Visit the sea turtle hospital

During the summer, more than 1,000 people per day stand in line to go to the hospital.

The sea turtle hospital, that is.

Known as the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, the hospital’s patients come from all over the Eastern Seaboard. They sometimes weigh hundreds of pounds. Sometimes they are stunned by cold and their little organs begin to shut down. Sometimes they are injured by boat propeller blades or entangled in fishing nets and line.

At the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, the all-volunteer staff cares for three species of endangered sea turtles – loggerheads, Kemp’s ridleys, and greens. The Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the most endangered. The loggerheads are the largest sea turtles at the hospital. They can weigh several hundred pounds. 

“The sea turtle hospital started with one turtle in a volunteer’s backyard,” said Jean Beasley, director of the hospital.

The first turtle rescued by sea turtle volunteers was in the fall 1995, two years before the hospital was built. The turtle’s name was Lucky and there have been hundreds of lucky turtles since. In June 2014, the hospital released as many as 60 turtles that received care and were deemed healthy enough to return to their natural habitat.

There are several marine life agencies which care for sea turtles in the nation. But the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation is one of the few worldwide dedicated to caring exclusively for sea turtles.

The sea turtle hospital opened in Topsail Beach on Nov. 7, 1997, near the Bush Marina. In May 2014, the new facility officially opened in Surf City. Located at 302 Tortuga Lane, off Charlie Medlin Drive, the sea turtle hospital houses a room for surgeries, a diagnostics lab with x-ray equipment, rehabilitation pool, and isolation sick bay.

Visitors are met with displays about seashells, turtle nesting, and various species of turtles. The colorful Memories Wall provides families with a “Kodak moment.”

In the tour, visitors can see Sick Bay through glass windows and watch a turtle rehab in the pool. The tour leads visitors into Turtle Bay for an up-close view of the turtles in their large blue tanks. Volunteers are on hand to provide information about the turtles, including an explanation of why the turtle is in the hospital.

While the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center attracts more visitors than any other area attraction, it remains first and foremost a hospital. That is why visitation hours are noon to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays during the summer. The majority of the hospital hours are spent on treating and feeding the creatures.

Admission is $5 per adult, $3 per child, and $4 for all active military personnel.

For more information about the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center go online to   or visit Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. Turtle releases are announced on the Facebook page, so be sure to “like” the hospital for up-to-date information.