The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is one of three aquariums in the state system. Located right at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, its a great opportunity to escape the heat and the sun (or the rain) for a few hours on a beach day. The aquarium was recently named one of the best aquariums in the US by the Travel Channel and has some great exhibits for children and adults alike. The theme of the aquarium is plants and animals from the Cape Fear River to the sea and so focuses on local aquatic life, but also has a few exhibits of more exotic creatures. The first area of the aquarium is the Cape Fear Conservatory, which showcases freshwater aquatic life from the Cape Fear River region. The highlight of this section is Luna, a beautiful albino alligator. Because she lacks the melanin pigment to hide from predators and prey and to protect her from UV radiation while sunning herself, she would not survive in the wild. Other freshwater creatures on exhibit include bass, longnose gar, box turtles, alligators, and venomous snakes.
The second area of the aquarium is the marine building that displays examples of sea life over two floors. Be sure to see a young loggerhead sea turtle swimming on display. These guys are not permanent residents. They are part of a program where some sea turtle hatchlings are kept at the aquarium to grow in a safe environment and educate the public about these wonderful creatures. After a few years, however, they will be returned to the wild, when their chances of survival are much greater. The largest tank in the aquarium is the two-story Cape Fear Shoals, a 235,000-gallon tank, which features sharks, rays, groupers and other larger fish. On the lower level is a jaw from an ancient Megaladon shark. It's neat to stand next to it and realize how enormous this fish was. The exotic aquatics display has some exhibits of sea life from the Indo-Pacific region, including an octopus, lionfish, white-spotted jellyfish, and a pacifc reef tank with coral, clownfish, anemones, moon wrasse, and other colorful tropical fish. I really enjoyed watching these guys, who I hadn't seen since we went diving in Bora Bora. The aquarium also has a gift shop and concession stand, Sharkbites, to grab a bite to eat.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TravelPod member and not of TravelPod.com.