NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island: What Can You See and Do?

NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island

Alligators. Stingrays. Sea turtles. River otters. All kinds of fish, from highly prized gamefish to rare exotic species. Plus the largest collection of sharks in the entire state.

Not to mention Bleu, a unique white-and-greenish alligator with beautiful blue eyes!

You’ll find all this and much more at the NC Aquarium located on Roanoke Island, three miles north of Manteo in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Open daily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., this vast, interactive facility covers more than 68,000 square feet of state-of-the-art exhibit space.

And that doesn’t even count the extensive outdoor area, including the Soundside Pier, a popular site for weddings. The Aquarium has even been known to host underwater weddings!

“The Graveyard of the Atlantic” Habitat

The heart of the Aquarium is its giant main tank – nicknamed “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” – filled with 285,000 gallons of balmy ocean water.

Here’s where you can come eye to eye – and nose to nose – with huge sharks and other colorful ocean critters. But don’t worry; they’re all behind extra-thick glass, so you can safely watch them swim and play.

Your Per-Person Day Pass Opens a World of Wonder

For a modest charge – with discounts for seniors, kids 3 to 12, and members of the military – you and your family can:

  • Wander through realistic wetlands where turtles nestle, alligators bask, and otters frisk and frolic
  • Stroll through a sunken ship to find fascinating maritime treasures
  • Actually pet live stingrays – it’s safe and tons of fun!
  • Wonder at ethereal jellyfish floating overhead
  • Interact with rescued sea turtles
  • Explore the remains of the ironclad USS Monitor, a famous Civil War battleship
  • Watch fascinating films, view all kinds of sea life, and more

Special Indoor Events Expand the Possibilities

Plus, for an additional charge, you can participate in a wide range of specially scheduled activities such as:

  • Hands-on behind-the-scenes visits
  • Guided tours of the “otter quarters”
  • Snack prep for “Happy Otter Hour”
  • Amazing “Aquarist for a Day” opportunities, where you’ll experience what it’s like to work with aquatic animals
  • Aqua Tot activities for toddlers, and much more

You can also enjoy free educational programs such as:

  • Shipwreck Stories, where educators answer all your questions about Aquarium animals. (You’ll even learn why it’s safe for staffers to swim with the Aquarium’s sharks!)
  • Animal Feedings, where you’ll watch as sharks and stingrays dine on their daily feasts
  • Educator Programs, your chance to learn how coastal animals adapt to their ever-changing habitats
  • And much more, including seasonal events for both adults and kids

Call ahead or visit the aquarium website to find out dates and times for these awesome interactive activities.

Outdoors There’s Even More

During warm weather, the Roanoke Aquarium offers exciting outdoors adventures such as:

  • Professionally guided kayaking excursions around Roanoke Island – ideal for beginners; no experience required. You’ll be on the lookout for local plants and animals as you skim the warm, calm waters of Croatan Sound. All equipment is supplied, from kayaks and paddles to special flotation vests. Just be sure to wear close-toed shoes, bring along your water bottle and sunscreen, and you’ll be good to go. Ages 6 and up.
  • Stand-up paddleboarding 101 – the perfect introduction to today’s hottest new watersport. You’ll learn how to balance, steer, and paddle as you navigate the sound. It’s easy, relaxing, and just a little wet’n’wild. No experience necessary, and all equipment is provided. Ages 8 and up.
  • “What’s the Catch?,” a fun-filled intro to fishing from the side of Soundside Pier, with step-by-step instructions on assembling tackle, baiting the hook, identifying fish species, reeling ’em in, and practicing catch-and-release. Ages 5 and up.
  • Let’s Go Crabbing,” your chance to try your hand at nabbing some choice Blue Crabs from the waters off Soundside Pier. Instructions and equipment provided. Ages 5 and up.

For all outdoor adventures, children 13 and under must be accompanied by a paying participating adult. Call or check the website for dates and times.

You Can Even Swim with the Sharks

Are you a certified open-water scuba diver? Here’s your chance to dive with the sharks in the Graveyard of the Atlantic habitat. Each session lasts about two hours in total. You’ll spend 30 to 45 minutes swimming – up-close yet very safely – with an array of fish and sharks (sand-tiger, nurse, and sandbar species). You can even photograph or film your experience… or have a staffer do it for you.

All These Plus School Outings, Scout Programs, Camps, and More

Have a school class or Scout troop with a penchant for interactive learning? Contact the Aquarium to arrange exciting group visits, including “Sleeping with the Sharks” sleepovers and marine biology labs.

Have kids who love the outdoors? Have them sign up to attend the Aquarium’s seasonal camps. Scholarships are available (for Dare County residents only) for fun-filled week-long camps as well as single-day day camps.

You can also arrange private sleepovers, birthday parties, and other festive events.

It’s All Waiting for You Here in the NC Outer Banks…

… along with gorgeous white-sand beaches, beautiful blue ocean, and endless opportunities for family R&R. Gather the gang and visit soon!



NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island: What Can You See and Do?

by Outer Banks Blue time to read: 4 min

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