North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island

Manteo, NC

From shipwrecks to sea turtles, improving a popular attraction and conservation program with experiential flair.

North Carolina Aquarium Roanoke renovation
North Carolina Aquarium Roanoke shipwrek
North Carolina Aquarium Roanoke theater
North Carolina Aquarium Roanoke labs
North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island Lab | CambridgeSeven

The Project

A top tourist draw, the North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island had envisioned a modest renovation, but a successful fundraising effort allowed transformation of old exhibits and habitats into new, interactive educational experiences that highlight the area’s maritime history and advocacy for marine life conservation at the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center.

The Approach

Infusing the exhibits with immersive and multi-sensory experiences required deep dives into the artifacts and stories to develop compelling new approaches to storytelling. The aquarium’s plan moves from exploring inland fresh water out to the ocean, with exhibits highlighting the Seven Rivers and estuaries to the Outer Banks, with buried shipwrecks and the marine life that now inhabit them.

The Result

With clever interactive technology and design, visitors experience historic shipwrecks, learn about the area’s marine and river life, walk among columns of jellyfish and witness the heroic turtle conservation efforts of the Aquarium’s STAR Center.

Total area


annual visitors


rescued and released sea turtles


sea jellies


sunken ships


transformed galleries


2016 Top Renovation Project Honorable Mention

Business North Carolina Magazine

2017 CINE Golden Eagle Finalist

Council on International Non-Theatrical Events

We want it to be surprising. We want to immerse the guests into the habitat.

Maylon White, Director, North Carolina Aquariums Division

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