The secret’s out! A new island has appeared off the coast of North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The mile-long sandbar, dubbed “Shelly Island” for its plethora of seashells and colorful pebbles, has been forming and growing since late spring. Apparently it’s the perfect spot to collect seashells. Both residents and tourists are starting to take notice.
The new island appeared in the ocean along the state’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It was spotted by eagle-eyed locals on the ground — and photographed by Chad Koczera — the sandbar has grown from tiny isle to large land mass. Cape Point is a constantly changing spit of sand of about 100 acres. Sometimes the tip (Cape Point) points south and sometimes it points north. The land shrinks and expands depending on currents and storms. The same forces likely formed the "Shelly Island". Shelly Island could shrink or even disappear by next year, or it could expand and connect to the point. Cape Point is open later in the season than it has been in years. It typically closes in the spring when birds and turtles begin nesting. Accessibility also is better than years past. A new bypass road allows traffic to rumble behind the dunes to the point (Cape Point) rather than try to make it across the narrow beach that nearly disappears at high tide. New rules fully implemented last year shrunk buffers around the nests, permitting drivers easier entry. Plus, National Park Service crews raised beach ramps 49 and 44 to reduce flooding that made the sandy routes impassable last year. The new ramp 48 opens the way to the beach south of Cape Point. With all the improvements, getting around bird and turtle nests is not so much trouble anymore.
People should not try to walk or swim across in the current around Cape Point to "Shelly Island". Travel to the sandbar is best accomplished by experienced kayakers or paddleboarders that are using appropriate floatation and mindful of the strong currents in the area. Visitors are now braving the waters to explore this new addition to the shoreline! PLEASE NOTE: Getting there is not without danger. The ocean breaks one way on the east shore of the point and in the opposite direction on the southern shore. A flow as powerful as a rip current and about 50 yards wide rushes between the point and the new island. There could be even more hazards. Hooks from decades of fishing could be lying on the bottom. Sharks up to 5 feet long and stingrays as large as the hood of a truck have been spotted prowling beneath the surface.