Albino alligator, Civil War fort spice up trip to Kure Beach

Posted May 22, 2009 3:39 p.m. EDT
Updated May 23, 2009 6:40 a.m. EDT

— An albino alligator in an oceanfront aquarium: It sounds like a rare sight for residents of the Piedmont, but with a little planning the exhibit can be seen in a day trip to Kure Beach.

The exhibit featuring the 5-foot-long, 4-year-old albino alligator opens May 29 at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach. She'll join the aquarium's albino turtle.

"An alligator like this would not survive in the wild. They can actually get sunburned," said Julie Johnson, an alligator keeper at the aquarium. "Their eyes are sensitive, and they have no camouflage, so predators can pick off a young alligator."

Throw in the aquarium's regular gators, all the fish and a touch tank for the children, and that adds up to a lot of entertainment that won't consume much cash. Admission for a family of four is under $30.

"We're just planning a day trip, so we're not going to spend the hotel cost. We're going to spend that money on gas and fast food," said tourist Rachel Seagroves.

Kure Beach – about a 2½-hour drive from the Triangle – also offers a rare glimpse into the past: Fort Fisher, a Confederate fortress that kept Wilmington open to blockade runners until 1865.

The museum guides visitors through the battle that felled the last Confederate fort in North Carolina. Outside, visitors tour the remnants of sand mounds that once protected the fort.

The sheer size of the well-preserved site tells about life for the men at Fort Fisher, said museum spokeswoman Amy Thorton.

"It was a lot of work building a mile-and-a-half earthwork. It was not a day at the beach like it is today," Thorton said.

But for those looking for exactly that, the beach at Fort Fisher won't disappoint.

Mary Cordero brought her children down from Goldsboro. Having grown up in the Northeast, she said, it's rare to find a beach like this.

"We love it. It's beautiful. I can't believe it's free," Cordero said.

"It's wonderful. It's better than any tranquilizer I know," beach-goer Chris Bliss said.