While we were soaking up the North Carolina beach scene we felt called to go check out the local aquarium. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is pretty popular, but we just didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We’d been to the aquarium in Tampa, and honestly, it wasn’t nothing to write home about. Now we know why this aquarium is such a popular place to hang out! So read on to get our tips to making sure you have a great time, and find out if it’s Fun Adventure Family Approved.
Tip 1- Do get the membership!
If you’re local, you’ve been missing out! After just going once you’ll want to go again and again. I promise! If you’re a traveler, like us, get the membership anyways! It takes 2 days to soak it all in anyway. Even now looking at the photos we took I wish I could go back and spend more time here and there. In my mind I see gaps where I missed photos of whole exhibits. The membership will pay for itself on the second day. There is a reciprocal program and they partner with several other fun educational entertainment places all over the United States. The Reciprocal program is the AZA (Association of Zoo’s and Aquariums). There are many that are free with membership, while others give a 50% ticket price. View the AZA reciprocal list here.
Tip 2- They have bus parking spots!
We were so happy to find that as you enter the parking lot directly to the left there are a couple of bus parking spots. Having parking spots big enough for our old Winnie is a real treat. Yes we go everywhere in our RV. Fellow travelers, if you usually rent a car for your adventures, you won’t have to here!
Tip 3- Make sure you plan to catch all of the shows
At first when I realized that there was no paper flyers with the shows and map printed on them I was a little annoyed. I’m used to having guides in my hands to plan our adventures with. I quickly realized why there were no such things. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores truly prides itself in conservation efforts. The show times are displayed on screens around the aquarium. The fountain in the front of the aquarium had a build in water bottle filler which was so nice! The toilets even had recycled water. I absolutely applaud the work they’re doing to cut down waste. Even if it’s a minor inconvenience for me, I’ll take it in stride. Our planet is worth it. After I became acclimated with how everything works I am such a fan of the paperless info that I wish more places would jump on board!
Tip 4- Especially make sure to see The Living Shipwreck
The Living Shipwreck was a real treat! The diver spoke to the talk host through a special snorkel microphone. It was done as a Q and A. The diver talked about the importance of the shipwreck and the various sea life it housed. He talked about how sharks aren’t vicious killing machines, but actually quite aloof, just how they appeared in the tank. At the end of the talk the divers swim up to the glass to give you a high five. It shows how thick the glass is!
Tip 5- Visiting during the Dinos
We’ve had the chance to see a Dino’s Alive exhibit before, so this is nothing new to us. Unfortunately. This particular traveling exhibit was not all that thrilling. The wires were haphazardly strewn about, making the animatronic wow factor greatly diminished. There was only a little handful of dinos sprinkled around. It was just not what I had imagined in my mind based off of our past dino experiences. That was perfectly fine for us, because the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores had wayyyyy more stuff going for it. We just wanted to et back in there and pet some sting rays, and catch some more animal encounters.
Tip 6- There is just a ton of special places just for kiddos.
The arts and crafts room was a big hit! The kiddos got to clean up the trash out of the Orbees (see? They’re BIG on conservation here). Color a shark hat, make a shark mobile, and make a shark info hand game. All the while volunteers are helping the kids out. Its great to wait to visit there until you’re about halfway through the aquarium because that gives mom and dad a chance to decompress a bit. At the end of the nature trail outside you come to a huge playground. A tire swing, rope ladder, slides, suspension bridge, and more! Inside, there is another play area for “minnows”. I’ve never been to a more family friendly aquarium.
Tip 7- Make sure you do the Sea Turtle Rescue
The kiddos loved putting on their lab coats and learning about rescuing sea turtles! They took a turtle to the diagnostic station and ran some tests. The computer would tell you what event occurred to harm the turtle. Some cases were shark bite, entanglement, and sickness. At the next station a video shows the young rescuer how to bandage or effectively treat the poor turtle. Our Giggly Adventure Grace could not get enough of being a turtle doctor. She did it over and over again!
Tip 8- Bring a picnic
It just so happens that the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores has a gorgeous picnic area right next to the bus parking. Of course everywhere we go we bring our pantry with us, but if you don’t then you should pack something! It was breezy and peaceful while we at our P B & Js. After we cleaned up we were able to head right back into the action. Pro tip! Don’t drop peanut butter on the baby.
The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is Fun Adventure Family Approved! We’re happy to have a membership with them. We support the hands on learning that they are providing children and all of the steps towards making the world a better place.