The North Carolina Aquarium has two locations on the Outer Banks—Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, which gets all the press because it juts an impressive 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, and the aquarium on Roanoke Island.
Jennette’s Pier is a great place to spend an hour or two and then continue on to the beach or other activities. But for an afternoon of real entertainment, it would be hard to beat the Roanoke Island facility. There are a couple of things coming up this year and next that make it a must see on your list of Outer Banks destinations.
The sea turtle rehab facility, known as STAR for Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation, just opened at the aquarium. It’s an open facility so the public is able to see what is happening with the turtles. The only time a room will be closed is when a turtle requires surgery and is taken to the operating room. The exhibit has many interactive displays and some really great question and answer tools for kids.
Funded largely by the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST), the rehab facility makes learning about these marvelous creatures fun for all.
Even more exciting, at least for the kids, is the Tyrannosaurus Trek Exhibit that has also just opened at the aquarium. Running through the summer, the “Trek” takes intrepid explorers down a trail housing 10 dinosaurs. Animatronic dinosaurs, yes, but by all accounts they are larger than life and complete with sounds effects.
In many ways, the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is not a traditional aquarium. Yes, there is a gigantic 285,000 gallon “Graveyard of the Atlantic” exhibit, which includes the largest shark collection in North Carolina. For experienced divers who are looking for a thrill, the aquarium offers a Shark Dive, which includes 30 – 40 minutes in the tank with the sharks. And yes, there are large otter and alligator exhibits that seem to get just as much attention.
However, rather than focusing solely on aquatic life, the aquarium also features the coastal North Carolina experience. There are exhibits showing the life cycle of a blue crab, there are poisonous snakes known to live in the swamps of this area, freshwater turtles and just about anything else you can find among the costal wildlife.
There is also a full slate of activities geared toward children and adults, including day camps, outdoor activities, and hands on demos. The programs tend to fill up fast, so check out the schedule and get involved.
The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is located at 374 Airport Road in Manteo, the western side of Roanoke Island. Head into Manteo on Highway 64, and look for the aquarium sign on your left.