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North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (5 Important Things You Need to Know)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on June 23, 2024.

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When planning a day out in Wilmington, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher should always sit near the top of your list! Personally, visiting this place is one of our favorite things to do in North Carolina, not just at the beach.

It’s easily one of the most family-friendly activities in Wilmington. Each time we visit, there seems to be something new around every corner.

At its core, this aquarium seeks to educate and provide kids and adults alike with a fun, hands-on experience!

We fell in love from our first visit and wanted to profess our admiration in this guide. Of course, we also want to share its history and that of the NC Aquarium system, Fort Fisher’s exhibits, and programs through this article.

Here’s how we’ve organized things:

  • Quick Guide (Address, Contact Info, and Ordering Info)
  • Background Info
  • Membership and Tickets at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher
  • Exhibits (Freshwater, Saltwater, and Outdoor)
  • Virtual Programs and Community Outreach
  • More Things to Do in the Wilmington Area (Related Posts)

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North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

Address: 900 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach, NC 28449
Phone Number: 910-772-0500
Official Website

Background Info

an exhibit at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

Originally opened as a Marine Science Center in 1976, the Fort Fisher Aquarium at Fort Fisher is one of four aquariums in the state system.

Two more, including the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and at Roanoke Island, opened at the same time. They were renamed to an aquarium in 1986.

In 2011, Jennette’s Pier was added to the system, though it’s been a known Outer Banks attraction since 1939.

The Aquarium at Fort Fisher aims to introduce North Carolinians to the wonderful aquatic life found just off our shores. With a focus on conservation and research, all four NC Aquarium sites are proud accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

At NC Tripping, we only support non-profits and facilities accredited by the AZA, as their standards of care and dedication to research ensure that they are worthy destinations to visit and promote. As such, we support and love all three of these NC Aquariums.

Read More: Visiting Airlie Gardens in Wilmington (+ 10 Things We Love!)

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher Membership and Ticket Info

If you live near Wilmington or are a frequent traveler to the city, we recommend getting an aquarium membership. This membership is probably one of our best secrets to lowering the cost of travel!

In addition to reduced access to the Fort Fisher Aquarium, your membership will also give you free or reduced access to many other AZA-accredited institutions nationwide.

our daughter checking out the exhibits at fort fisher aquarium

Each science and nature-based facility is following its own guidelines to reduce capacity, so please make sure to call ahead first to ask if they will accept your membership.

the entrance to the ocean gallary exhibit at fort fisher

Advanced tickets for the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher are currently required. These tickets are timed and spaced out to keep both patrons and employees safe.

Tickets cannot be purchased at the door, so be sure to plan ahead!

Ticket Info

Exhibits at Fort Fisher

Freshwater Exhibits

the start of the freshwater exhibits area at Fort Fisher Aquarium

The first exhibit you’ll encounter when you enter this Wilmington NC aquarium at Fort Fisher is the freshwater species. Here, you can watch otters play, learn about the snakes of North Carolina, and even spot the rare albino alligator!

From freshwater streams and swamps, inquiring minds learn something new every time they walk into the aquarium. 

Once you enter the main aquarium building, there’s still more freshwater aquatic learning to be had! Have fun in the “touch tank,” where you can dip your hand in and touch sea stars, stingrays, and horseshoe crabs! This is an interactive experience that will always be fun.

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Saltwater Exhibits

the expanse of swim tanks in the  saltwater exhibit at Fort Fisher

On the first level, you will find the saltwater aquatic life exhibits. The floor-to-ceiling swim tank with turtles and fish is probably the most appealing to most visitors, but the jellyfish happens to be our favorite!

a mother and daughter looking at an exhibit in the aquarium

Daily programs also take place in the swim tank, so make sure to ask about the schedule when you pick up your tickets. Sit and watch as the sea life lives together in perfect harmony while counting how many fish you see!

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Outdoor Exhibits

a playground with brown and green features

As you exit the saltwater section of the building, visitors will find an awesome outdoor play space! Perfect for children ages three to 10, the playground equipment provides a place for kids to get their wiggles out!

Stop by the concessions area for a snack while you play. Note that the area is not covered and can get hot in the summer, but we’ve found it perfect for when we’re visiting in the off-season!

Read More: Excellent Day Trips from Wilmington Within 2 Hours

our daughter looking out over the natural habitats near Fort Fisher

As you leave the NC aquarium at Fort Fisher, you’ll navigate several natural habitats. With birds, fish, turtles, and native plants, this area is one that we recommend taking special note of instead of simply rushing through.

This outdoor section reminds us of the beauty of nature, how integral it is to life, and how it creates an ecosystem in which everything must work together to survive.

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Virtual Programs and Community Outreach

Currently, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher has incredible online resources for those who aren’t able to visit just yet! They offer free printables and worksheets, a virtual bookshelf, and many educational videos!

These are perfect for extending your learning at home, either before or after your visit. 

a father walking through the woods with his daughter on his shoulders

The Gills Club is specifically designed to promote STEM education to girls. For girls aged 10 to 14, the Gills Club participates in the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s program to connect them with female scientists, share knowledge, and learn about sharks and ocean conservation.

The club meets several times a year and is a fantastic activity for inspiring young minds. 

Read More: Fort Fisher State Historic Site (20+ Facts and How to Visit)

Ready to Experience the Fort Fisher Aquarium in North Carolina?

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is located 20 miles south of Wilmington along Kure Beach, one of the best beaches in North Carolina. It is an incredible resource to the community and travelers alike.

We consider this Wilmington NC Aquarium the number one thing to do with kids in Wilmington and hope that you and your family visit and make lifelong memories!

Have you ever visited this aquarium? We’d love to know what you thought of it. If you haven’t been yet, we hope you’ll make it out there soon and share your experiences with us!

More Things to Do in the Wilmington Area

2 thoughts on “North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (5 Important Things You Need to Know)”

  1. Thank you for such helpful information regarding everything NC. I Read your various articles all the time. In this one you touched on the membership perk between aquarium and zoo. I had read about that on the website but since the pandemic I had understood it to be discontinued. My family was planning on buying a NC zoo membership, would that get us in to the aquarium as well possibly? Or do you recommend buying the aquarium membership and that gets you into the zoo? Or maybe they are the same thing. Thanks for your help with this

    • Hi Ben! Thanks for reading and reaching out! I believe right now they are holding on the reciprocity agreements, but it is worth calling to check! Previously, we could use our Museum of Life and Science membership and get a 50% discount but they aren’t honoring that right now with the pandemic. I believe (and hope!) that program will go back into place afterwards.


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