NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher
The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is one of three aquariums in the state system. Located right at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, its a great opportunity to escape the heat and the sun (or the rain) during a beach day. The aquarium was recently named one of the best aquariums in the US by the Travel Channel and has some great exhibits for children and adults alike. The theme of the aquarium is life from the Cape Fear River to the sea and so focuses on local aquatic life, but has a few exhibits of more exotic creatures. The first area of the aquarium is the Cape Fear Conservatory, which showcases freshwater aquatic life from the Cape Fear River region. The highlight of this section is Luna, a beautiful albino alligator. Because she lacks the melanin pigment to hide from predators and prey and to protect her from UV radiation while sunning herself, she would not survive in the wild. Other freshwater creatures on exhibit include bass, longnose gar, box turtles, and venomous snakes.
The second area of the aquarium is the marine building that displays examples of sea life over two floors. Be sure to see a young loggerhead sea turtle swimming on display. These guys are not permanent residents. They are part of a program where some sea turtle hatchlings are kept at the aquarium to grow in a safe environment and educate the public about these wonderful creatures. After a few years, however, they will be returned to the wild, when their chances of survival are greater. The largest tank in the aquarium is the two-story Cape Fear Shoals, a 235,000-gallon tank, which features sharks, rays, groupers and other larger fish. On the lower level is a jaw from an ancient Megaladon shark. It's neat to stand next to it and realize how enormous this fish was. The exotic aquatics display has some exhibits of sea life from the Indo-Pacific region, including an octopus, lionfish, white-spotted jellyfish, and a pacifc reef tank with coral, clownfish, anemones, moon wrasse, and other colorful tropical fish. I really enjoyed watching these guys, who I hadn't seen since we went diving in Bora Bora. The aquarium also has a gift shop and concession stand, Sharkbites, to grab a bite to eat.
Fort Fisher Beach
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, just south of the town of Kure Beach, is a great place to enjoy the sun, sand, and surf in the Wilmington area. Once you turn onto Loggerhead Road of US-421, there is a large parking (yes, free parking) are to the left. But it fills up fast, so try to arrive early. Stairs and a boardwalk lead to the Visitor Center with a concession stand that sells soft drinks and snacks and the bathrooms and rinse stations (no showers, though). There is also a picnic area with grills. The boardwalk leads over the dunes and to about six miles of pristine, undeveloped beach. So whether you're looking to sunbathe, swim, or play in the sand, this is a great location.
In addition to the beach, there is a short, just over a mile, trail that leads through an interesting swamp marsh ecosystem. The trailhead is just past the visitor center and leads through a maritime forest environment then heads out to the beach, where the trail alternates between sand and boardwalks and ends at an overlook to the Basin, an artificial lagoon created by the addition of a rock jetty in the Cape Fear River. The area past the overlook is Zeke's Island Coastal Reserve. The trail is also great for birdwatching - herons, egrets, ibises, and pelicans can all be seen from the trail. Just before the overlook, there is an old WWII bunker where Robert E. Herrill, the hermit of Fort Fisher lived for 17 years.
- Hiking and Walking
Visit Fort Fisher Recreation Area
The Union Army and Navy planned several attacks on Fort Fisher and the port of Wilmington but made no attempt until December 24, 1864. After two days of fighting, with little headway Union commanders concluded that the fort was too strong to assault, and the withdrew their forces. However, they returned for a second attempt on January 12, 1865. The Fort was bombarded on both land and sea face by Federal ships and assaulted on land face by more than 3,300 Union infantry. On January 15, after six hours of fierce combat, the Fort was captured by the Union.
After the fall of Fort Fisher, captured Confederate soldiers were taken to Union prisons in New York. The Confederate Army evacuated remaining forts in the Cape Fear area, and within weeks Union forces overran Wilmington.
150-pounder Armstrong Rifle — Fort Fisher
Fort Fisher in Kure Beach was an important Civil War fort. Obviously, this was not the ordinary type of rifle but a heavy seacoast weapon—and was the bastion's largest piece of ordnance. Manufactured in England by Sir W. G. Armstrong & Co., of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, the gun was imported as a gift to the Confederacy in 1864.
It could hurl its 150-pound projectile for a distance of more than four miles—helping to keep Union blockaders at a distance off Cape Fear. During the final defense of Fort Fisher, it was less effective due to a limited supply of ammunition. Nevertheless, in December 1864, one of her iron bolts found its mark in the boiler of the USS Malvern—flagship of Adm. David D. Porter.
When Fort Fisher fell in January 1865, the Armstrong rifle was taken as a prize of war and ended up on the grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
At West Point, the rifle was initially displayed in the yard of the old Ordnance Compound and then was moved to a prominent spot on Trophy Point, high above the waters of the Hudson River.
After 138 years, Fort Fisher's 16,000 pound-Armstrong tube was delivered to Fort Fisher in early November 2004 as a focal point for the 140th Anniversary and Observance of the Battle of Fort Fisher. It will remain on display through February 2006.
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
Kids got to play around for Photos..
The Aquarium offers a wide variety of free programs and activities year-round. Daily programs include marine life videos, live animal programs, audience participation games, demonstrations and more. Live animal programs in the Aquarium auditorium may feature alligators, sea turtles or snakes. Fish in selected tanks are fed daily.
Kids enjoy learning about the sharks
It is fun to play in, wonderful to drink, and essential for all life. Water surrounds us and is a part of us. In this session, campers learn why water is so important. While learning, campers get both feet wet doing activities and crafts.
Life on Planet Ocean
When 70% of the planet is covered by oceans, it seems strange to call our planet “earth”! Oceans control our weather, produce our oxygen, and provide a home for a vast array of marine life. Campers learn about the strange and beautiful creatures living in Planet Ocean through fun activities and crafts
Fort Fisher/North Carolina Aquarium
The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is located on US 421 approximately 15 miles south of Wilmington, just beyond Kure Beach.
From Southport, take the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry. For ferry schedule, call 910-457-6942 or Toll Free at
For directions from a specific location, call
1-800-832-FISH (3474) or contact visitor services