If you’re looking for a fun and educational aquatic experience, a visit to one of the following New England Aquariums is the perfect activity. Meander through the colorful exhibits and learn more about the creatures that live below the surface of the sea, plus the efforts being done to help protect these unique specimens and their native habitats.
For a list of the many fine aquariums in New England, including key species and attractions at each, please enjoy our Guide to New England Aquariums.
Guide to New England Aquariums
Mystic Aquarium | Mystic, CT
The Mystic Aquarium offers several different opportunities to learn about the underwater world and various creatures from around the globe. In addition to a coral reef with exotic fish, there is a colony of 35 African penguins and an exhibit of over 30 types of frogs. Don’t miss the largest outdoor beluga whale exhibit in the United States, and be sure to watch the seal show. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, head over to the Ray Touch Pool, to feel a live stingray swim beneath your hand. 55 Coogan Boulevard, Mystic, CT. 860-572-5955; mysticaquarium.org
The Maritime Aquarium | Norwalk, CT
A 3,000-gallon Coral Reef exhibit of more than 40 species of fish, provides a glimpse into the colorful and lively world at the bottom of the ocean. Observe an octopus, sand tiger sharks, seals, otters, jellyfish, and more. The Shark & Ray Touch Pool gives visitors the rare, but safe, opportunity to touch these creatures. The Intertidal Touch Tank offers hands-on learning concerning animals found locally such as horseshoe crabs, sea stars, and other small ocean animals. Make a day of it by taking in a show at the 4D theater. 10 North Water Street, Norwalk, CT. 203-852-0700; maritimeaquarium.org
Maine State Aquarium | West Boothbay Harbor, ME
This aquarium is operated by the Maine Department of Marine Resources and serves as an educational facility. The main gallery depicts the coast of Maine and exhibits regional fish and invertebrates. Lobsters of all sizes and colors make their home in one of several tanks. Sea anemones and purple sun-stars can be found in a neighboring tank. Step up to the 850-gallon tank that houses sharks and skates (a type of fish belonging to the ray family) for an interactive experience or visit the touch-tank to hold a sea cucumber or snail. Exhibits and animals on display are subject to change. Opened seasonally (see site for details). 194 McKown Point Road, West Boothbay Harbor, ME. 207-633-9559; maine.gov
New England Aquarium | Boston, MA
You really don’t want to miss the New England Aquarium. It is home to thousands of aquatic animals, including two Pacific octopuses, California sea lions, sea jellies, and penguins. Admire the weirdness that is the common cuttlefish, and be mesmerized by the cownose ray. Learn more about saving endangered sea turtles at the Sea Turtle Hospital, stop by the Edge of the Sea Touch Tank to hold sea stars and mussels, among other tide-pool dwelling creatures. Once you’re done exploring all the salt-water displays, venture into the Amazon rain forest exhibit to see piranhas, electric eels, and poison dart frogs. 1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA. 617-973-5200; neaq.org
Woods Hole Science Aquarium | Falmouth, MA
Though smaller than some of the other New England aquariums, the Woods Hole Science Aquarium houses close to 140 species of Northeast and Middle Atlantic marine animals. Displays include flounders, lobsters, sea urchins, and bones and shells from endangered turtles and whales. An outdoor exhibit provides a home for seals that are unable to live in the wild. Watch as the seals are fed and trained during morning and afternoon sessions. A visit is not complete without a few minutes spent at the touch tanks, providing visitors with the opportunity to get up close and personal with hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, and a variety of other small sea creatures. Admission is free, though donations are accepted and greatly appreciated. 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, Falmouth, MA. 508-495-2001; aquarium.nefsc.noaa.gov
New Hampshire Aquariums
Seacoast Science Center | Rye, NH
Discover, explore, and connect with nature at the Seacoast Science Center at Ordiorne State Park in Rye, New Hampshire. The center offers several diverse exhibits, including, like many of the New England aquariums, a touch tank, which houses several types of local sea animals, such as a chain catshark and little skate. Observe various fish and crustaceans at the Gulf of Maine habitat, and learn more about sea exploration and the ocean’s mysteries at The Deep exhibit. With special events scheduled regularly throughout the year, you may want to check out their calendar before you plan your trip. 570 Ocean Boulevard, Rye, NH 03870. 603-436-8043; seacoastsciencecenter.orgSEE MORE:Rye, New Hampshire | Beaches, Seafood & Seaside Fun
Rhode Island Aquariums
Biomes Marine Biology Center | North Kingston, RI
The Biomes Marine Biology Center is a private facility geared more towards children. The center specializes in marine education, offering various demonstrations such as the feeding sessions for the tortoise, horseshoe crab, and stingrays. In addition, there are demonstrations featuring the puffer-fish and seahorse. Other animals for viewing include crabs, frogs, and an octopus, among others. As with many of the New England aquariums, there are touch tanks for closer interactions with the animals. See site for days of operation and times. 6640 Post Road, North Kingstown, RI. 401-885-4690; biomescenter.com
Exploration Center and Aquarium | Newport, RI
This interactive marine science learning center houses hundreds of sea animals, most of which are found naturally on Narragansett Bay. 14 exhibits, including three touch tanks, give visitors the chance to learn more about the local sea-life. Witness rare lobsters and dogfish sharks, as well as fish from the bay. During the winter, the center serves as the headquarters for seal-watching. Register in advance for the Feeding Frenzy hour, which is open to the public on select dates, to help feed the animals and watch as they devour their food. 175 Memorial Boulevard, Newport, RI 02840. 401-324-6020; savebay.org
Echo Leahy Center | Burlington, VT
Vermont is the only state in New England that does not have a seacoast. Perhaps this explains why Vermont does not have any sea aquariums or ocean centers. The Echo Leahy Center found its way into our Guide to New England Zoos, but we’ve also included it here for convenience. The center offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about freshwater creatures, such as the Lake Sturgeon fish, the Lake Trout, and the Longnosed Gar. The center also features a small sea tank and an exhibit on reptiles and amphibians. Short-term exhibits have included everything from weather to butterflies. 1 College Street, Burlington, VT. 802-864-1848; echovermont.orgSEE MORE:Late Fall Weekend in Burlington, Vermont
Which of these New England Aquariums is your family’s favorite?
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.