Is Eastern North Carolina is your next destination in this fabulous adventure we love to call military life? Well, welcome to the Crystal Coast! Camp LeJeune, North Carolina is located so close to the beach that we actually have one on the base! Let’s dive in to what you need to know about living in the heart of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.
Your Camp Lejeune Area Guide
A Bit of History
In 1941, the need for a strong logistical location for the Marine Corps brought about the establishment of Camp LeJeune. For the past 77 years, the base itself has grown tremendously, as have the areas surrounding it.
The base is located right in the heart of Jacksonville, North Carolina, and within an hour’s drive of Wilmington and a little over 2 hours from Raleigh. The eastern coast of North Carolina is a veritable treasure trove of day trips and activities that will keep your weekends full if you’re willing to dive into the local culture and drive a little bit. For Marine Corps History buffs, you’ll find some points of interest dotted around the 4 larger bases here.
On-Base at Camp Lejeune
Camp LeJeune is the second largest Marine Corps installation in the world. Home to a diverse range of units, it counts MARSOC, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Intelligence Battalion, Marine Corps Installations East, The School of Infantry, Marine Corps Combat Support Schools and Camp LeJeune Naval Hospital among it’s many resident commands.
The base itself has undergone many upgrades in recent years, to include the construction of the new Wilson Gate, a hospital renovation and addition, construction of new housing areas and the Wallace Creek Fitness Center.
There are many pools, walking/biking trails, parks and recreation areas to choose from to enjoy the outdoors. Kayaking and boating are accessible from the base. Fishing is popular. A round of golf is always available, and the base’s stables are also quite active. We even have archery! The well-stocked library provides many programs for all ages. MCCS activities are well staffed. The base theater and bowling alley are extremely well run, always offering an affordable option for fun.
New construction or well renovated existing base housing make up much of the housing available. With 16 communities to provide housing, there seems to be a home that will fit the needs of just about everyone. From small 2 bedroom duplexes to single family 4 bedroom homes, the offerings are diverse. All homes are administered by either Atlantic Marine Corps Communities or Lincoln Military Housing. Check out their websites for floor plans, photos, community information, and to apply.
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Living Out in Town
With so many military personnel in the area, as well as a growing population of retirees who choose to stay in the area, the housing market has boomed tremendously in the past 10 years. The rental market is vast and diverse, so most families don’t have any trouble finding a place to call home. If buying is more your speed, there are several “A-Graded” REALTORS® reviewed on PCSgrades.com who specialize in finding a home in your price point and desired area. Let them help you find a place where you can hang your hat.
The Jacksonville Community
Jacksonville is the closest “city” to the base. Incorporated in 1842 and named after President Andrew Jackson, Jacksonville has been constantly and consistently morphing and growing to meet the needs of it’s ever expanding population. There is a nice variety of grocery options and restaurants, a reasonable amount of shopping options, 2 movie theaters, local parks, splash pads, a roller rink, a trampoline park, an indoor bounce arena and soon, a YMCA! The area also hosts a diverse faith community with a myriad of types of worship available. Check out this local Facebook page for lots of info!
Surrounding Jacksonville are many quiet and comfortable communities. To the south as you head towards Wilmington, you’ll find Sneads Ferry, Holly Ridge, Topsail Beach and Hampstead.
The Surrounding Area
Sneads Ferry is a popular place for many families to live, as it’s easily accessed out a dedicated gate that’s close to Stone Bay. It’s a quiet fishing village, but you can reach Jacksonville proper in about 25 minutes for shopping and other activities. It’s also quite close to the community of Topsail Beach, which is a sweet tourist spot with many local restaurants and a bit of neat shopping.
Holly Ridge is a quiet community situated about 30 minutes from the maingate of Camp LeJeune and 20 or so from MCAS New River. There are many new neighborhoods coming up in the community and families find it a convenient spot if they desire to live partway between Jacksonville and Wilmington.
