Shell Island in Edisto Beach, SC

Shell seeking is one of the most beloved activities vacationers take part in every summer on Edisto Beach, but there’s one place on the island that is a must-see for any seashell lover.

Shell Island is the nickname given to a sandbar island just across from Jeremy’s Inlet. This area can be seen by walking down the section of the beach in front of the beach campground of the South Carolina State Park. During low tide, it seems possible to walk across the inlet and onto the island, but the currents are very strong and the tide changes quickly making it possible to get stranded on the island.

A better way to get to the island is to call Edisto native Captain Ron Elliott at (843) 869-1937. Capt. Ron will take shell seekers out on a boat and leave them on the island for about two hours. Once on the island, visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of shells scattered on the island.

Many of the shells are bleached from years of direct sunlight that shines down and whitens the sand of the island. Several shells are in excellent condition making it possible to bring home some natural souvenirs from an Edisto vacation.

Shells on the island include the butterfly-shaped Angelwings, slender Wentletraps, spiny Apple murexes, scalloped calicos and cockles, Atlantic Jacknives, Slippersnails, Surfcalms, and Wing Oysters, Banded Tulips, Whelks, Channeled Duckclams, Wentletraps, and more.

It’s also possible to find hermit crabs scuttling about over shells and in the sand, but they generally prefer to be left alone.

Other treasures on Shell Island include sharks teeth, horseshoe crab shells, sun-bleached driftwood, sand dollars, starfish, sea glass, and fossils. Loggerhead turtle nests also dot the land, but are not to be disturbed.

Although it is possible to swim in the water off Shell Island, the undertow is slightly stronger than the undertow off of front beach, so swimmers are urged to take safety measures before entering the water. It’s also likely that small sand sharks are in the water (along with dolphin, turtles, jellyfish, and a host of other sea creatures) so always be on the lookout.

No trip to Edisto is complete without a visit to Shell Island at least once to see all the hidden treasures of the area.

GETTING TO CAPTAIN RON’S: Once an appointment has been made to go to Shell Island, visitors can get to Capt. Ron’s by taking Botany Bay Road past the AME church and follow the road until it dead ends. A sign for his eco-tours will be visible from the road.

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  1. The best part of a trip to Shell island is the time spent with Captain Ron. Very knowledgeable old friend and local Edisto guy that has a number of interesting lifestyles from living in a tepee to playing scratch golf (many years ago) A real fine gentleman whose heart beats in time with the nature rhythms of Edisto

  2. We will be visiting Edisto on the weekend of Feb. 26th 2011. We are hoping to get a ride to Shell Island that Saturday or Sunday Morning. We have a group of 8-9 ladies. Can you take us?

    Theresa Hall

  3. captin ron
    I will be in Edisto on July 24-28with my husband,my children and grandchildren there will be 24 in all, i would love to take them all to sea shell island, by any chance do you offer group rates? if si could you e-mail my so i could book a tour with you.

    thank you and God bless,

    yours truley

    jeaneen fine

  4. Will be visiting Edisto July 12 – 19th. Would like to visit shell island with my family. 6 adults and one child. Please advise costs and dates available. Thanks Much.

  5. Would you please guide the ferry fees for the trip back & forth of the seashell island please? And the schdule if possible as well.

  6. How much is the tour?

    We have a 3 year old and 7 year old- Are children permitted to go?

    What time of the day is the best time to go (first pick of the day)

  7. Captain Ron,
    My daughter and I would like to bring my 8 year old granddaughter to Edisto on Thursday, July 7th to go to Shell Island. Could you take us on your boat and can you give me prices and directions to get there?

    Thanks in advance,
    Lesa Stone

  8. Ron, I know you could not possibly remember but, you took me and my ex-husband Randy Barber out to shell island around 1990. We met you at a little boat landing next to a house somewhere down Botany Bay Road, I believe. You took us and dropped us off on one island and told us that for the very best shells we should quickly walk across that island and cross the next inlet onto another island which of course we did. You told us we would only have about an hour there because we would have to cross back over the inlet before the tide came back in. We found tons of beautiful shells. When we got back to the inlet we had several piles to sort through. We picked our favorite shells to fill our one bucket limit and crossed back over the rising inlet. Then we quickly walked back across the first island to meet back up with you at the first inlet. To this day, that is one of my very favorite memories. Can you tell me the names of those islands or the names of those inlets? I would love to visit again one day.
    Thanks for the wonderful memory, Sonja

  9. I tried calling Captain Ron when we were in Edisto last week & just got his voice mail. I left him a message & told him that we were interested in a shelling tour & he never returned my call 🙁

  10. We were down there in July of 2011 and he told us that he COULD NOT take us out there, that we had to go down to otter island (if i recall that was the name)……what a JOKE! Shell island is AWESOME! hope it gets worked out that they will allow Capt Ron to go back.

