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Winter is here and it is tempting to stay inside during the cold weather. There are plenty of places to get out though during the winter and keep warm at the same time. One of the places that I really enjoy to go visit is aquariums. Aquariums are perfect to visit no matter the season because of being climate controlled and no matter how many times I go (even to the same aquariums) there is always something different to see and do. As someone that has both scuba and snorkeled many places in the Caribbean, Mexico and abroad visiting an aquarium gives me a quick underwater fix.
There are four North Carolina Aquarium locations and even though I do not live in North Carolina I find myself in North Carolina quite a bit. North Carolina Aquariums are located on Roanoke Island (OBX), at Fort Fisher (Kure Beach near Wilmington, Nc), Pine Knoll Shores (Beaufort and Atlantic Beach area) and Jeanette’s Pier (OBX). All of the locations are in areas that also, have plenty of other things to do and see around them. It is easy to make a day trip, weekend getaway or week long vacation around visiting one of these aquariums.
North Carolina Aquarium-Roanoke Island
Out of the four North Carolina Aquariums I visit the Roanoke Island location the most because my husband and I visit the Outer Banks of Nc frequently. One of my favorite things about this location is the beautiful views of the Albemarle sound from the pier going out behind the aquarium. During certain times this location even has opportunities to fish and learn about crabbing from this pier.
I also, like the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center at the aquarium. Typically the area where the sea turtles are rehabilitating in can even be seen or walked through. Another cool feature of this aquarium is an interactive area that replicates what veterinarian and rehabilitation workers go through to help the turtles rehabilitate. I think this area is especially cool for children as it allows a hands on look at how rehabilitation efforts are done.
The interactive rehabilitation exhibit starts with picking out a (plastic) turtle from a bin and then taking it to different stations to find out what is wrong with it and to learn about how a turtle with that particular ailment would be rehabilitated. Hopefully an activity like this will encourage young minds to become curious about sea turtle rehabilitation and helping sea creatures. Sea turtles are one of my favorite sea animals because they are so majestic. Being able to see one up close can be very memorable.
This aquarium also, offers a touch tank which always seems to be a favorite of visitors. This Sea Senses area allows touching of stingrays and invertebrates. Like the sea turtle rehabilitation area I hope that allowing people to see sea creatures up close they are more likely to want to preserve and care about the ocean.
The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island has many beautiful exhibits of fish and an area with reptiles as well. One of the neatest exhibits unique to this location is the replica of the S.S. Monitor. This replica is submerged inside the shark tank and is very thought provoking to look at. For history buffs and lovers alike the Ironclad Sanctuary is a must see. The aquariums offers information on the history of the S.S. Monitor as well as other ships and wrecks in the Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibit.
From being able to get up close to sea turtles, seeing a replica of the S.S. Monitor and all the well designed fish displays the Roanoke Island location has a lot to offer. The Roanoke Island and the Outer Banks area in general has many things to do, some of which I featured in another travel post.
North Carolina Aquarium-Pine Knoll Shores
Another location for the North Carolina Aquarium is at Pine Knoll Shore. This location also, has a very unique feature which is a replica of the U-352 German submarine. This submarine is very special because it is the first U-boat sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard. There is information about this submarine outside the display. This tank is very interesting to watch and often has divers inside to answer questions. I like that this tank has nurse, sand tiger and sandbar sharks along with other fish and a green sea turtle.
In addition this aquarium also, has an area dedicated to loggerhead sea turtles and their journey. Seeing hatchlings that are being rehabilitated at the aquarium is a really cool experience. This exhibit also, offered information about helping efforts to save loggerhead turtles and to prevent pollution on our beaches. Plastic straws and plastic pollutants are especially deadly to these fragile creatures.
The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is a close drive to Atlantic Beach, Fort Macon, Beaufort and Emerald Isle. If you have never been to this area of North Carolina I highly suggest a trip. It is an area of North Carolina I find myself going back to again and again.
North Carolina Aquarium-Fort Fisher
The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fishers is in the Kure Beach area of North Carolina close to Wilmington. My favorite exhibit at this location is modeled off the Cape Fear Shoal and can be seen behind me in the picture above. I also, like that this aquarium location has both an upper and lower level. This North Carolina Aquarium location has a white alligator that was fascinating to see too. Luna, the white alligator is located inside the Cape Fear Conservatory exhibit along with snakes and other reptiles.
The jelly fish exhibit at the North Carolina Aquarium Fort Fisher is one of my favorites as well. This exhibit is well lit and it is easy to capture detailed photos of the jellyfish even with a cellphone camera. I personally like using pictures of jellyfish as my background on my tablet and Apple Watch. Jellyfish always looks so peaceful and they remind me of my love of the water.
North Carolina Aquarium-Jennette’s Pier (Nags Head, NC)
The North Carolina Aquarium at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina is really a unique and interesting site to check out when visiting the Outer Banks. The original pier was built in 1939 and had to be rebuilt in 2011 after a hurricane. The 1000 feet long concrete fishing pier offers numerous informative signs talking about the rich history of the pier and fishing in the Outer Banks.
Inside the building at the pier there are a couple of tanks with fish on display and information about them. A walk on the pier is only $2 for adults and $1 for children (free to North Carolina Aquarium members with card). Even if you’re not interested in visiting the pier to fish it is worth it for the views. The pier also, has a North Carolina Aquarium gift shop with some items themed for Jennette’s Pier. I personally love their vintage pier post cards.
Fishing from the pier is $14 for adults and $7 for children and includes a one day admission. Other options are available for multiple days and annual passes. A NC fishing license isn’t required in addition to this fee to fish from the pier as the fee covers a person for the paid period (on the pier only). Information on different types of fish that can be caught as well as citation information can be obtained from the visitor’s desk.
One of the coolest features of this North Carolina Aquarium location is the public beach access and free parking! Jennette’s Pier also, offers Summer Camps and learning experiences for schools (including free programs for Title 1 schools) and children. In addition the pier has is a beautiful rentable venue for events, special occasions and weddings.
Do your part to help save the ocean! 🦈🦦🐬🐳🐠🐢
In conclusion each of the North Carolina Aquarium locations is different and offer their own unique exhibits. Each location also, has its own gift shop with a nice collection of souvenirs, jewelry, books and plush animals. I am a big fan of the aquarium’s adopt a sea creature/animal program allowing guests to donate money towards specific sea creatures and symbolically adopting the animal. The aquarium has different donation levels and I think it can make the perfect gift for an animal lover.
One thing all the North Carolina Aquariums have in common is the commitment to preserving our oceans for generations to come. I highly recommend visiting any of these locations if you get a chance as well as becoming an Aquarium Society member. My husband and I decided to become members of the North Carolina Aquarium Society a couple of years ago and we have enjoyed all of the benefits that come with the membership. The work the North Carolina Aquarium does to rehabilitate and foster sea creatures and animals is very noteworthy and commendable.
I appreciate that the North Carolina aquariums contribute a lot of their resources to conservation and research. Plastic is causing many issues for ocean life. We can all do our part to reduce, recycle and reuse! Considering buying a reusable straw or skipping one all together. Each little part can add up to something big. I personally carry one of these straws on my wallet and use it almost everyday.
Save a sea turtle….say NO to plastic straws❤️🐢
I want to do what I can to protect the ocean for generations to come. Saying no to plastic straws has become a personal motto of mine. I’ve seen first hand how many pieces of trash and plastic wash up on our beaches and float in the water. I’m always picking up trash on the beach and wish people would be more mindful. Please do your part to keep our oceans clean and our animals healthy.