If you ask my kids their favorite place to go at the shore, they’ll tell you it’s Jenkinson’s Aquarium on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk. As soon as they spot the giant penguin waving to us from the boards, they know it’s their cue to see the sea life inside, and we can’t resist their pleas. In the summer, it’s the perfect afternoon sun break attraction, and in the winter, it’s a great way to visit the beach while escaping the cold. But beyond the fun, this top aquarium in New Jersey has marine exhibits designed to emphasize the importance of wildlife conservation and features Atlantic sharks, Pacific sharks, coral reefs, penguins, and seals. There’s plenty to see at this two-story aquarium to keep your little ones busy all afternoon. And before you leave the shore, don’t forget to stop at one of the best beach playgrounds in New Jersey. (featured photo taken at Jenkinson’s Aquarium)
See shark-sized surprises at Jenkinson’s Aquarium
As soon as we enter Jenkinson’s Aquarium, we are greeted by colorful fish swimming through the coral reefs, also known as the rainforest of the sea. At the Pacific Ocean kelp forest habitat, my kids always stop to watch the turtles swim around and rest on the rocks in their pond. But a must-do is the shark tank spanning two levels—start downstairs underwater, and go upstairs to see the top of the 58,000-gallon tank on the Shark Balcony. The tank is filled with nurse sharks, sand sharks, spotted wobbegongs, and even a sand tiger shark. Fun Fact: The sharks are fed three times weekly to keep them full and the other fish safe. If you are lucky, you might be able to catch their feeding time.
Waddle with the penguins
The African penguins are always a big hit with our family. We love to watch these beautiful creatures waddle and swim, and it’s always a good day when we get to see them eat their lunch. If you look closely, the penguins are tagged with various beads so the staff can tell them apart. The penguins also have names like Betty, Captain Jack, Checkers, and Dassen. And kids won’t be able to resist the adopt-a-penguin program—you will receive a plush animal, an adoption certificate, a photo, two aquarium passes, and a discount for an encounter to meet your adoptee. You can also adopt seals, sharks, sloths, and turtles too.
Dive with the seals
My kids are always excited to see the seals, especially since Jenkinson’s offers superb viewing spaces underwater and at the top of their pool and platform (located on the second floor). Keep an eye on Luseal, the blind seal play in the seal tank. Luseal (aka Lucy) is a local celebrity who has lived at Jenkinson’s Aquarium since 1991. It’s unclear what happened, but she was either attacked by a shark or hit by a boat when she was a pup. Even though Lucy is blind, her other senses have helped her navigate her surroundings. If you are there at the right time, you might even see Lucy perform some tricks during her feeding.
Take a journey through the Rainforest at Jenks Aquarium
At the colorful Rainforest, we love watching the adorable monkeys and talkative parrots at play. It’s hard to tear away and move on because the monkeys are so unpredictable. One minute they are napping, and suddenly, they are at the window, ready to play. We also were fascinated by the parrots since they are fun to talk to and imitated our sounds. On the way out of the exhibit, you can make a donation to the rainforest meter—100% of the meter’s proceeds support the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, which helps with conservation efforts.
Interact with Wally, the two-toed sloth
Wally is a 10-pound laid-back, two-toed sloth with star appeal at the Aquarium—often appearing on Instagram with his silly demeanor. He can sleep upside down and up to 18 hours a day and loves to eat squash before falling asleep again. My kids thought he was the coolest part of the aquarium when we saw him. You can see him when you sign up to participate in The Scoop on Sloths program or reserve a Sloth Encounter.
Explore the Pine Barrens
Since we live at the shore, my kids have grown up being curious about the environment around us, and the NJ Pine Barren ecosystem is a fun exhibit to learn about the unique ecosystem down the parkway. There’s lots of information, but we also love seeing the terrapins unique to the Pine Barrens area. It’s good to know that Jenkinson’s has partnered with the American Littoral Society to raise oysters and MATES to help baby diamondback terrapins gain strength to return to the bay later.
Stroll the boardwalk
Once you step outside the aquarium, you will land in the gift shop full of animal books, beach clothing, sea life toys, stuffed animals, coastal decor, and more. Head outdoors on the mile-long Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk that runs from the Manasquan Inlet (a great spot to watch the boats go in and out) to New Jersey Avenue, where you can test your skills at the boardwalk games or arcade or take a ride on the train at Jenkinson’s Amusement Park. Guzzle a large soda, find the perfect candy apple at the Sweet Shop or enjoy boardwalk fries as you stroll down the coastline. Challenge your family members to a game of mini-golf or take a swing in the batting cages. Or, if you packed your beach gear, enjoy the rest of the afternoon watching the waves as your littles dig in the sand.
Here’s what to know about Jenkinson’s Aquarium before you go
You can purchase tickets at Guest Services, and most likely, there will be a line when they open at 10 AM, so get there early if you want to go right away. Admission is $16 for adults, children (3-11) are $10, children 2 and under are free, and seniors 65+ are $11. The aquarium is open every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are unique experiences like Animal Encounters, Adopt-An-Animal, and a Private Behind The Scenes Tour, along with events like Magical Mermaids, Penguin Pointers, and Junior Keepers throughout the year. The first floor is easy to access with a stroller, but you have to park your stroller on the first floor to explore the second level.
300 Ocean Avenue
Point Pleasant Beach
Have you brought your kids to Jenkinson’s Aquarium?
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