Why Jenkinson’s Aquarium On The Point Pleasant Boardwalk Is My Family’s Favorite Spot


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 the downtown in Point Pleasant Beach where there is even more to do. (featured photo taken at Jenkinson’s Aquarium)

The 58,000-gallon shark tank at Jenkinson’s Aquarium greets you as you enter the aquarium. Photo Credit: NJ MOM

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.

Jenkinson's aquarium penguins

Kids won’t be able to resist the adopt-a-penguin program at Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Photo Credit: @jenkinsonsaquarium

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, Elmer, 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. And if you miss the penguins after your trip, you can watch the penguin cam whenever you want.

Jenkinson's Aquarium seal

Turbo is a harbor seal that was rescued by The Marine Mammal Center when she was only 2 weeks old. She was deemed non-releasable by NOAA, and now she enjoys her new home at Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Photo Credit: Jenkinson’s Aquarium

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 out for Turbo and Noelani. Check to see them on special dates during the new Seal-ebrities program, where you can watch after-hours feeding and learn about these aquatic animals. 

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 were 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.


My kids thought Wally, the two-toed sloth, was the coolest part of the aquarium. Photo Credit: @jenkinsonsaquarium

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.

jenkinsons boardwalk

Strolling the Point Pleasant boardwalk is one of our favorite things to do in New Jersey any season. Photo Credit: NJ MOM

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.

Jenkinson's Aquarium

You can’t miss the waving penguin at Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Photo Credit: NJ MOM

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 $18 for adults, children (3-11) are $12, children 2 and under are free, and seniors 65+ are $13. The aquarium is open every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They also offer unique experiences for a separate fee, like Animal Encounters, Adopt-An-Animal, and a Private Behind The Scenes Tour, along with events like Magical Mermaids, Penguin Pointers, and Junior Keepers. 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. The aquarium also hosts summer camp, outreach and focus programs and animal education programs.

For more information, visit Jenkinson’s Aquarium on their websiteFacebook, and Instagram.

Jenkinson’s Aquarium
300 Ocean Avenue
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742

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About Author

Melanie Bodner has always had a love for writing, but now she has a new love…being a mom. Before having her kids, Melanie was no stranger to writing or working with children. She wrote for a local newspaper as a reporter and taught English and Dance in a public school. Now Melanie enjoys spending time with her kids, doing yoga, writing and decorating her home. Check out her Instagram @burlapbythebeach.