Within 93,000 square feet, the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores manages to fit all of the state's and most of the world's main aquatic environments into five galleries. A 30-foot waterfall throws a cool mist over guests as they begin a journey that brings them to the Piedmont gallery, where the aquarium's three spunky river otters—Neuse, Pungo, and Eno—frolic and play poker underwater. Further exhibits promise other memorable encounters, such as the Tidal Touch Pool where handlers let visitors touch skates, rays, and select invertebrates. At the epicenter lies the ocean gallery, anchored by a 306,000-gallon tank with a 65-foot viewing window. Sand tiger sharks and moray eels swim about the Living Shipwreck exhibit, a replica of a German U-boat that sank off the United States' East Coast in 1942. Behind the glass of another tank, a young loggerhead sea turtle named Nimbus flashes its gold-toothed smile and rare white coloration.
Divers host live shows twice a day in the ocean tank, answering visitors' questions via special equipment. They've also been known to assist with proposals, unveiling engagement rings as an unsuspecting fiancé peers through the glass. Beyond overseeing the standing exhibits, the staff also ventures outside for numerous educational programs and activities. Participants can catch crabs, fish in the surf, explore the marsh, or even explore the water on canoeing and kayaking outings.
Oceanic experts at North Carolina Maritime Museum share exhibits, artifacts, and artwork documenting the history and ecology of the sea near Beaufort. Your Groupon helps support the Museum Friends Group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit working to recover and display the infamous pirate Blackbeard's flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. The group aims to bring the remaining half of the shipwreck into the sunlight, preserve all the historical booty they discover, and salute the accomplishment with proud hook hands. A membership treats fans of the briny to a one-year subscription to the museum's e-newsletter, as well as invitations to members-only previews, including the Blackbeard unveiling in June, a 10% discount at the museum store, advance notice of special events, and more. Other salty exhibits include The Coastal History and Heritage display, boasting artifacts on pirates, shipwrecks, boatbuilding, the seafood industry, marine science, and the tidal properties of large grilled-cheese sandwiches.
A Cape Fear naturalist with a master's degree in environmental science and captain's credentials from the United States Coast Guard, Captain Joe Abbate is just the guy to follow into North Carolina's swamps and coastal waterways. Joe and his nautical team at Wrightsville Scenic Beach Tours lead expeditions along the Atlantic coast that range from birding tours to sunset expeditions to excursions in which passengers learn to talk like a pirate from Don Juan Cortez, a swashbuckling historical reenactor. The company's fleet consists of two ships: Shamrock, a 27-foot, motorized catamaran that can carry up to 22 passengers, and Island Hopper a 22-foot skiff that can navigate both the open water and marsh grass.
At Rennegade Fishing Charters, US Coast Guard–licensed Captain John Renn leads fishing trips out of sunny Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, also serving the Southport, Oak Island, and Bald Head Island communities. A Cape Fear native and lifelong waterfarer, John specializes in inshore, live-bait trips that seek out red drum, flounder, and trout. During charters, he shares his deep knowledge of the area and extensive angling wisdom with his visitors, even helping them by coaching them as they bait hooks and reel in fish. And, as fishing is a year-round activity, Rennegade Fishing Charters is open all year long.
In the more than 30 years that Odysea Surf and Kiteboard School's instructors have been surfing and lifeguarding, they've witnessed time and again the importance of proper safety procedures. So, it comes as no surprise that owner Kevin Murphy and his team incorporate safety precautions into each of their lessons, covering the local surf laws and the dangers of rip currents and long shore currents. Once these basics are touched upon, the instruction focuses on fun. Students learn to surf, standup paddleboard, or kiteboard within private or group lessons or weeklong camps, each held at local beaches.
A personalized fitness assessment determines which areas of the gymnastic sciences you need the most help in, allowing you to focus on problem subjects during your month of no-holds-barred gym access. O2's facilities play host to a variety of playground equipment for the adult-child at heart. Burn your calories in style on more than 100 pieces of individual cardio equipment. Each apparatus is decked out with a personal entertainment screen that doubles as a futuristic magazine tray or vertical forehead-rest. In addition, a full selection of free weights and strength machines allows you to tone and sculpt with Michelangelic precision.