5 Must-See Beaches When Stationed in Jacksonville, NC


When military families first find out they’re going to be stationed in Jacksonville, North Carolina, they tend to be less than thrilled. They were maybe hoping for somewhere a little more glamorous like California or Hawaii. In their minds, they picture Jacksonville as a typical military town littered with tattoo parlors and barber shops. 

What they don’t consider are the perks of living in Coastal Carolina. Fresh seafood, shopping, historical districts, a slower paced lifestyle, and best of all … BEACHES!

My family loves taking advantage of living so close to the ocean. We take family trips to the beach on the weekends. I’ve even been known to have a play date or two at the beach during the week for the kids. 

In honor of Spring Break and the upcoming summer, I have gathered a list of the beaches near our duty station in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and reasons why each one is unique and worth a visit!

5 Must See Beaches When Stationed In Jacksonville, NC

1. Onslow Beach, Camp Lejeune

Distance from Jacksonville, NC: 30 Minutes
This one is just a short drive from town, and if you live on base, it’s just a skip, hop, and jump. I enjoy Onslow Beach for a spur of the moment beach trip. Lacking beachfront restaurants and shops, it’s a great option if you’re just looking to get your toes wet and let the kids play in the sand. It’s also fairly quiet during the week since most people are working! **Does require base access.

2. Surf City, Topsail Island

Distance from Jacksonville, NC: 36 Minutes
This is by far my favorite beach in the area (although I may be a little biased since this beach is where I first met my husband!). Topsail is a quiet community littered with charming beach houses, fun little beach shops, and delicious seafood restaurants. Much of the crowd you will find here are made up of retirees and Marines and their families. It’s a quaint little spot which is something I look for in my beaches. 

3. Emerald Isle

Distance from Jacksonville, NC: 36 Minutes
Also a popular spot because of its close proximity to base, Emerald Isle has much to offer. From fishing on the pier to water sport rentals, it’s a fun spot for a staycation if you’re stationed in Jacksonville. If you want to explore just 20 minutes further you can  find Hammocks Beach State Park; a popular spot for kayaking and paddle boarding!

4. Wilmington, NC Beaches (Kure, Carolina, and Wrightsville)

Distance from Jacksonville, NC: 1 Hour (give/take)
With a little more time and planning you and your family can hop down to the beautiful city of Wilmington, NC. This area offers charming riverfront shopping, Hollywood and ghost tours, nightlife, restaurants, and even a battleship! I always recommend this area to friends looking to get out of town without traveling too far or spending a fortune. Wilmington offers three great nearby beaches that are great for food, bars, water sports, and even camping. 

5. Myrtle Beach, SC

Distance from Jacksonville, NC: 2.5 Hours
Another that will take a little time and planning and maybe even require a hotel stay is Myrtle. Myrtle beach is a classic vacation spot for families all over the East Coast. From shopping to the beaches, Myrtle has fun for the whole family. It’s nice to have such a popular vacation spot just a couple of hours away. 

Start Exploring 

If you’re in Jacksonville, NC or PCSing here in the near future, just look at it from my perspective. You’re not limited to the town itself (which may not be Hawaii but still has its own charms). There are people who come from all over to see the area’s historical districts and beaches. There is so much more to explore than you might realize. You just have to pretend to be a vacationer! Go to Onslow on a Tuesday just to get some sun. Grab the kids this weekend and go jet skiing at Emerald Isle. Or call the sitter and hit the beach town bars in Wilmington for a fun date night with your spouse. 

We go where the military tells us. That’s the life. So make the most of this opportunity and give your duty station a chance. Whether it’s Jacksonville or someplace entirely difference, pull up that Google browser and see what you can find!


Have you explored Jacksonville, NC? What are some things you and your family enjoy doing in the area?

Live in a different duty station? What is something interesting you’ve found to do in YOUR area?