The North Carolina Aquariums: Treasure Troves of Fun!

North Carolina Aquarium Live Dive program photo by Scott Taylor for NC Aquariums
Scott Taylor photo for NC Aquariums

The North Carolina Aquariums are a treasure trove of fun for all ages! We have visited all three of the North Carolina Aquariums many times; our kids never tire of visits to the NC aquariums.  The NC Aquariums always seem new and exciting no matter how many times we have visited before.

The three North Carolina Aquariums are located conveniently at popular North Carolina beach locations along the North Carolina Coast: (1) Roanoke Island (near Manteo at the Outer Banks), (2) Pine Knoll Shores (near Atlantic Beach on the Crystal Coast), and (3) Fort Fisher (near Wilmington and Kure Beach).  The North Carolina Aquariums are state-supported public education facilities (operated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources).

The aquariums feature lots of fun activities for kids and adults, including animal feeding time, meet live animals (pet a salamander, touch a living conch, pet a starfish); dialog with a diver (ask a diver about life under the sea as the diver swims around with the sharks in the aquarium); explore the salt marsh, breakfast with the animals, coastal crafts, birthday parties, and even sleep with the fishes (groups can experience the Aquariums at night when they schedule a sleepover!) 

Our little children absolutely LOVE it when the scuba divers swimming with the sharks swim up to the glass and wave at them. (Like an underwater rock star wearing a diving suit and mask, waving at the audience.) You can sometimes take pictures of your child in front of the aquarium tank with the scuba diver on the other side of the glass still inside the tank, posing for a photo with your child.

The seahorse tank is one of our favorites, and the jelly fish are fascinating to watch, not to mention the resident octopus at the Fort Fisher Aquarium, and lots more!  The N.C. Aquariums also provide a unique backdrop for parties and special events.

N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher
(Amazing sea life right before your eyes!  Watch the sea horses and pet the starfish.  Interact with scuba divers who answer questions from the audience while swimming around with sharks, fish, skates, and other sea life!)  Located on US 421 @ 15 miles south of Wilmington, just beyond Kure Beach.  From Southport take the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry.  900 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach, NC  28449.  (866) 301-3476.

The N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
(Renovation & expanded, the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores includes wonderful features like a sunken pirate’s ship with sea life swimming all around it and much more.)  (Located five miles west of Atlantic Beach off Highway 58 in the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area.)  P.O. Box 580, 1 Roosevelt Drive, Atlantic Beach, NC 28512-0580. (866) 294-3477.

The N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island (Located at 374 Airport Road, off Highway 64 Business on the north end of Roanoke Island near Manteo.)  P.O. Box 967, 374 Airport Road, Manteo, NC  27954-0967.  (866)332-3475.

For all three of the NC Aquarium facilities, the daily hours year-round are 9am to 5pm; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. [Check for UPDATED hours/days of operation.]

Note: Members of the NC Zoo get free admission at the NC aquariums, and vice versa, (with some restrictions – check their website for more info) so bring your membership card with you when you visit the member facilities for free admission.

Visit the North Carolina Aquariums website