The Best of Jacksonville, North Carolina

Book a stay near the river to enjoy this North Carolina military town.

Jacksonville, NC
Photo: Yorkfoto/Getty Images

It's time for a trip to Jacksonville. Which one? Jacksonville, North Carolina, of course. This lovely seaside retreat has a fun downtown, great restaurants, riverside views, and Southern charm to spare.

Jacksonville is located in eastern North Carolina on the banks of the New River, just a stone's throw from the Atlantic Ocean. It's known for Camp Lejeune, the U.S. Marine Corps base and training facility located there. Jacksonville is an ideal location for a vacation thanks to the nearness of the coast (with ocean breezes aplenty), and because it's situated near the picturesque Croatan National Forest. Here's where to stay and what to do in this small waterfront city.

The Perfect Getaway

Plan a weekend getaway to Jacksonville, and you're guaranteed a refreshing coastal escape. Book a stay riverside (for beautiful views) or near downtown (for delicious eats). Be sure to check the town website for all the info you need to plan your visit, and don't forget to take your crew to Wilson Bay and Wilson Bay Park for great views of the New River's sapphire waters—and plenty of room to roam. The Atlantic beaches are just a quick drive away; North Topsail Beach, for example, is a 25-minute drive south.

Best Beaches Nearby

New River Waterfront

Meander the lighted boardwalk and pier of New River Waterfront Park to take in the sights and sounds of the river. Pack a lunch and settle in at the park's picnic tables to watch the boats drift by.

Hammocks Beach State Park

Bring your own, or rent, some kayaks to explore Hammocks Beach State Park and the surrounding paddling trails. Paddle out to Bear Island, an undeveloped barrier island with a big, serene beach.

Topsail Island Beaches

Nearby Topsail Island has gorgeous barrier beaches perfect for taking in a sunset or sunrise. It's a sea turtle sanctuary, and—legend has it—the pirate Blackbeard hid his treasure on Topsail.

Emerald Isle

A 45-minute drive southeast of Jacksonville takes you to Emerald Isle, a coastal escape where you can dip your toes in the water or go all in with paddling tours, boat rentals, and fishing charters.

Onslow Beach

Onslow Beach at Camp Lejune is located between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. According to the website, "Onslow Beach is open to all authorized DoD ID card holders with proper base access." Check the FAQs section of the website for reservation details and guidelines, as well as notifications of when the area will be closed to visitors.

Wrightsville Beach

Bring your paddleboards, kayaks, and sunscreen to enjoy the surf and sand at the town of Wrightsville Beach, an oceanside spot with clear waters and family activities galore.

Things to Do in Jacksonville

While in Jacksonville, visit the Lynwood Park Zoo, a veteran-owned animal sanctuary; or pay your respects at the beautiful Lejeune Memorial Gardens and the Veterans Memorials located in the gardens. Fish on the beautiful New River with Captain David Fountain of Just Got Reel Inshore Charters. Half and full-day trips include drinks, snacks, and even a fishing license. If you're bringing the kids, check out one of many family-friendly activities like batting cages, laser tag, a children's museum, and a roller skating rink.

Jacksonville Eats (and Drinks)

While in Jacksonville, eat as the locals do, and stop by Mission BBQ (for brisket, pulled pork, and A+ sides), Mi Cabana Mexican Restaurant (for tacos, fajitas, and the rest of the classics), Carolina Ale House (for pub eats plus a pint), Pho Le (for best-kept-secret noodle bowls and rice plates), Abruzzo's Pizza (for hand-tossed specialty pizzas, calzones, and stromboli), and Liliana's Colombian Restaurant & Bakery (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and delicious goods from the bakery). Don't forget a stop at our favorite Jacksonville-area diner, known to all as Jeff's Burgers, Dogs, and Shakes, for an unassuming but oh-so-delicious lunch.

To quench your thirst, stop into The Milk Road for morning coffee and then check out either Brewed Downtown or Muddy's Coffee House for a fresh brew alongside a soup-salad-sandwich lunch menu.

Where to Stay

Top Hotels

Check into a comfortable Jacksonville hotel to ensure you're near the sun and the sand.

You'll have free WIFI and an outdoor pool at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott. Find all the basics plus a free buffet breakfast every morning at the Holiday Inn Express in Jacksonville. A continental breakfast, pool, and bar/lounge await guests at Jacksonville's Fairfield Inn & Suites.

Pack your bags, load up the car, and drive your family to Jacksonville, North Carolina, for a coastal escape—and a vacation you'll never forget.

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