Trip Tips: Where is Shelly Island?

March 13, 2018 Posted by: Mike Barber
Where is Shelly Island?

The sandbar commonly known as “Shelly Island,” which first appeared off Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Seashore) in the spring of 2017, did not make it into the new year.

It is not completely surprising that the sandbar existed for less than a year. Due to the dynamic nature of the area off Hatteras Island, sandbars appear and disappear frequently. The only surprise is just how quickly a sandbar the size of Shelly Island (approximately 27 acres at its largest size) disappeared. Several severe weather events during the summer and fall of 2017 may have played a part in Shelly Island’s demise.

Photo of Shelly Island in July 2017.A portion of Shelly Island in July 2017 (NPS Photo)

Most visitors to the sandbar formerly known as Shelly Island accessed it via Cape Point, which can be reached by driving or walking down off-road vehicle (ORV) ramp 44 in Buxton, North Carolina. Cape Point is an incredibly beautiful area of the park, visited year round by anglers and shellers, and during part of the year by nesting shorebirds and sea turtles.

Although ORV access to Cape Point has remained open since July 27, 2016, this is not typical, and both ORV users and pedestrians looking to enjoy the Cape Point area should be aware that there may be periods of time when access to the Point is temporarily restricted. While Cape Point may not be accessible, there are likely to be at least 20 miles of ORV-accessible beaches and dozens of miles of walkable beaches open throughout the Seashore. Many locations throughout the Seashore have excellent beach structure that attract fish species, such as red drum and bluefish, and accumulate beautiful shells on both Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.

Rest assured that in the event there are wildlife closures along any stretch of beach within the Seashore, National Park Service staff will monitor wildlife activity, so that areas can be reopened to the public as soon as possible.

With 67 miles of seashore, you will always be able to find a place to enjoy your favorite recreational activity. If you need help finding out the status of any areas within the park, go to our Facebook page where a handy beach access table is posted daily from May through September (Facebook account not required), or call us at 252-473-2111.

If you plan on driving an ORV during your visit, your permit purchase won’t be complete until you watch our brand new ORV safety video. Many thanks to the Outer Banks Preservation Association, North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, and Cape Hatteras Anglers Club, for their valuable input during the filming of this informative video.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Point, Shelly Island

Last updated: March 13, 2018

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Cape Hatteras National Seashore
1401 National Park Drive

Manteo, NC 27954


252 473-2111

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