Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park has entertained millions since its inception in 1955. In the early 1950’s J.B. “Brandy” Siebenaler, a well-respected marine researcher and a graduate of the University of Miami’s Marine Laboratory, had the vision to display marine life in a way that visitors to this area had never seen before. Brandy sold the developers of northwest Florida the idea that Fort Walton Beach needed an aquarium, a tourist attraction, and scientific research center.
In the beginning, the main habitat contained multiple animal species including sharks, dolphins, rays, and sea turtles. This habitat doubled as both the dolphin show and the Living Sea exhibit with a daily shark feeding demonstration on SCUBA gear. Glass portholes at varying levels gave the visitor the impression of actually being in the sea with the marine life.
Despite knowing that their main attraction animals were actually called dolphins, the trainers referred to them as porpoises so not to confuse the public with the dolphin fish that they consumed. These “porpoises” were trained to jump high to ring dinner bells and collect fish from the trainer’s hand or even mouth.
In 1956 a separate Living Sea exhibit was built, providing another view “under the sea” with daily dive demonstrations led by Gulfarium staff. This was the first aquarium of its time to feature viewing windows that stretched from the sea floor to the water’s surface. While common now, this was groundbreaking at the time. Throughout the years, additional pools and exhibits have been added including sea lions, seals, otters, alligators, and exotic birds.
The Gulfarium’s extensive history of shows and demonstrations continues to this day, with the recent addition of close-up animal encounters, providing our visitors with a new dimension of discovering sea life.Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is dedicated to educating, entertaining, and inspiring our guests to respect and preserve wildlife by providing unique and memorable experiences for visitors of all ages to connect with marine life.