Dolphin Oasis: Gulfarium Marine Park Expansion

This multi-million-dollar project has been years in the making!

Posted on 2/8/2022

The Gulfarium on Okaloosa Island in the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area is about to get even more incredible!

A staple to the Emerald Coast community since 1955, the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park recently announced an awesome new expansion to its facility. The Dolphin Oasis, an immersive natural-habitat experience, will open in 2023. The park is accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums and the International Marine Animal Trainers' Association, so it's no surprise that the new oasis was designed with a focus on animal welfare, conservation education, and the guest experience.

Since its inception in the 1950s, the Gulfarium's current dolphin exhibit has been a top-notch habitat for dolphin welfare and a visitor favorite. Will Merrill III, the Gulfarium President, announced that they are excited to build upon the foundation of the current habitat to create a facility that will meet the dolphins' long-term needs throughout their lives.

Dolphin Park Destin

This multi-million-dollar project has been years in the making—from conception to design—and will take about 14 months to complete. Through the collaborative efforts of Gulfarium individuals, the MIG|Portico design firm in Seattle, and PCL Construction based in Orlando, the expansion has reached the construction phase. It will be ready to debut for the 2023 spring and summer seasons. This means it's time to start thinking about your next Destin vacation!


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Throughout the project's construction, the Gulfarium will remain open for guests to enjoy the other park's attractions. This is because Dolphin Oasis is a completely new addition to the park. It is being built on an undeveloped plot on the north side of the park, and the new dolphin habitat will encompass a little over two acres of land. Once the expansion has been completed, visitors will journey through the Gulfarium's other amazing exhibits—from the sea turtle CARE center to the crocodile encounter—to enter into this new dolphin paradise.

So, what will Dolphin Oasis offer its resident dolphins, Gulfarium staff, and visitors?
Check out the video with Patrick Berry, the Gulfarium's Senior Vice President, as he summarizes the features of this wonderful new Dolphin Oasis.

Dolphin Oasis Map

According to the Gulfarium's website, "Dolphin Oasis will be an immersive, natural-themed experience reflecting our Emerald Coast and consisting of three large, interconnected habitats." The three areas have been designed to meet the welfare needs of these dolphins. They include an encounter habitat, exhibit habitat, and a presentation habitat. Each habitat varies in size and depth, so as to mimic the natural habitats that dolphins would encounter in the wild. This includes a deeper habitat, shallow habitat, and one with a sloping beach.


There will also be three behind-the-scenes husbandry habitats for the dolphins to interact with the park's animal care professionals and staff. In total, the oasis will contain over one million gallons of Gulf saltwater and allow the dolphins to move throughout the different areas. Other features of the Dolphin Oasis include a medical lift, as well as a life support system that uses Defender Filters. This not only reduces energy usage by 50 percent but also cuts oxidants from the water—meaning fish can live in the habitats, providing increased welfare and enrichment.


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Each habitat will offer a unique perspective and educational experience for guests. The presentation exhibit will include seating for up to 480 visitors but still feature the up-close animal experience that has become a favorite for long-time park visitors. The exhibit habitat is intended as the nursery for new calves, and will provide split-level viewing for visitors to observe the dolphins from multiple vantage points. The encounter habitat is where guests will be able to interact with the dolphins with a more hands-on experience.

Dolphin Attraction

Whether you've been to the Gulfarium in the past or it's on your bucket list, it will definitely be worth a visit once the new Dolphin Oasis expansion has been completed! In addition to the new exhibit, you will get to experience all the other animal exhibits that have made the Gulfarium a fun experience for over 65 years. Something else to keep in mind—Dolphin Oasis will be available to book for events, including weddings and special occasions!

It's never too early to start planning a beach vacation, so be sure to browse our Destin vacation rentals and book your stay for 2023 (or for now). Once here, you can enjoy the beach, Gulfarium, and the huge variety of coastal experiences the Emerald Coast has to offer.

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