You don’t have to travel far to see some of the most amazing sea life on the planet—aquariums in NJ are often considered some of the best in the country. Thanks to dedicated preservation efforts and an emphasis on local and global marine animals, the best aquariums in NJ feature everything from hammerhead sharks to mellow sea turtles, to bottle-nosed dolphins and the Blue Nile hippos. And with COVID safety measures like reduced capacity, ticketed time slots, and personalized visits, it’s the perfect time to get out and explore one. Scroll down for an aquarium in New Jersey near you.
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Here are 10 aquariums in NJ where you can spend a day under the sea
Camden Adventure Aquarium
Your family can see over 15,000 aquatic animals, including the most extensive collection of sharks in the Northeast and Nile Blue Hippos, which is why Camden is often considered the best aquarium in New Jersey. Kids will want to check out the Little Blue Penguins (aka the “cutest penguins ever”) before making the thrilling crossing over the largest rope suspension shark bridge on the planet. During COVID, they are limiting capacity, requiring masks, and practicing social distancing. You must purchase your tickets in advance, which you can make up to 45 days before your planned visit date. Once you have tickets, you may enter the aquarium 30 minutes before or after your designated reservation time.
1 Riverside Drive
Phone Number: (844) 474-3474
Located beachside on Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, this NJ aquarium is perfect for families to visit during a boardwalk break. Their marine exhibits are designed to educate the importance of wildlife conservation and feature Atlantic sharks, Pacific sharks, coral reefs, penguins, and seals. Your kids can also check out the hands-on learning experiences with marine professionals—learn about Wally the two-toed sloth, waddle alongside penguin friends, or take a behind-the-scenes tour and see the inner workings of the aquarium. Currently, the aquarium is open with limited capacity, but Touch Experiences are unavailable at this time.
300 Ocean Avenue
Point Pleasant Beach
Phone Number: (732) 899-1212
Turtle Back Zoo
Essex County’s Turtle Back Zoo is one of New Jersey’s most well-known and loved facilities to expose your children to wildlife from around the world. Get aquatic with Turtle Back’s sea lion pool and sea turtle recovery, or visit the penguin exhibit that resembles the South African coastline. There is even a 1,600-gallon marine life touch tank.
560 Northfield Avenue
Phone Number: (973) 731-5800
Liberty Science Center
We love Liberty Science Center for their IMAX films, Dino Digs, and Touch Tunnel, but did you know this world-class facility also features a year-round exhibit focused on our own Hudson River habitat? Littles can move water and sediments in a real replication of the Hudson River, come face to face with adorable turtles at the child-height tanks, and even don white laboratory coats while conducting their own ecology experiments.
222 Jersey City Boulevard
Phone Number: (201) 200-1000
Marine Mammal Stranding Center
New Jersey’s only facility for marine mammal rescue has been saving aquatic lives for over 35 years. This haven for marine life has housed and treated a wide range of species, from bottle-nosed dolphins and sea turtles to sea lions and porpoises. The small, dedicated team implements an array of educational programs designed for younger children to learn animal facts and safety through the Stranding Center’s museum. The center does not have any onsite or traveling education programs right now, but virtual field trips are available. The rest of the center is only open to the public from 10 AM-2 PM on Saturdays.
3625 Brigantine Boulevard
Phone Number: (609) 266-0528
NJ SEA LIFE Aquarium
Discover over 3,000 sea creatures, including sharks, rays, jellies, and more, at this brand new aquarium opening for the first time this spring in the American Dream Mall. Kids will love to walk through an ocean tunnel, explore educational and interactive exhibits, and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium. And see how many NYC landmarks you can spot in the cityscape backdrop in their featured “City Under the Sea” exhibit.
1 American Dream Way
Phone Number: (551) 234-6382
Where else can you interact with animals from five continents in one place than at this aquarium in Woodbridge, NJ? Make your way through an Icelandic Fishing Village, the Great Wall of China, and the Amazon River. At the same time, you explore over 20,000 square feet of adventure with everything from Asian otters, stingrays and even flying squirrels. Or sign up for a sloth interaction or an animal whisperer tour. At SeaQuest, you can purchase feeding tokens to buy snacks for individual animals throughout your tour. Adults can even schedule a SeaSide Spa Session during their visit.
250 Woodbridge Center Drive
Phone Number: (732) 283-2945
The Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Center
Did you know that the Pequest facility not only includes a Natural Resource Education Center for environmental education, but it houses the only state-owned and operated trout hatchery in NJ? Up to 700,000 trout are produced annually for stocking public waters at this location. The building is not currently open, but you can take a self-guided hatchery tour which will take you from the nursery building, where you can peek through the windows of both the egg room and nursery area. There’s also an observation platform where you can overlook the raceways and pools filled with trout.
605 Pequest Road
Phone Number: (908) 637-4125
Visit the aquarium, explore the elevated walkway, enjoy the dock, or hike the salt marsh trail at this Stone Harbor natural conservation area, rich with mollusks, turtles, horseshoe crabs, whelk, mud snails, and more. Entry is limited at this time, but you can visit “Secrets of the Salt Marsh Aquarium” or the “Terrapin Station.” The institute’s goal is to inspire communities to become stewards of our coastal and wetland ecosystem. So, if you cannot make it in-person, you have the opportunity to get still involved. Visit their website to watch their “Creature Feature” or view the virtual “Touch Tank.” Virtual and in-person homeschool programs are also available.
1075 Stone Harbor Blvd
Phone Number: (609) 368-1211
Atlantic City Aquarium (temporarily closed due to COVID)
Reptiles, amphibians, marine mammals, fish, invertebrates, birds—the Atlantic City Aquarium located at Historic Gardner’s Basin on the bay has it all. Keep your littles engaged with the aquarium’s many attention-grabbing exhibits: Ocean Oddities, Moray Eels, Reef Predators, Tropical Rainforest, or the Piranha Tank. Take a productive break and stop to watch a Live Diver Feeding Show and see divers hand-feed residents of the “Fish of the Mid-Atlantic” tank. You can ask questions while the diver is underwater and learn more about the duties of aquatic professionals.
800 North New Hampshire Avenue
Phone Number: (609) 348-2880