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What is the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher?

Ben Steelman

One of three state-operated coastal aquariums established in the 1970s, the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher is located at 900 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach [Map this]. (Its sister facilities are on Roanoke Island and Pine Knoll Shores, near Morehead City.)

The aquarium focuses on teaching visitors about Southeastern North Carolina coastal waters, as well as about the importance of its marshland environment. Its 235,000-gallon, two-story “Cape Fear Shoals” tank contains native sharks, eels, stingrays and other saltwater fish. Other exhibits display skates and rays, octopus, reef fish and exotic, non-native and invasive species.

The Cape Fear Conservatory shows freshwater plants and animals, including frogs, turtles, snakes, alligators (an albino alligator is a new attraction) and freshwater fish. An outdoor coquina touch pool allows youngsters some safe, hands-on experience with small beach creatures.

The aquarium staff conducts a series of classes, workshops, summer camps and other educational events and activities. The facility may be rented for weddings, parties and corporate events after regular hours. Research is conducted in association with the veterinary school at N.C. State University in Raleigh, which assists in the care of the animals.

The aquarium is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for students aged 6-17 and free for children aged 5 and younger. Members of the N.C. Aquarium Society have automatic free admission as one of their perks.

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