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Roanoke Island Aquarium

Updated on February 17, 2019
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Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.

Roanoke Island Aquarium, Manteo, North Carolina


Get up close and personal with a shark. Smile at an alligator. Pet a sting ray.

Roanoke Island is one of three NC aquariums. It was first opened in 1976. In 1998 it closed for expansion and renovations, re-opened in 2000. It has thousands of visitors every year and is one of my favorite places to visit when I got to North Carolina's Outer Banks.

The aquarium theme ‘Water of the Outer Banks" presents the aquatic environment of coastal Carolina from fresh waters of the rivers, creeks and sounds, to brackish waters of the marshes, and then the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean. Among the educational displays are many fresh and saltwater critters, but the stars of the stage are probably the sharks. With a 35-foot viewing window, the 285,000-gallon "Graveyard of the Atlantic" tank makes you feel like a part of the underwater world of sea turtles and a multitude of fish. But, when the sharks glide into view they steal the show. You can observe "feeding time" of sharks and various other residents at different times of the day.

The displays are works of art, making the viewer feel part of the environment. You can watch river otters curled up in their dens taking a nap or playing tag in a jungle gym of roots and tunnels above and below the waterline. Across the room from the otters, alligators "sun" on the embankment of their habitat. In another tank a variety of fresh water turtles swim or crawl onto a log. Already used to being watched, they are not a bit shy.

Learn about hurricanes and nor'easters in the "Storms" exhibit. Pet a stingray at the petting tank. The newest exhibit, "Aquarium Confidential" shares the behind scenes life at the aquarium. The summer months are packed with special activities including gyotaku workshops. Gyotaku is the Japanese art of fish printing. You can also play Ocean Jeopardy or join the many activities planned by the aquarium, especially in the summer months. You can even rent the aquarium for weddings and other events.

Outside the building, visitors can stroll through the grounds where an array of flowers and native plants bloom and whalebones are mounted like works of art. If you missed lunch a concession stand provides pizza, snacks, and drinks.

The North Carolina Aquarium is located on Airport Road, three miles north of Manteo, just off highway 64 on Roanoke Island. It is open all year from 9AM to 5 PM. For more information call 252-473-3494 or visit See the calendar of events for summer and day camp registration at the website. General admission is $8 adults, $6 children. The aquarium is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.

Wonders of the Aquarium

Albino Alligator
Albino Alligator | Source

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