Charleston, SC: Find Shark Teeth and Fossils at this Island with Coastal Expeditions

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Shark teeth and fossils are plentiful on Morris Island outside of Charleston, SC and Coastal Expeditions will make it the highlight of your trip! 

Thank you to Coastal Expeditions for inviting us to go on the Morris Island adventure with them. 

The South Carolina coastline is incredibly diverse with wildlife and ecosystems and because of ancient history (think Ice Age), there are some pretty amazing fossils to be found along the coastline. And you get the chance to do just that with the adventure out to Morris Island with Coastal Expeditions

Shark teeth on Morris Island
Shark teeth that we found

About Coastal Expeditions

If you’ve read some of our Charleston content or bucket list adventures, you’ve read about Coastal Expeditions. They took us out to Bulls Island where we got to experience an otherworldly place with lots of gators. It was amazing and we haven’t stopped recommending it ever since. 

Coastal Expeditions was started in 1992 to help people experience the beauty of the Lowcountry, not just see it. Their knowledge of the environment here is completely unmatched. Our naturalists on both trips blew me away with their extensive knowledge of the lands, people, history, and wildlife. More than that, their deep love of the area is evident and it’s because of that love that they want to share their knowledge in hopes that others will come to love and respect the amazing land that is the Lowcountry. 

Getting on the boat at Shem Creek
Boarding the boat

Coastal Expeditions has a wide range of offerings to help visitors explore Charleston’s wild side from kayak rentals in Shem Creek to the excursion to Bulls Island to guided kayak tours to fossil hunting on Morris Island. You can choose adventures that are more kid-friendly or more adventurous, depending on what you and your family would like to explore. They also offer summer camps and other kid-focused activities. This tour – and any of them -are perfect for homeschoolers.

Both excursions – Bulls Island and Morris Island were kid-friendly but Morris Island was a lot less walking! 

Heading Out to Morris Island 

Our big adventure to Morris Island began at the flagship of Coastal Expeditions at Shem Creek, which is a beautiful area full of restaurants and a park that borders the creek. It’s best known for its amazing sunsets and its local population of dolphins. 

There is parking at Coastal Expeditions but be sure to get there at least 15-20 minutes early if you need extra time to find parking during busier times and use the restroom as there is no bathroom on the boat or at Morris Island. 

Shem Creek
Shem Creek

The boat we had was nice and spacious and Captain Dolph did an excellent job getting us to and from the island. As we were leaving the dock and slowly making our way out of the creek and into the harbor, we got to see some dolphins. I love dolphins and always get super excited to see them.

We also learned a crazy cool fact: these dolphins that live in the estuaries and creeks along the South Carolina coast are actually smaller than Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins and genetically different, so much so that they have been declared a new species. True story. It happened during the summer of 2023 after a decade of research led by Ana Costa, Ph.D. Their name is Tamanend’s bottlenose dolphin

Our excellent naturalist, Jackie, told us that this is just incredible because dolphins are so well-studied and to have discovered a new species is essentially unheard of. Then she said some other names in Latin of wildlife that sounded really smart. Jackie was actually amazing, which I’ll get to in a bit when we explore Morris Island. 

One other thing that we learned when heading out to Morris Island was that The Coastal Expeditions Foundation was instrumental in renourishing Crab Bank, a seabird sanctuary for resting and nesting birds, that was washed away in 2017 by Hurricane Irma. Coastal Expeditions raised funds for this effort of conservation and you can only go to this island in wintertime when the birds aren’t nesting – and search for fossils!

Morris Island Lighthouse
Morris Island Lighthouse

I have come to really appreciate the mission of Coastal Expeditions because they practice what they preach. They are so enthralled and amazed by the beauty in the Lowcountry and use that love and knowledge to share with others in hopes of continuing to preserve it for future generations. 

On your way out to Morris Island, we passed right by Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. We also got incredible views of the Harbor and Ravenel Bridge. And we saw more dolphins – it was a great trip before we even got to the island. For you history buffs, you can read about the history of Morris Island on the Coastal Expeditions website.

Hunting for Fossils

Once we made it over to Morris Island, about a 30-minute boat ride from Shem Creek, we descended onto the sand and Jackie drew a map right on the sand of the island. She gave us her expert opinions of where to search for shark teeth and fossils. But the best part of her short presentation was when she showed us what she had found in the past on the island so we knew what to look for. 

She showed us a ton of cool stuff: shark teeth obviously but also vertebrae of sharks, fossilized clams, stingray teeth, and fossilized mammal bones. The tides and waves naturally erode the beach, dredging up fossils and teeth from thousands and thousands of years ago that are buried beneath the island. That’s how you can find some really neat things and why this place is so special. 

Looking for shark teeth on Morris Island
Where are you, shark teeth?

Once we got our instructions and tips from Jackie, we were off to find some treasures. You have three hours on the island, which may seem like a lot of time but it’s not a small island and you’ll want to walk slowly as you search for treasures. 

Within a few minutes, my kids had already found a couple of shark teeth, their very first ever. It took me um, a little longer. But I eventually found some and started looking more closely at anything that resembled a shiny triangle, which, it turns out, there are many of along this beach and they are not shark teeth. But I persevered!  

The island is very peaceful, clean, and beautiful. It is uninhabited and even if there are lots of other people, it won’t feel crowded. People just do their thing and look around or hang out on the beach and get some sun. 

