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North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores Morehead City Print Map Sponsors
MM 7, N.C. Hwy. 58
Atlantic Beach, NC 28512-0580

(252) 247-4003

Experience the thrill of exploring sunken ships — without getting wet — at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Three shipwreck exhibits re-create the adventure of recreational diving off the North Carolina coast. Visitors also can feel the spray from a mountain waterfall, hold a crab, touch a stingray, see big sharks and watch river otters play.

The aquarium, in Pine Knoll Shores near Atlantic Beach, is one of three operated by the state on the North Carolina coast. These aquariums draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The others are at Fort Fisher near Wilmington and Roanoke Island on the northern Outer Banks.

The Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores recently expanded to 93,000 square feet. The theme, “From North Carolina’s Mountains to the Sea,” takes visitors on an unforgettable aquatic journey from the state’s grand peaks to the open Atlantic, much as a raindrop makes its way to the ocean.

Five galleries — Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plain, Tidal Waters and Ocean — and more than 3,000 animals depict these aquatic zones. The 306,000-gallon Living Shipwreck, with a 70-foot replica of a sunken, coral-encrusted World War II German submarine, is the centerpiece display. Around it glide fierce-looking sand tiger sharks up to 8 feet in length, along with sea turtles, moray eels, giant groupers, schools of fishes and many other creatures that typically congregate around shipwrecks. A 63-foot window offers superb views, and divers in the exhibit can chat with visitors through underwater microphones.

The 50,000-gallon Queen Anne’s Revenge exhibit duplicates the scene of an eighteenth-century shipwreck in Beaufort Inlet. The wreckage, discovered in 1996, is thought to be from a pirate ship once commanded by the infamous Blackbeard. Nurse sharks, sea turtles, cobia, bluefish, drum and other animals circle replicas of half-buried cannon and other artifacts in this realistic representation.

The shipwrecks are among nearly 40 innovative exhibits. A favorite stop is the River Otter exhibit, where Neuse and Pungo, two playful North American river otters, swim and frolic in their Piedmont habitat. Two touch pools allow personal contact with stingrays, whelks, horseshoe crabs and other creatures. Other favorites include the jellyfish, octopus, seahorse and lionfish displays. Diving demonstrations, live-animal programs and animal feedings are among the daily activities free with admission.

The aquarium offers summer camps for children in grades 2 to 7 and many programs, activities and field trips for all ages. Ocean-going collecting cruises, Newport River excursions, snorkeling classes, kayak and canoe trips, crabbing and clamming classes, surfing lessons, interpretive beach walks and forays to remote barrier islands are a few of the choices. These special programs require advance registration, and most charge a small fee. The aquarium also has wonderful settings, a catering kitchen and various rental options for meetings, ceremonies, parties and presentations. Visitors also will find a large gift shop and a snack bar.

The aquarium is open 9 AM to 5 PM daily. Hours are extended to 9 PM on Thursdays in July for Family Night. The aquarium is closed for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for age 62 and older, and $6 for ages 6 to 17. Children 5 and younger, registered North Carolina school groups and members of the North Carolina Aquarium Society are admitted free. Admission is free on November 11 each year for Veterans Day and on the Monday holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Admission fees are the same at all three North Carolina Aquariums, and are used for improvements at all the facilities. Membership in the North Carolina Aquarium Society entitles participants to free admission at each of the state's three aquariums and free or discounted admission to more than 150 other aquariums and zoos across the country, along with other benefits. An individual annual membership is $30; a family membership is $50.

 

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