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Is The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park Worth Visiting?

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dolphins at the Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach

The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach, Florida is definitely worth visiting if you are in the area. We were staying in Destin, Florida and decided to make the drive over to Fort Walton Beach to check it out.

We were a bit concerned that it would be too much walking for my elderly parents, but the size of the Gulfarium turned out to be just right.

There are plenty of amazing animals and sea life to watch but it’s not overly large or intimidating like places like Sea World. It’s the perfect size to take your family and spend a few hours of quality time together.

The Gulfarium has been a staple in Fort Walton Beach for over 60 years. Founded in 1955, it originally began as a porpoise show. Since then it has grown into a full fledged marine adventure park. Its location on Okaloosa Island provides beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico while you’re strolling around the park.

How Much Do Gulfarium Tickets Cost?

General Admission Adult Tickets were $34.95 and child tickets were $24.95. Infants and children under 3 get in for free.

When planning a visit to Gulfarium, it’s wise to consider the convenience of purchasing tickets online in advance.

Not only does this save you time upon arrival, but it also ensures you can secure your desired entry time, especially during peak seasons when the park may be bustling with visitors. By booking ahead, you can breeze through the dedicated pre-paid tickets line, allowing you to dive straight into the excitement of exploring Gulfarium’s captivating marine exhibits and thrilling shows.

Can You Touch and Feed the Animals at the Gulfarium?

With general admission, no. However, they offer special “Encounters” you can purchase that let you get up close and personal with a variety of animals including dolphins, sea lions, penguins, stingrays, harbor seals, alligators, turtles, and other reptiles. Here’s a full list:

  • Splash ‘N Play – touch, feed, and interact with dolphins for $189
  • Discover Dolphins – experience a training session with dolphins for $44
  • Discover Penguins – touch and feed African black footed penguins for $44
  • Discover Sea Lions – feed sea lions and experience a training session for $50
  • Discover Stingray Bay – go snorkeling with cownose rays, small sharks, & a grouper for $59
  • Discover Gators – touch and hold gators for $59
  • Reptile Safari – see, touch, and hold snakes, tortoises, turtles, lizards, or alligators for $36
  • Discover Harbor Seals – interact with some playful harbor seals for $48
  • Discover Stingrays – a cheaper alternative to Stingray Bay if you want to stay dry for $26
  • Discover Turtles – touch and feed African spurred tortoises for $48

If you want an even more hands-on experience you can be a VIP Trainer. It’s very expensive at $399, but you can get an incredible behind the scenes experience working alongside the aquarists and trainers.

What is There to Do at the Gulfarium?

It is similar to a zoo in many ways because you can walk around at your own pace and visit all the different sections with different animals.

There is a large aquarium room full of tanks with all kinds of tropical fish, amphibians, and reptiles. They have everything from sea horses to sharks in there. There are big open areas and there are walkways they weave you through displays that have turtles, alligators, etc.

They have some large tanks where they are rehabbing injured sea turtles. There are also large areas for sting rays, sharks, penguins, otters, and seals. The manatees have a huge tank and you can view them both above and under the water.

But the biggest draw is the sea lion show and the newly renovated Dolphin Oasis where they put on three dolphin shows per day.

What Shows Do They Have?

They have a sea lion show and a dolphin show that they perform three times per day. The sea lion show is very funny. Two sea lions do all kinds of tricks and show off some amazing talents they have.

The dolphin show is great. They have four dolphins that perform many amazing tricks including dancing, waving, fetching, racing, and jumping into the air doing twists and flips.

The Dolphin Oasis seats about 450 people so I recommend you get there early so you can get a seat before it starts getting crowded.

Is The Gulfarium Fun for Kids?

Absolutely. Our kids loved it and it was one of their favorite things we did from our entire vacation. They loved the sea lion show and the dolphin show the most, but they really liked watching the otters and the penguins as well.

They enjoy learning about the animals too. The Gulfarium staff does what they call “chats” where they teach about the animals and feed them. They do that for the otters and the penguins throughout the day.

Should We Plan on Spending the Whole Day at the Gulfarium?

No. It’s not as big as most zoos or theme parks. It’s more of a half-day type of trip. We were there less than four hours and we had plenty of time to see everything and watch two of the shows.

Reasons Why You Should Go to The Gulfarium

There are many reasons why you should go to the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park.

The most obvious one is that it is a lot of fun to see all the cool wildlife and sea life. But the Gulfarium is not just about showing off animals; they are also dedicated to education and conservation.

They will teach you about the animals and their habitats. They also rescue sea turtles and nurse them back to health. When you are spending money at the Gulfarium you are supporting the animals.

Things to Do Near the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Since the Gulfarium isn’t something that takes up a whole day, many people ask about nearby attractions or other things to do before or after visiting the Gulfarium.

If you stay in the Fort Walton Beach area you could visit the beach, go to Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone or visit the Air Force Armament Museum. If you’re hungry I recommend The Crap Trap or The Shack. They are both close by.

I also highly recommend driving about 10 minutes over to Destin and visiting Harborwalk Village. It’s full of great restaurants, shops, and fun things to do on the harbor.

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