Nestled among the charming backdrop and cobbled streets of Charleston, SC, you’ll find the South Carolina Aquarium, with its idyllic location overlooking the beauty of the historic Charleston city harbor. The aquarium is home to more than 5,000 animals, and offers an array of exciting exhibits and hands-on programming opportunities that cater to all ages, from toddlers to teens.
Discover the native animals of South Carolina’s land and sea, pet a stingray, learn about the Aquarium’s sea turtle rescue mission, or even host your next big event surrounded by the beauty of coastal wildlife. We guarantee that when you pay a visit to the Charleston, SC, Aquarium, you’ll be left with lasting memories that will be treasured forever.
If you are planning to visit the Charleston, SC, Aquarium, you’ll also want to experience the eclectic dining scene, small local boutiques, and first-class shopping of downtown Charleston and nearby Seabrook Island. Be sure to request our complimentary Sea Island Vacation Guide for a complete list of local attractions. The guide is full of great tips and insider insights on the best things to see and do during your vacation!
Here’s What You’ll Find at the Charleston, SC Aquarium
Charleston Aquarium Hours and Admission Fees
The South Carolina Aquarium is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission for adults is $29.95, while admission for children 3-12 is $22.95. Admission for toddlers and members is always free.
Explore the Impressive Exhibits at the South Carolina Aquarium
There are 13 different South Carolina Aquarium exhibits with over 5,000 animals, offering a full day of family fun in Charleston for all ages. The Mountain Forest Exhibit is the home of Liberty, the Aquarium’s majestic Bald Eagle, typically found perched above a gorge full of fish and river otters playfully swimming in the waters below.
To experience the mystery and intrigue of a swamp during twilight hours, head to the Coastal Plain, where you’ll spot alligators, rattlesnakes, and other marsh-loving reptiles.
And you simply can’t leave without viewing the Ocean gallery, which boasts the deepest tank in North America!
This two-story, 385,000-gallon tank is home to sharks, an array of colorful fish, and a 220-pound loggerhead sea turtle, who is affectionately known as Caretta.
For a breath of fresh air, step outside to visit the Saltmarsh Aviary, providing a home to pelicans, gulls, and a 6,000-gallon tank full of impressive aquatic animals.
Kids will love the opportunity to get up close and personal with a variety of marine life in the hands-on and interactive exhibits located throughout the Charleston Aquarium, including The Trading Post, Kids Coast, and Touch Tank. Each exhibit provides a different sensory experience for young kids, from petting a stingray to learning about water conservation in a fun play-based environment, with Aquarium staff always on hand to answer questions from inquisitive young minds.
After you’ve spent a day of fun exploring the marine animals of the South Carolina Aquarium, stop by the gift shop for toys, books, or souvenirs that will always remind you of your incredible experience. Your support of the Aquarium helps to fund education, programming, and sea turtle care and recovery efforts throughout the year.
Charleston Aquarium Sea Turtle Recovery And Conservation Efforts
One of the most meaningful exhibits in the South Carolina Aquarium is the Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery, which provides guests a sneak peek at the Aquarium’s commitment to sea turtle rescue and recovery, with the ultimate goal of a successful return to the ocean for these threatened and endangered animals.
The Aquarium closely partners with the SCDNR to bring injured or stranded sea turtles to the Sea Turtle Care Center for recovery, rehabilitation, and release.
The Charleston Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Care Center includes both a Hospital section for critical patients and a Recovery area for sea turtles who are on the mend, yet still require care under the watchful eyes of the staff veterinarians.
The resident on-staff veterinarians provide emergency medical care, life-saving surgeries, and ongoing treatment as needed until each turtle regains the strength needed to survive and thrive in their natural habitat.
The Sea Turtle Care Center has the advanced technology to provide specialized care and rehabilitation for sea turtles, with capabilities to provide x-Rays, ultrasounds, accurate diagnoses, IV fluids, antibiotics, and other essential medical care to get the turtles ready for release. Individuals can support the journey home for these precious sea turtles by becoming a Sea Turtle Guardian, either through recurring monthly donations or a yearly contribution. In addition to receiving a variety of special benefits and program invitations, guardians will become advocates for these rescue and rehabilitation efforts, while supporting the sea turtles’ return to their home in the sea.
The South Carolina Aquarium’s commitment to sea turtle rescue efforts doesn’t end there, as the new McNair Center for Sea Turtle Conservation and Research provides a permanent in-house facility for researchers to build scientific knowledge to share with the worldwide conservation community.
The nearby islands of Kiawah and Seabrook are established nature conservancies, committed to responsible land development that protects coastal habitats and promotes conservation of the marine ecosystem. Bolstered by the efforts of the South Carolina Aquarium, the marine rescue and conservation efforts of this coastal region will continue to thrive into the future.
Education Programs To Inspire All Ages
The South Carolina Aquarium offers a variety of education outreach opportunities to get school-aged children and teens excited about a possible career in marine science or conservation. These programs include a High School Intern Program, Job Shadow Program, and the Splash Program, which gives 13-year-old to 15-year-old students the unique opportunity to volunteer at the Aquarium. The Aquarium staff members also travel throughout South Carolina to bring programming to communities all over the state, including the Dominion Energy School Programs that offer donation-funded programming to classrooms selected by a random lottery system. Charleston Aquarium has plenty of Teacher Resources to help engage students with science-based activities in the classroom, including an online curriculum that meets South Carolina education standards.
The Aquarium also offers virtual programs that are perfect for at-home learning or virtual school field trips. Marine science enthusiasts can visit the South Carolina Aquarium Facebook page on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. for live Virtual Visits and Turtle Talks hosted by the Aquarium’s educators and sea turtle biologists. Adults who are passionate about wildlife, marine animals, and conservation efforts will find immense value in the Holland Lifelong Learning Program, led by industry experts and professional researchers.
Make a Splash at Your Next Event
Whether you are planning an intimate reception, a destination wedding, or a corporate event or celebration, the South Carolina Aquarium features an impressive event space that can accommodate up to 500 guests. Give your event an additional wow factor by offering animal encounters, photo backdrops, or even a message from a scuba diver!
The in-house team of event planning specialists stands ready to assist with every one of your event needs, including catering, bar service, décor, dance floors, and more. With its unique blend of indoor and outdoor space overlooking the sweeping views of the Charleston Harbor, the South Carolina Aquarium provides the perfect setting to create lasting memories for you and your guests.
Make Your Stay Permanent on Kiawah or Seabrook Island
Perhaps, as many others before you, you’ve fallen in love with the culture, charm, and Lowcountry hospitality of Charleston, SC, and are contemplating making a home purchase. Whether you desire a permanent home, a low-maintenance condo, or a vacation home, the team at Pam Harrington Exclusives will help you find the perfect home downtown or on Charleston's barrier islands to fit your needs.
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