The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is located in Manteo, NC, nine miles from the Atlantic coastline in Nags Head. The 61,000 square-foot facility is sited on 16 acres overlooking the Croatan Sound and houses over 2,200 animals. More than 280,000 guests visit the aquarium each year to see a large array of sharks, learn about sea turtle conservation, participate in a variety of programs, enjoy the beauty of the area, and learn why North Carolina's waterways are so special. As an educational attraction, we are focused on “inspiring appreciation and conservation of our aquatic environments.”
The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island (NCARI) was originally founded in 1976 as the North Carolina Marine Resources Center, along with our sister facilities at Pine Knoll Shores and Fort Fisher. In 1986, the three facilities were renamed North Carolina Aquariums and the facilities underwent a series of expansions and renovations. In 2000, the facility reopened to the public after a two year expansion, transforming the space into a grand new experience. The facility was renovated again in 2016, creating an immersive journey through "The Waters of the Outer Banks" and highlighting the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center, which was built in 2014.
The three North Carolina Aquariums were joined by Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head in 2011, a rebuilt version of the historic site. The state of North Carolina owns the Aquariums and Pier, which are administered by the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR).
The Aquarium is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and in 2015 was awarded the AZA Quarter Century Award for maintaining accreditation continuously for 25 years or more.