Day Trip: NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island

Not far from where we live is the Outer Banks. Since becoming a work-at-home mom, I’ve been making regular trips to the Outer Banks for meet-ups, beach trips, and playground adventures. I had been wanting to take Caleb to the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island but held off because I felt this was a family adventure. I didn’t want Robb to miss out on this moment so I waited… and waited… and waited… and reminded Robb that children 2 and under are free, then the prices jump up.

So we finally went.

Now, to be fair to Robb, we were going to go a few weekends ago. Our plan was Jockey’s Ridge (to get another NC State Park knocked off of our NC Parks Passport), then the aquarium. But by the time we were done at Jockey’s Ridge, we decided that all of us were tired and ready to go home. But with another rainy day ahead of us, we decided to finally set out for the aquarium.

This aquarium is on the smaller side for sure, but for a 16-month old who had never been to anything similar, it was perfect. We ended up spending about two hours there, alternating between letting Caleb walk and letting him ride in the stroller when he wanted to.

The obvious favorite for Caleb, by far, was the four baby alligators that lurked right near the entrance to the aquarium. I think he would have stayed there nearly the whole time, pointing and gazing at them. I love how everything is at perfect eye level, pretty much for little ones.

I’ve always had a strong affinity for the otters, so I spent most of my time there, watching the two otters swim around and around. Every time I visit the aquarium, I seem to spend my time watching the otters. They fill me with so much joy.

There’s something that this aquarium has that a lot of places don’t – an albino alligator! His enclosure is just to the right in this picture. I can remember seeing that alligator when we would come here on field trips back in middle/elementary school.

While a lot of zoos and aquariums make me sad because of the pressure on the animals to perform (or their conditions), this one doesn’t. Its focus is on conservation and education, not entertainment. Many of the animals are no longer able top survive out in the wild which is how they ended up here. The aquarium also houses the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center.

The last time Robb and I had visited the aquarium (I want to say back in 2016), they were still in the process of creating the jellyfish area so it was really neat to see it up and running. I’m not a fan of jellyfish but it was nice to be able to observe them with a thick piece of glass between us. Caleb, of course, ignored the jellyfish and went straight for the bubbles.

What did surprise me was how uninterested Caleb was in the huge tank at the end of the aquarium that was filled with sharks. I thought for sure it would be his highlight of the trip. He glanced at it and kept going about his business. Nothing could compete with the baby alligators in his mind.

But who knows… maybe he was just wore out and ready to get back in the car!

All in all, a great adventure. We even looked up how much it would be to host Caleb’s birthday party there one day (4 or 5 years from now).