Hidden Gem: Sand Dollar Island off the N.C. coast

Amber Rupinta Image
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WTVD) -- As summer winds down, there is a hidden gem on the North Carolina coast you may want to add to your list if you are trying to squeeze out one more trip to the beach.

A little-known sandbar off Morehead City, known as Sand Dollar Island, is becoming quite an attraction.

"I would tell people it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Angie Williamson who made the three-and-a-half-hour drive from Clarksville, Virginia, after hearing about the island best accessed in low tide.

Capt. Perry Barrow of Island Ferry Adventures has been visiting the sandbar for decades and now runs a ferry to the island.

"Low tide is prime time," Barrow said. "We try not to overfish the area like some people, and we encourage people not to take the live ones, they only want the white skeletal remains of a sand dollar," Barrow said. Barrow said there is a secret to finding the sand dollars.

"It's a secret," Barrow said with a laugh. "Look down!"

The sandbar is located between Shackleford Banks and the Rachel Carson Reserve, a nature preserve where wild horses still roam in Carteret County. Seeing the horses is just another part of the adventure.

No one really knows why there are so many sand dollars on and around this sandbar, but, nearly every visitor will tell you finding them is priceless.

"Because they have flowers on them," explained young Sydney Williamson. "It's like finding treasure."

Williamson cheered as she held up the three full sand dollars she found in less than an hour on the island.

Along with Island Ferry Adventures, Morehead City Ferry Service also runs a ferry to Sand Dollar Island. Both run year-round but the schedule changes because of tides and weather.