The North Carolina Aquarium is an ocean lover’s dream with three locations around the state, plus a fishing pier. The mission of the Aquarium is not just to educate visitors through exhibits, but also to improve the sustainability and health of marine animals, both in their facilities and in the wild. Guests have the chance to check out these initiatives up close and maybe even join in on the action!
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NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island - Manteo
Located in the Outer Banks’ town of Manteo, this location of the NC Aquarium is home to the largest group of sharks in the state – who you can go swimming with (if you’re open water certified). If sharks aren’t your thing, they have lots of other experiences and tours to try including Breakfast with the Rays, Happy Otter Hour and several different behind-the-scenes tours. Regular exhibits include Delicate Drifters where you can see jellies up close, the Wild Wetlands with river otters, alligators and turtles, and even a sunken ship to explore! You can also learn about their sea turtle conservation efforts at the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation Center.
NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores - Pine Knoll Shores
Just outside of the popular beach destination, Atlantic Beach, is the more secluded area known as Pine Knoll Shores, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Bogue Sound. Although it’s mostly a residential area, it is also home to another branch of the NC Aquarium. Here you can have a unique coastal experience like catching crabs and clams, looking for sea turtles along the beach, going surf fishing or even trying out stand-up paddleboarding. In addition to an exhibit on loggerhead turtles and a nature play area, you’ll also see unique art that changes quarterly.
NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher - Kure Beach
The Fort Fisher location of the NC Aquarium has several unique exhibits to explore including Butterfly Bungalow – an enclosed butterfly garden, digging for fossils and meeting an albino alligator and a rescued bald eagle. They also offer several behind-the-scenes tours, a Fins and Family tour and an Aquarist Apprentice program where you can have a hands-on experience helping to feed and care for the aquarium animals.
Jennette's Pier - Nag's Head
Jennette’s Pier, a 1,000-foot long concrete pier that stretches into the Atlantic Ocean, is also owned by the NC Aquarium and offers a wide variety of catches from flounder and trout, to spadefish and mackerel. Although, anglers are asked to only keep fish they are going to eat and release the rest. There is also a Pier House on-site that sells all types of bait and tackle, as well as snacks and beverages, and rods and reels available for rent.