This beachfront aquarium is a must-see for anyone visiting Wilmington. Named as a Top Ten NC Attraction, the Travel Channel’s Best Aquariums in the U.S., and a 2012 Top Local Attraction, the Fort Fisher Aquarium is perfect for all ages with a variety of exhibits for everyone.
The NC Aquarium at Ft. Fisher explores mid-Atlantic coastal waters, marine life and wildlife through live aquarium exhibits, photographs and other educational displays. Visit the aquarium and spend a day getting up-close and personal with some rare species.
Exhibitions and Attractions
- A 235,000-gallon saltwater tank which showcases both fresh water and salt water aquatic life
- Cape Fear Conservatory is a large wooded atrium, filled with streams, ponds and swamps, home to alligators, frogs, snakes, bass, catfish and perch
- In the Coastal Waters Gallery visitors get some hands-on action. Here you can actually touch sea urchins, horseshoe crabs and other sea critters
- Cape Fear Shoals exhibit features a huge, two-story tank displaying a vast array of sea life including moray eels, stingrays, sharks and grouper plus a multitude of other varieties of sea life
- Meet Luna- a rare albino alligator
- See a loggerhead sea turtle swim in the Let’s Talk Turtle exhibit
- Adventure Reef is an outdoor play area and fossil dig for children
- Interactive Megalodon shark exhibit
- Touch a live shark in the Bamboo Shark exhibit touch pool.
- Hunt for fossils and shark’s teeth in Shark Tooth Creek
- Free daily programs include dive presentations, animal feedings and encounters.
The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is located on US 421 approximately 15 miles south of Wilmington, just beyond Kure Beach. Street Address: 900 Loggerhead Road Kure Beach, NC 28449
- Adults, Ages 13-61: $8, Seniors, Ages 62+: $7, Children, Ages 3-12: $6, Ages 2 and younger: Free
- There is a group rate discount of 15% for a party of 10 or more.
- You can purchase tickets in advance for your aquarium visit here.
Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. year-round except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
For more information, contact the Aquarium toll free at 800-832-3474 ext. 2; or visit the website.
Where it’s Located
Just past Carolina Beach on the southern-most tip of Pleasure Island; Kure Beach is a small, quiet and relaxed beach town. Surrounded by natural beauty and home to some major American history, it is a great place to spend the day.
To get there from Wilmington: take Carolina Beach road, (also known as Highway 421). It will take you about 30 minutes from the downtown area.
If you are looking for a quiet and open beach just a short drive from all the city action then Kure Beach is for you. The natural surroundings of this white sandy beach will appeal to those wishing to experience the beach away from the crowds. Oak trees, tidal creeks, and marches are scattered about with the several areas boasting incredible views of the ocean and river. A large part of this land remains undeveloped, exhibiting the wonders of a natural coastal environment. You may see parts of the beach roped off as Kure is a nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles and other rare species.
At the small town center, you’ll find the Kure Beach Pier, several restaurants, a convenience store and amusements for the kids. You can walk to town or bike on a bike path.
The Kure Beach Pier is a public fishing pier. They sell fishing tackle, bait, rod and reel combos on site. There is also a concession stand, arcade and large souvenir area. It is open April-November.
- Freddie’s Restaurant is a friendly, family-owned establishment serving up authentic Italian cuisine. The small restaurant is located right by the pier and is a local favorite. The atmosphere is cozy and casual. Freddie’s menu has various Italian staples such as lasagna, ravioli and spaghetti; however, they are best known for their “special” pork-chops. If you have a larger party, be sure to call ahead for reservations.
- Jack Mackerel’s Island Grill is a Caribbean-feel restaurant and bar located just steps away from the pier. The restaurant features island inspired seafood dishes and tropical drinks. Inside you will find a colorful island atmosphere or you may dine upstairs on the outdoor deck seating area that has views of the ocean. There is also a full bar with 10 wide screen TV’s throughout the bar area.
- Fort Fisher State Historic Site, the “Last Major Stronghold of the Confederacy,” is North Carolina’s most visited historic site and the scene of the two largest naval bombardments of the Civil War. The official website states that “Ft. Fisher kept Wilmington’s port open to blockade runners supplying necessary goods to Confederate armies inland… this was the last remaining supply route open to Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. When Ft. Fisher fell after a massive Federal assault on January 15, 1865, its defeat helped seal the fate of the Confederacy.” Today, the Fort Fisher visitor center boasts an exhibit hall detailing the battles and presents the history of the fort. A half-mile outdoor tour trail circles the remains of the western bastion of the fort. Visitors may enjoy the scenic views of both the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean as they explore the site. Admission is free.
- North Carolina Aquarium. This beachfront aquarium is a must-see for anyone visiting Kure Beach. Recently expanded and remodeled the aquarium showcases both fresh water and salt water aquatic life. Tanks inside display a large assortment of sea life including: moray eels, stingrays, sharks, jellyfish, sea horses, octopus, sting rays, and various types of fish. There is also a rare albino alligator on the premises, named Luna. Watch as divers feed sharks and fish or head over to the “Coastal Waters Gallery” to get some hands-on action. Here you can actually touch sea urchins, horseshoe crabs and other sea critters. Admission is $8 for ages 13 to 61, $7 for ages 62 and older, and $6 for children ages 3 to 12.
Dig the blues? Want to sample some tasty, locally caught seafood? The Pleasure Island Seafood, Blues & Jazz Festival is a two-day festival held annually in October. Set between the ocean and the Cape Fear River at the Fort Fisher Military Recreation Area in Kure Beach, there is music on two stages and two days filled with great music, delicious local seafood, and much more. Check out their website for tickets and dates.