Kids and Aquariums…A Quick Introduction to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

IMG_5529 2-634One of the jelly fish exhibits in the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

We’ve said before how much we think a go-to vacation spot is the cornerstone of great family travel.

Visits far and wide are wonderful, necessary, and amazing, but those frequent shorter trips to familiar spots away from home, but still close by, make for amazing memories.

IMG_5545-634An up close visit from one of North Carolina’s sea turtles!

North Carolina’s coast is that spot for us, specifically the Crystal Coast or that area running from about Beaufort, North Carolina down to around Swansboro, North Carolina.


Around the middle of the Crystal Coast, in Pine Knoll Shores, sits one of the three North Carolina State Aquariums.

It’s known simply as the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and it’s been a spot we’ve frequented, but when looking back at the photos for this post, we’ve realized that it’s also a place where we’ve watched our children start to grow up.

IMG_1184-634Our daughter Cecilia (the family’s animal lover) some years ago enjoying one of the sea turtle features outside at the Aquarium

IMG_5565-634-1The same little girl four years older and even more in love with animals of all shapes and sizes!

The Aquarium is open year round and is great for rainy days at the beach, and also for those times when you need to get the kids out of the sun for a few hours.

Indoor aquarium photography is an art we have yet to master, but we’ve given it our best shot!

IMG_5542-634An exhibit of the dreaded Lionfish, an invasive species that has become all too common from North Carolina south to the Caribbean!

The Aquarium has a small exhibit featuring the invasive Lionfish. It’s a pacific species that has no predators here in the Atlantic, and it’s reeking havoc from North Carolina south throughout the Caribbean. Discover Diving down in Beaufort is holding a Lionfish roundup later this spring.

Y’all know Sandals resorts are some of our favorite spots in the Caribbean. Sandals has a charitable group, the Sandals Foundation, that is also working towards the eradication of the Lionfish.

On a positive note, it seems that the Lionfish is pretty good eating!

IMG_5519-634One of the Aquarium’s several sharks!

The Aquarium has exhibits representing habitats from North Carolina’s mountains all the way to the ocean, but the largest and most popular draws are the tanks containing large ocean exhibits.

IMG_5515-634An exhibit featuring a recreation of a downed German sub from World War II that sits off the North Carolina Coast

IMG_5492-634A few alligators relaxing!

The Aquarium offers a variety of programs that we’ve enjoyed over the years, including “backstage” tours.

IMG_1222-634Checking out some holding tanks

IMG_1219-634Touching a sea turtle

Some of the most fun we’ve had at the Aquarium was on a crabbing and clamming expedition we took some years ago along the Bogue Sound shore behind the Aquarium’s building.

IMG_2458-634Cecilia holding a small blue crab she caught all by herself

One area of the inside exhibits includes a low open tank where you can touch a collection of rays and skates – always a favorite for the kids.


In addition to the indoor exhibits, the Aquarium features a nature trail that will give you a look into North Carolina’s coast that you may have missed as a visitor.

IMG_5484-634-1Behind the Aquarium on the board walk heading to the trail.


IMG_5406-634Exhibit along the board walk


If your experience of coastal North Carolina is limited just to the beach, the nature trail is a great way to broaden you view.

While you’re just a few dozen yards from civilization, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the prehistoric Crystal Coast!


IMG_5483-634Sisters enjoying the trail

IMG_5474-634It gets slightly damp in a few spots!

IMG_5421-634The kids along the board walk last summer

IMG_1183-634And in front of the Aquarium some years ago…where did these littles go?!

Don’t miss the Aquarium the next time you’re along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.

Just drop us a line or give us a call with any questions.

And more importantly, don’t forget to:

Relax…you CAN get there from here!


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