Miami Seaquarium

Miami’s Seaquarium, situated on 38 acres on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay, is only minutes away from downtown Miami, the airport, and the Port of Miami. The concept of a facility where people could experience and appreciate the variety of marine life that lives in the ocean was designed and developed by Fred D. Coppock and Capt W.B. Gray. After ten years in construction, the Seaquarium opened to the public in 1955, and today it is recognized as the number one tourist attraction in South Florida.

The Seaquarium actually consists of numerous individual aquariums that feature different fish, reptiles, and mammals such as dolphins, whales, and pinnipeds, or “feather footed” mammals. Capable of living on land or water, pinnipeds include walruses, sea lions, and seals. There are daily outdoor shows and performances; some combined with feeding times, and others with interactive audience participation.

One of the highlights at the Miami Seaquarium is the Whale and Dolphin Stadium where dolphins perform acrobatics to music and Lolita the killer whale walks on water. On the upper levels around the Dolphin Stadium are 26 separate aquariums, with tropical fish, coral, and anemones. Visitors can watch the resident dolphin Samantha and her newborn son through the Windows to the Sea exhibit at the Top Deck Dolphin Show or venture on to the Flipper Lagoon, named after the Flipper movie series of the 1960’s. Here, sessions that include a two-hour educational program on dolphin behavior and a 30-minute swim with the dolphins are available for $175. Daily sessions at 8:30 a.m., 12:00 Noon, and 3:30 p.m.

The Golden Dome Sea Lion show is an amusing Seaquarium presentation with Salty the Sea Lion and his companion. Daily feeding and playtime sessions can be observed, as well, at the Sea Lion Exhibit or at the Feeder Pool where sea lions and seals interact. Another attraction is the Shark Channel, where viewers can watch the feeding of 200-pound sharks, while learning about the different species around the world. Other interesting exhibits at the Seaquarium are the 750,000-gallon Tropical Reef Aquarium, with many different fish, turtles, groupers, and moray eels, and the Tropical Wings Exhibit, featuring exotic animals native to the rainforests such as poisonous frogs, toucans, and various reptiles.

The Discovery Bay exhibit includes a mangrove home for endangered species such as white-tailed deer, alligators, sea turtles, and wild birds including the egret, heron, and ibis. The most recent addition here is Crocodile Flats, where 26 Nile crocodiles now live amid 32 tons of rock, 72 tons of sand, palm trees, five ponds, and a feeding platform. Nile crocodiles, both fresh and saltwater inhabitants, can be found in the Indian Ocean, the Nile River, and arms of the Atlantic Ocean. These large reptiles can grow up to 16 feet in length and weigh as much as 1,000 pounds.

In addition to providing entertainment and education for millions of visitors each year, the Seaquarium is dedicated to marine life conservation. The highly trained staff devotes their time and energy to the specialized biological and medical care and rescue of various sea creatures. Many of these, such as the endangered Florida manatee, of which it is believed there are only 2,500 left in the world today, have been treated and released to return to the ocean, their natural habitat. In addition, the various species of sea turtles including the green sea turtle, the loggerhead, the leatherback, and the hawksbill are protected here, as Florida is the primary nesting place for sea turtles. The Seaquarium is one of only three such facilities in Florida established for this purpose.

Hours: Open year round from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; last shows begin at 2:30 p.m. Bus and transportation available from most hotels in the area; guided tours can be arranged.

Tickets (+7% Florida sales tax): Available online at MiamiSeaquarium.com $29.95 for adults, children 3 — 9 $22.95; annual passes $38.95 and $31.95. Ticket booth at the Seaquarium closes at 4:30 p.m. Group rates, seniors, military, and AAA discounts.
$7.00 parking, Rickenbacker causeway toll $1.25.

Other conveniences: Wheelchairs and strollers for rent; food outlets and gift shops throughout the park. Special events such as weddings, birthdays, and picnics can be scheduled at the Seaquarium, where rental includes all-day admission to the park, a large tent with tables, chairs, and electrical service; a boat dock, free parking, and catering, if desired.

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