Aquariums Date to Bicentennial Year

Kids enjoy an aquarium program in the 1970s. Image from the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.On September 10, 1976, the facilities now known as the North Carolina Aquariums opened to the public for the first time. Their mission was to promote the awareness, understanding, appreciation and conservation of the diverse natural and cultural resources of North Carolina’s ocean, estuaries, rivers, streams and other aquatic environments.

Known as the North Carolina Marine Resources Centers until 1986, the aquariums were originally intended more as research facilities than as destinations for visitors.

A $53 million construction program in the early 1990s dramatically expanded the footprint of each facility and offered more opportunities for visitors to interact with nature. Jennette’s Pier became part of the state aquarium system in 2011.

Each aquarium and Jennette’s Pier highlights the unique aquatic environments that can be found in the region in which it is located and in different locations across the state. Together they welcome more that 1 million visitors annually and are rated among the best places to visit across the state.

Helping to conserve North Carolina’s unique coastal environment and conducting cutting-edge research continue to be central to the aquariums’ mission.

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