On our way out to the coast, we stopped for lunch at Jack Mackrel’s in Kure Beach. It is a tiny dark restaurant, with inventive sandwiches. During the winter hibernation, there isn’t a lot of choices and this one will do!
The main destination for the day was visiting the fishes at North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The ample aquarium has lots to see and do. It’s open 9 am to 5 pm, 362 days a year, ticket prices range from $6 for children to $8 for adults.
A highlight for all ages is seeing Luna, the rare albino alligator, and the freshwater tanks highlighting North Carolina native fish. There were sharp teethed gars and lazy alligators. We even tried to find box turtles in a long leafy habitat with no luck.
There are lots of hands-on activities including a large touch tank with horseshoe crabs, sting rays, star fish and a wide-variety of of sea urchins. We also fondled a moon jellyfish on an education touch cart, it felt exactly how you’d think it would feel – like a silicon boob.
The displays are beautiful. See huge spiny lobsters scamper around a large circular habitat and try to wedge themselves in rock caves. Watch North Carolina native small bonnet sharks, skates and stingrays zoom around a monochromatic Shadows on the Sand tank near the Gift Shop. For an immersive experience take some time with the two-story Cape Fear Shoals tank.
This was one of the most healthy aquariums I have ever visited. None of the fish looked overcrowded or sickly (It’s sad how many aquariums there are that don’t meet this basic standard). The tanks are well organized by complimentary organisms and well adorned with ornamental structures.
Your trip isn’t done with the tanks inside, in warmer weather there are nature trails outside for bird and duck watching. Hope you can find the huge frog statue, so cute!
On our way back home we stopped at the at the Civil War historic site Fort Fisher. First was ambling on the rock fortification on the ocean then a quick stop at the Information Center. All free and worth the wander.The day closed with an early dinner at the Shucking Shack, one of our favorite restaurants in North Carolina. It was busy, but we belled up to a pound of shrimp, fried pickles (big quarter spears) and hushpuppies. As always it was served with a smile and good service.
Ahhhh, this is why we moved to North Carolina. To be near the ocean that we love so much. What a wonderful day for two love fishes like us.
Distance From Raleigh: 2 hours 30 minutes – Get the Map
Wander Well Tips:
- It’s a haul out to Fort Fisher from Raleigh, start early
- Don’t expect to spend all day at the Aquarium, plan a second stop for beach hiking or shopping in the beach towns
- The rocks and pylons around Fort Fisher make great locations for photo opps