The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island features the largest aquarium in the state — a 285,000-gallon ocean tank complete with sharks, sea turtles and hundreds of fish. Throughout the aquarium are exhibit tanks filled with fishes of North Carolina coastal habitats, including sharks and rays. You will see eels, sea turtles and more than 200 fishes in a shipwreck habitat displaying a 1/3-scale replica of the USS Monitor. In the Wetlands on the Edge sky-lit atrium, you will see river otters, alligators and turtles lazing on rocks in the sun. Each day at the aquarium there are educational programs, fish feedings and demonstrations.
The Aquarium also explores the nearby coast through its theme ''Waters of the Outer Banks.'' Inside this 68,000-square foot educational facility, visitors will find marine animals ranging from yellow-bellied sliders to rivers otters.
The Aquarium, located on a beautiful site overlooking the Croatan Sound, is on Airport Road just three miles north of Manteo off of Highway 64. The aquarium is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. There is a nominal admission charged.
ExhibitsExhibits at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island focus on the diverse aquatic environments of the ''Waters of the Outer Banks.'' All of the animals on display are native to the state.
- The awe-inspiring, 285,000-gallon ''Graveyard of the Atlantic'' offers a unique glimpse into the underwater world just off Outer Banks beaches. Large sharks swim inches away from visitors as they peer through a 5.5-inch acrylic window that's 35-foot long and 14 feet tall. The window wraps up and overhead in a candy-cane shape offering an overhead view of the tank's inhabitants. Civil war buffs will marvel at the one-third-scale replica of the USS Monitor, which lies just off Cape Hatteras at a depth of 210 feet.
- ''Coastal Freshwaters'' reveals the many different animals that live in the freshwater lakes, ponds, streams and creeks that wind through Dare, Currituck and Hyde counties. Largemouth bass, bowfin and turtles are among the creatures highlighted in this exhibit.
- ''Wetlands on the Edge'' takes visitors on an indoor marsh walk where
American alligators bask in the sun, river otters frolic in a pond,
turtles thrive in a roadside ditch display and various fish swim in
brackish water. The entire exhibit is enclosed in a glass atrium that
allows plenty of plants and trees to flourish.
- A series of 10 tanks explores North Carolina's ''Marine Communities'' taking visitors from ankle deep ocean waters out to the Gulf Stream. Along the way, they will see flounder, lobster, Atlantic spadefish and many other animals that call the ocean home.
- Aquarium visitors are invited to experience a ''Close Encounter'' with some of the most interesting and intriguing creatures found in the Atlantic. Several touch tanks allow visitors to gently stroke stingrays, touch horseshoe crabs or learn about crustaceans such as hermit crabs.
- ''On the Soundside'' visitors can stroll along a nature trail, hunt for fossilized sharks' teeth or soak up the sun as it glitters across the adjacent Croatan Sound. It's the perfect place for a picnic!
ProgramsFilms, videos, discovery stations and hands-on activities are offered daily at the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island. In addition to free programs, a number of special activities, nautical crafts and educational field trips to the inlet or beach, are available. Advanced registration and a fee are required. A year round calendar of events is posted on the Aquariums' web site.
Weddings, Conferences, etc.You can rent the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island for special events, conferences and weddings. Located on the Croatan Sound, the aquarium accentuates any event for up to 1,500 guests! Caterers, DJs, bands, beer, wine and all the usual wedding services are allowed. A self-guided tour of the facility is included for all guests. All weddings must occur after operating hours. Call the Special Events Coordinator for information.
The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is one of three state-operated Aquariums located along the coast, including the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores near Morehead City and the North Carolina Aquarium at Ft. Fisher near Wilmington. Members of the N.C. Aquarium society enjoy a wide range of benefits including free admission to all three Aquariums, the N.C. Zoo and more than 120 other zoos and aquariums around the country. Call 1-800-832-FISH for more information.
For more information about the aquarium on Roanoke Island, visit North Carolina Aquariums.