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11 Aug 2021
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Environment & Nature


How to Find Sea Glass - Guide & Tips

Looking for beautiful sea glass washed up on the beach is one of the many fun things to do on the Outer Banks and makes a unique souvenir to remember your seaside vacationThe simplest definition for sea glass is glass that comes from the sea, but there’s a bit more to it. Sometimes glassware is dumped or thrown in the ocean. After it has undergone a series of tosses in the waves, it becomes smoother to the touch and sports a new, frosted appearance. This doesn’t happen overnight. Actually, it can take up to 10 years for glass thrown in the ocean to become official sea glass. It can wash up in a variety of colors, depending on the original color of the glass. This creates a unique look that can be the perfect gift or purchase when visiting the Outer Banks! The combination of color, texture, shape, and size will make your pieces unequivocally yours! In this article, we’ll discuss where and how to look for sea glass, how it compares to beach glass, and what can be done with it after you find some. 

Where to Look for Sea Glass

Where to look for sea glass.

You should always try and look for sea glass on “dirty” beaches in the Outer Banks. This doesn’t mean ones with trash and other pollution, for you won’t find many in the area. Instead, we’re talking about beaches with coarse sand and lots of shells, as opposed to beaches with smooth sand and little to no shells. The Outer Banks is made up of miles of barrier islands, separated by three inlets. This helps distinguish the different beaches and shells you may encounter.

The Best Time to Search for Sea Glass

Best time to look for sea glass

It’s always best to search for sea glass where there are plenty of shell beds. Shell beds are collections of shells washed up after low tide and after storms. Be sure to keep this in mind when trying to find the right time to start beachcombing! In addition to searching after low tide and storms, you may also want to venture out in the early mornings. This way, you’ll have a leg up on the competition -- other sea glass seekers! 

Tips for Finding Sea Glass

Tips for finding sea glass

Here are some more tips to ensure your Outer Banks sea glass searches are as fruitful as possible:

1. Watch Where You Walk

It’s important to look a few feet ahead of where you’re walking, instead of keeping your eyes fixated on the sand around your feet. This way, the sharp colors and shine of the glass will catch your eye and you’ll know where to start sifting.

2. Look for Variety

Instead of getting caught up in the different hues of pink and purple in sea shell beds, try and train your eyes to look for all kinds of different shades. The shading and colors of sea glass have no limits, so being perceptive to all will yield the best results.

3. Face Away From the Sun

Try to keep your back to the sun when walking and searching. By doing so, you’ll prevent your eyes from straining, as they would when facing direct sunlight, and you’ll be more likely to catch all the glass in your path.

Sea Glass vs Beach Glass

Sea glass vs beach glass

If you’ve ever heard of beach glass, know that it’s not synonymous with sea glass. Beach glass is formed from freshwater, primarily around the Great Lakes. Sea glass will have a frostier appearance, likely due to the salt in the water. While sea glass is smoother than the original glass from which it’s formed, it’s still not as smooth as beach glass. Sea glass is a bit more pitted by sand and wave erosion.

Also, sea glass may take up to 10 years to form, but beach glass can take anywhere from 30-50 years before it fully forms and washes back up on the shores of the Great Lakes! While you don’t have to worry about stumbling across beach glass on the Outer Banks, we still want to make you aware of the difference. That way, if anyone asks or defines either incorrectly, you can chime in with your supreme sea glass expertise!

What Can You Do with Sea Glass?

What to do with sea glass

After you collect a good amount of sea glass in the Outer Banks, there are endless possibilities of things you can do/make with it. Some opt to simply leave it in jars, for the accumulation can take on a stunning, kaleidoscope-like appearance! If you’d rather be a bit more creative, you can make a colorful picture frame, glass top, or windowpane from your pieces.

If you prefer to show off your sea glass treasures to as many people and as much as possible, you can make sea glass jewelry and carry it with you every day. There are ways to drill sea glass to suspend it from bracelets or necklaces -- which is very carefully! However, this ruins the intrinsic value and too much can go awry if you don’t have the right drilling equipment or technique. For these reasons, we recommend wire-wrapping your sea glass, instead. Just make sure you wrap it well, so it doesn’t fall out when you’re on the go!

Given the large following of sea glass collectors, you can also find many other craft ideas online for your Outer Banks sea glass. 

Secure Your Spot to Search for Sea Glass

Search for sea glass

So how do you ensure you’re in the best places for finding sea glass on the Outer Banks? You surely wouldn’t want to drive for a day trip -- you’d fall behind all the early morning beachcombers! Your best bet is to secure one of the many fantastic vacation rental properties offered by Seaside Vacations. We’ll put you in a lovely home within arm’s reach of the beach (if you prefer) and set you up to be the newest sea glass connoisseur! You can browse our available properties here.

Hopefully, we’ll see you soon on an Outer Banks beach scouring bundles of beautiful sea glass!