You no longer have to choose between surf and turf when thinking about your favorite WNC destinations thanks to the ECCO Ocean Center and Aquarium. If you assume that you will have to forgo all things beach-related when planning a trip to Western North Carolina or that you’ll have to travel hours upon hours to reach your ocean destination, prepare to be greatly surprised. One of the area’s newest attractions and coolest treasures, located a stone’s throw from downtown Asheville, is the ECCO Ocean Center and Aquarium.

Aquarium 1With a focus on education and with the ridiculously reasonable entrance price of four dollars for a day pass, the ECCO Ocean Center houses a plethora of fishes, reptiles, and other aquatic life that is sure to tickle your kids and give you a taste of the ocean while still enjoying the serenity of a mountain escape. Manned completely with volunteer staff and students, this nonprofit is a really cool place to head to while catching some of the other sights in historic Hendersonville.

Small but beautifully maintained and organized, this is not an attraction you’re going to have to worry about long lines or crowded exhibits. It really has the feel of a local hotspot without the posh commercialism you might find in another attraction of similar size and location. No one is trying to sell anything but ocean education and the passion for the ECCO’s work really comes through in how well the staff answers questions and finds delight in telling both young and old visitors about their particular area of interest.

lion fish

Did I mention that they have a shark feeding time? Oh yeah. Happens daily. It’s pretty awesome to watch and it will definitely peak the imagination of the younger generation who get to witness the “frenzy.” In addition, because of its small size, location, and the like, you get to have a lot more interaction with the animals than you would at a typical aquarium. On the day that we visited, there was a tortoise just roaming around. Our under 10 crowd raved about it.
If you’re in the area, mark this on your list and pop in for a visit. Trust me when I say that it’s a fun experience for all the animal lovers big and small that might be in your group.

ECCO Ocean Center and Aquarium

511 N Main St, Hendersonville, NC 28792

ECCO Ocean Center & Aquarium

511 N Main St

Hendersonville, NC 28792