Sea Turtle Attractions on the North Carolina Coast

Hundreds of sea turtles come ashore to nest on North Carolina’s beaches each summer. These loggerheads, leatherbacks, ridleys and green sea turtles lay eggs by the hundred, then return to the sea. Thousands of tiny hatchlings emerge and follow their instincts toward the ocean. Those that survive into adulthood might even eventually return to the same beach to lay eggs of their own.

Learn more about North Carolina’s sea turtles – and actually be a part of the conservation and preservation efforts – at a number of attractions on the coast.

1 Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center

1 Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center

Surf CitySee on mapSee on map

This Topsail-area sea turtle hospital is among the largest on the East Coast. Staffed entirely by volunteers, its mission is to rescue, care for, and release sick and injured sea turtles. Check the website for tour hours, visit the facility to befriend the sea turtles currently being nursed back to health and then grab a souvenir from the gift shop. Keep an eye out for when the center releases its rehabilitated turtles – some weighing hundreds of pounds – back to the ocean, a heartwarming experience for all who partake.

2 North Carolina Aquariums

2 North Carolina Aquariums

3 locations

Sea turtles are highly visible at all three North Carolina Aquariums, which are also involved in rescue, rehabilitation and release. The Aquarium on Roanoke Island, located on the Outer Banks, features a Sea Turtle Rescue exhibit. Visitors to the Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores on the Crystal Coast can follow the journey of loggerhead sea turtles – and even speak with one – in the Loggerhead Odyssey exhibit. In the Wilmington area, The Aquarium at Fort Fisher features turtle exhibits and Turtle Talks at the adjacent Fort Fisher State Recreational Area.

3 Bald Head Island Conservancy

photo: Bald Head Island Limited

3 Bald Head Island Conservancy

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Residents of this nature-loving barrier island have watched over sea turtles since 1980. Today, through the Bald Head Island Conservancy, visitors have a unique range of opportunities to learn about turtle activity on one of the highest-density nesting beaches within the loggerhead’s northern range. Among the possibilities are Nest and Sea Turtle Patrol Ride-Alongs and nighttime Turtle Walks during summer months (membership required). You can even Adopt-a-Nest or Adopt-a-Mom, where you'll receive personal invites to nest excavations and much more.

Turtle Talks

Can't get enough turtle time? A number of local organizations also offer turtle talks during summer months:

Brunswick Islands

Holden Beach
June through August
Wednesdays, 7 p.m., Holden Beach Town Hall

Ocean Isle Beach
late May through September
Mondays, 3:30 p.m., Museum of Coastal Carolina
Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., OIB Community Center

Sunset Beach
mid-June to late August
Sundays, 7 p.m., Sunset Properties


Wilmington

Carolina Beach
mid-June through late August
Wednesdays, 7 p.m., Carolina Beach State Park visitors center

Kure Beach
mid-June through late August
Mondays, 7 p.m., Ocean Front Pavilion

Wrightsville Beach
June through August
Tuesdays, 7 p.m., N.C. Coastal Federation

Updated February 22, 2018
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