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By the same publishers
Family Fun in Pine Knoll Shores
Takes Families Beneath the Sea
story and photos by Renee
the N.C. Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores, sharks circle the coral-encrusted
remains of a World War II German submarine. A sea turtle hovers
above the scattered cannon of Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen
Anne's Revenge. Bright tropical fish peak from the ports of
the Caribsea, a freighter sunk by the Germans off Cape Lookout
Carolina has many historic sites, but quite a few of them
lie on the sea floor off our coast, never seen by anyone except
The newly renovated N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores brings
these undersea sights ashore where everyone can see and learn
original wreck sites have been left intact, but the museum's
mock-ups are as accurate as modern science can make them.
Many of the fish that inhabit the exhibits were caught in
the ocean near the wrecks.
the spectacular 306,000 gallon tank that holds the U-138 is
just the final stop on the journey through the 93,000 square
foot museum, a trip that follows the state's waters from the
mountains, down through many streams, lakes and rivers, to
exhibits tell North Carolina's aquatic story. A 32-foot mountain
waterfall begins the journey with a splash.
the galleries that follow, visitors come face to face with
a giant catfish, meet our native mountain trout and wonder
at the delicate fins of a lionfish, newcomer to our offshore
Two otters named Neuse and Pungo entertain with belly rolls
and dives in their riverbank habitat.
of all ages enjoy petting rays and picking up urchins in the
gallery introduces the salt-water game fish that make N.C.
off-shore angling famous.
for two and a half years during a $25 million expansion that
tripled its size, the Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores proved
immediately popular following its May, 2006 reopening.
had a great summer," said Julie Powers, public relations coordinator
for the aquarium. "We predicted 500,000 people would visit
the first year, but as of September first we already had 367,000
knew after closing the Aquarium for two years, reopening would
be a big deal, but we had no idea it would be this big," said
Jay Barnes, director of the aquarium.
Kenward, marketing director at Emerald Isle Realty, said the
aquarium plays an important role for the families that rent
the 750 properties managed by her company. "This is our closest
rainy day attraction," she said. "Emerald Isle Realty sponsored
an exhibit, Grass Flats, and dedicated it to our vacationing
salt-water tank houses North Carolina's state fish, the red
drum. Kenward said she also books many special events into
65-foot observation window in the Living Shipwrecks exhibit
makes a stunning backdrop for receptions. Soundside Hall,
a meeting room overlooking Bogue Sound, accommodates 125 people.
With a cathedral ceiling, outside deck and working stone fireplace,
the hall is especially popular for weddings.
Isle and Pine Knoll Shores are two of the vacation towns along
Bogue Banks, an off-shore barrier island reached by bridges
near Morehead City and Swansboro.
Macon, the most visited of North Carolina's state
parks, sits at the eastern tip of Bogue Banks. The town of
Emerald Isle lies at the western end.
Bogue Banks' location is a unique asset, according to Jerry
Delu, chairman of the board at the Ocean
Club, a resort and conference center complex that
stretches from sound to sea across the banks.
"This is the most cooperative place in the world," she says.
"The oceanfront runs east to west here, so you can lie on
the beach and the sun moves around you."
Ocean Club's international health and wellness center celebrated
its grand opening last spring.
a family resort area, the communities on Bogue Banks retain
their appeal even as motels and campgrounds give way to resorts
Hall and his wife Dorothy opened the Atlantis
Lodge in Atlantic Beach, near the eastern end of the
Banks, in 1963. Hall served as Raleigh's city planner for
25 years and applauds the new aquarium just down the road.
"It's more than educational," he said. "It's fun."
Halls are among the many local families and businesses that
helped fund the Pine Knoll Shores renovation, contributing
to the construction of the entrance pavilion and sponsoring
the internship program.
new aquarium hasn't hurt business any, Hall said. "This is
our best year ever."
www.ncaquariums.com for more information.
your own family vacation on Atlantic Beach, Pine Knoll Shores
and the Bogue Banks with our book:
Originall published in NC Magazine, 2006
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