The S.C. Aquarium in Charleston at Liberty Square, along the Cooper River has a well-designed and well-stocked series of mountains-to-the-sea tanks that literally take you from upcountry brooks to saltwater. Its centerpiece: The two-story 385,000-gallon Great Ocean Tank. Elsewhere here, keep your eyes peeled for cute little seahorses. ($19.95; $12.95 for kids; www.scaquarium.org)
There are three N.C. Aquariums. ($8; $6 for kids; www.ncaquariums.com)
The one at Pine Knoll Shores, near Atlantic Beach, features a 300,000-gallon ocean tank, a rare white sea turtle, river otters and other exhibits. The operation at Fort Fisher, just south of Wilmington, has a re-created shipwreck and live gators (including a rare albino named Luna). The aquarium at Roanoke Island has whats billed as the largest collection of sharks in North Carolina.
See live and strange sea creatures galore at Ripleys Aquarium, at Myrtle Beachs Broadway at the Beach. One highlight is the 330-foot Dangerous Reef exhibit: A conveyor glides you through a tunnel surrounded by a 750,000-gallon tank. ($21.99; $10.99 for ages 6-11; $3.99 for ages 2-5; www.ripleysaquarium.com)