  11. We did this trip about 3 years ago. 4 adults and 3 kids. The cost was about $80. The boat ride was literally 3 minutes there and 3 minutes back!!! My advice would be to walk to the island thru the State Park. (I own a boat. I know gas and wear/tear can be expensive, but the prices are rediculous)

  12. To my great disappointment, we tried to rent canoes from Capt. Ron to paddle out to Shell Island this past Labor Day wknd 2011, but he no longer offers this service. He now works out of another location at some plantation north of Botany Bay. 🙁

  13. Our sons, ages 27 and 21, still talk about going to Shell Island when they were younger. We lived in Newberry at the time, and every time we went to Edisto, they wanted to go to Shell Island! great memories. Lucinda Watson

  14. Captain Ron:
    My husband and I will be there Oct. 8 thru Oct.15, 2011. We are
    both retired (myself recently)….. We love Edisto, but have never been to shell island. How much are your fees? How do we locate you?
    Excited to get there,
    Sandy Burnett

  15. Capt. Ron,
    Just wanted to thank you for making our vacation so wonderful. Our family went out with you on Oct. 9th, 2011. We have been out with you several times before. You are what makes our trips to Edisto so fun, and the shells are incredible. We look so forward to our visit with you each year. Keep in touch! Thanks and see you soon!

    Sharon Winstead, Martha Hall, Karen Reynolds, Brenda Garrett & Tommy Garrett

  16. We visited shell island a couple of years ago. Even the teenagers were in awe! If you havent been there you are missing out on not only collecting the most awesome finds but its absolutley beautiful!

  17. My family visited Edisto Island a few years ago and would love to return to do some shelling. We saw your newsletter when we googled “Shelling Edisto.” We are interested in the boat trip which was mentioned. Could you send us information on the prices and other details. We will be in the area this upcoming weekend…(May 24-26)

    Thank you!

    I would love to take my four little grandchildren who simply love the beach and shelling!

  18. Wondering is this is the island that has numerous sand dollars and artillery shells on it? We went several years ago and are returning in the fall and would like to visit again

  19. I tried to take my family on a trip to shell island recently only to find this Captain Ron person no longer runs the landing at the end of Botany Bay Road. Captain Mike however does, and he took us out for a great day on shell island. The place is now called Wilkinson’s Landing. 843-609-7102. We made our reservations online wilkinsonslanding.com. We never got to go out with Captain Ron, but Captain Mike was great!

  20. You can walk from the State Park beach. If not staying there you will have to pay to enter and park your car. That is as close as you can get other than by boat. The other end is a private gated area you cannot drive through and the middle is all salt marsh. The walk is about 1 1/4 miles one way and takes about 30 minutes at a moderate pace. If you walk down along the waters edge where the sand is hard it is an easy walk but up in the soft sand at high tide it can be tough.
    I would leave about an hour or more before low tide.  When you get there people will already be looking and picking up the best shells.  About an hour or so before low tide you will be walking through about knee deep water to get on the island but at true low tide you can cross in ankle deep water.
    Make sure you take something you can carry heavy shells in like a big bag with a shoulder strap, sunblock and a bottle of half frozen water.

  21. I almost forgot. Be sure to take some type of beach shoe; crocs, flip flops or water shoes. There are a lot of places on the island that are nothing but shells.

  22. WORST ADVICE EVER! Don’t listen to this Bob guy. I took my wife on this trek to shell island and it was a complete disaster. He must be a power walker to make this trip in 30 minutes. Took us closer to an hour an a half one way!  We finally get to to this inlet that’s “knee deep” and its more like a raging river. She’s still mad at me over the whole thing.

  23. @Stan I made this walk on three separate days.  I’ll bet you did not look at the tide charts because the water can be ankle deep at true low tide and at high tide the island is under water.  I am not a power walker but I did say it was a mile and a quarter one way and as I said before walking in the soft sand is tough.  You have to walk at the waters edge on the hard sand.
    If you have not looked at the tide charts to plan your trip you are wasting your time.  What I said is true, just because you can’t plan and have trouble walking don’t blame it on me.

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