We ran into Jackie a little over halfway through the time we had on the island and showed her some of our finds. We walked together for a little ways and she so kindly would draw circles in the sand where she saw shark teeth so my daughters could find more. Really, I should have looked in those circles because I was terrible at finding them but I thought it was really nice she did that to help them out. 

What We Found on Morris Island 

My kids found shark teeth a lot faster than I did. They had a good eye for them. But about 30 minutes into our walk along the shoreline, I hit the jackpot. I found a huge shark tooth and nearly jumped up and down at my find. It was just the coolest thing. Jackie, in all her knowledge, said it was from the predecessor to the Megalodon shark. That’s super old. 

Shark tooth and vertabrae
Shark tooth and vertebrae

Jackie has a cool book she carries around with her where you can match your shark tooth to a picture and it will tell you where it came from. She is a great naturalist though and was easily able to identify where most of our shark teeth came from, which mostly included bull sharks and reef sharks. My one daughter found a really old one that was older than the big one I found. 

One of the things I was really hoping to find was a vertebrae. I knew it looked like a really small version of a cut up tree trunk and to my great surprise, I found two. Jackie said they likely came from a shark. 

We also found a couple larger vertebrae and a fossilized clamshell plus some really gorgeous shells. I’m not sure exactly what we are supposed to do with all these shark teeth (I will tell you that we are heading to the Nature Exchange with some of them at the Roper Mountain Science Center!) but to have them is pretty neat and a wonderful reminder of the beauty of the Charleston area. 

One other neat thing about Morris Island is the lighthouse on the island. It’s very pretty but also too far to walk to and from in order to make it back to the boat. It’s no longer in operation but it was shown in the Netflix series, The Outer Banks. So if you’re a fan of show and love fossil hunting, you will love this tour. 

Comparing Finds on Morris Island

I really enjoyed the time we spent awaiting our boat to come back and get us since that’s when a bunch of us in our group got to compare finds and Jackie could help us identify things we didn’t know, which was pretty much everything. 

Some people in our group really brought in the haul and had lots of cool shark teeth, some of which were pretty big. One lady found a piece of post-colonial pottery, which she was legally able to keep. If it had been dated before that, she would have had to surrender it as it would have been considered an artifact. We were legit living our Indiana Jones dreams right here. 

Sea turtle on Morris Island
Remains of a sea turtle on the island

Jackie also had what she thought was a bone of a Leatherback Sea Turtle. She needed to consult her “bone guy” to get it properly identified though. Even so, it was neat. If the bone was from a Leatherback Sea Turtle, she guessed it came from the one that had washed up deceased on Morris Island a little over a month ago. She had shown it to us while we were walking along and it was enormous. It’s the largest kind of sea turtle in the world and was easily longer than myself. As sad as it was to see the turtle being delivered back to the Earth, from a scientific perspective, it was fascinating. 

Tips on Visiting Morris Island 

We learned a few things on our trip that may help you when you go: 

  • Wear shoes. Shells are sharp and you really don’t want to cut yourself or have your kid cut their foot. That will be most unpleasant. 
  • Bring water, sunscreen, and bug spray. We went in April and the temperatures were perfect but it was sunny and sunscreen and water were crucial. 
  • Bring a few snacks but don’t go crazy. I totally overpacked my bag and it was really heavy the whole trip. I had three water bottles, my camera, a lot of food, sunscreen, and bug spray. I really only needed the water and a couple snacks. If you have a small and comfortable hiking backpack, that would be a great option for this trip.
  • Keep the pups at home. Dogs are not allowed on public boat trips. For private boat trips, an exception may be made.
  • Bring a sunshirt or jacket. Weather on the coast can be very unpredictable. A light jacket or sun shirt would be useful to protect yourself from the sun on the island and if the boat ride gets a little chilly. 
  • Bring a plastic bag for your treasures. A gallon-sized ziplock bag is perfect for collecting and admiring your treasures. A fanny pack to attach it to would be excellent. 
  • You’ll be walking (very slowly) for most of the time if you want to search for fossils. We pretty much walked around 2.5 hours of the three hours on the island. I could have stayed there all day but just be prepared if you have smaller kids that may not want to do that kind of activity. You don’t need to go that far on the island to find treasures though – we just wanted to explore. You can certainly find a few spots to hang out at and look around. 
  • Towels are useful. Towels can be helpful if you get a little wet during the boat ride or just want to sit on the beach and relax. Towels can also be useful if you decide you want to swim in the ocean for a bit.
  • For those with accessibility needs, they are evaluated on a trip by trip basis. Coastal Expeditions suggests giving them a call to talk about mobility and what those needs are and see if they can be accommodated.

Booking Your Morris Island Trip 

The Morris Island excursion runs from March 16 – October 15 and in total is about four hours. You can book your tickets online.

Tickets are $65/adults and $40/kids. Gratuity is not included but very much appreciated if you really enjoyed your trip. The trip begins and ends at their Shem Creek flagship location. 

For other excursions and adventures run by Coastal Expeditions, check out the Coastal Expeditions website

If your family loves adventures, trying new things off the beaten path, and making amazing memories, this is the trip for you. My daughters and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and we learned so much in the process. This is the best kind of learning! And going with Coastal Expeditions – an established company with an impeccable reputation – you know you are going to have the best experience possible.

Coastal Expeditions
514 Mill Street, Mount Pleasant, SC
Coastal Expeditions Website | Facebook 

Travel Guide to Charleston, South Carolina

Looking to make a longer trip? Here’s our Charleston, SC Visitor Guide… things to do, where to eat, and where to stay.

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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