeth are just sitting, waiting for you to pick them up, having been left by the receding waters.
Before You Go
Shark Tooth Island, North Carolina, is one of the world’s best places to find your own fossilized shark tooth.
The artificial island was made when 40 million years old sediment and rock were dredged from the Cape Fear River during the 1880s.
This means that the beaches of the small island are packed with the remains of prehistoric sharks just waiting to be picked up.
Visitors to Shark Tooth Island have an opportunity to hunt for these rare and ancient artifacts in a beautiful environment that can be reached by small boat or, most popularly, by kayak as part of a pleasant tour of the area.
So, if you want to go shark tooth hunting, try your luck at Shark Tooth Island. Let us know how you get on.
British-born Dan has been a scuba instructor and guide in Egypt's Red Sea since 2010.
Dan loves inspiring safe, fun, and environmentally responsible diving and particularly enjoys the opportunity to dive with sharks or investigate local shipwrecks.
When not spending time underwater, Dan can usually be found biking and hiking in Sharm's desert surroundings.