Hampstead is a suburb of Wilmington located approximately 45 minutes from Camp LeJeune. Many families who wish to live closer to Wilmington and take advantage of the larger “city” offerings choose to reside there.
To the East
To the east, heading toward the coast, you’ll find Hubert, Swansboro, Cedar Point, Cape Carteret, Emerald Isle, and Newport. Each of these communities has it’s own unique feel with a diverse mix of both military and local populations.
Swansboro is known as the “Friendly City by the Sea,” and is home to many local festivals, music nights, local eateries and shops. The commute from Swansboro is an easy 25 minutes to mainside. And once you are home, it’s nice to settle right into the laid back feel of this sweet town.
Cedar Point is home to lots of local businesses, a few restaurants specializing in local cuisine, an open air market and wonderful organic market. There are also several local watersports businesses, fishing charters and a diverse array of neighborhoods.
Cape Carteret and Emerald Isle are both home to a few chain eateries mixed in with many local restaurants, lots of lovely neighborhoods, boutiques, art galleries, coffee shops, and much more.
To the North, heading towards Kinston and Goldsboro, you’ll find the community of Richlands. Long established with many local residents, Richlands was historically a farming community so named for it’s rich local soil. Spread over a large geographic area, the commute is generally anywhere between 30 and 35 minutes in from most homes. It is also home to the local airport and tourist attraction Mike’s Farm. The feel of Richlands is certainly much more agrarian and rural. Many farm oriented and horse loving families find themselves laying down roots there.
We have a saying here in Eastern North Carolina – “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes…it’ll change!” And that’s the truth! While the area is defined by 4 seasons, they tend to shift and change quite often during the fall/winter and spring. We can have summer-like temps in December, followed by freezing rain and icy roads just a few days later. We tend to have some rockin’ thunder storms, so keep your eyes peeled for the blaze of lightning our skies can often display. Summer here, however, is almost always guaranteed to be relatively hot and very humid. Plan to spend lots of time cooling off on our beaches and in our rivers, pools and sounds.
Interesting Points and Place to Go
Wild Horses, take me away! The Eastern seaboard of North Carolina is a veritable treasure trove of unique day trips and weekend getaways.
Visit Shackleford Banks by boat or ferry and gaze upon the grace and beauty of a herd of over 100 wild horses that roam the island and exist in their own community unfettered by the aid of man.
Hike in one of many state parks and explore natural waterslides and waterfalls carved into the hills and mountains.
Birdwatching is also a favored pastime here and there are many waterfowl museums to choose from. Trains and planes are a unique part of these communities as well.
The Outer Banks are home to the birthplace of modern flight as discovered by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, Tweetsie Railroad is a family friendly Train theme park founded in Boone, NC to celebrate the history of rail in North Carolina.
And we can’t round out the list without mentioning the North Carolina Aquariums-kids absolutely love them and there are several to choose from. The list of possibilities here is endless. So you’ll never run out of things to see and do here!
North Carolina Eats
Of the varied types of cuisine that you can find here, North Carolina is really most famous for it’s seafood and barbecue. While there are lots of popular local and national chain restaurants to choose from, many wonderful local eateries abound. Also, Food trucks are also immensely popular. You can find them parked on-base and off at the local farmer’s and open air markets that stretch from Wilmington to Richlands, through Jacksonville, Swansboro, and out to Beaufort. Bakeries, sweet shops, yogurts bars and even a Willy Wonka-esque candy store are dotted all over the area. So you’ll never lack a place to satisfy your sweet tooth…or your kids!
Local Schools, Arts, Sports and Activities
Families headed to the area will find many opportunities for activities for kiddos. Rec leagues and Travel teams are fairly abundant in the area for many sports. Also, Dance studios, gymnastics, art, music and many other interests are spread across the counties. So continuing or fueling your child’s interests is absolutely possible! The counties that most families find themselves in for schooling are Onslow, Carteret and Pender. There are some private schools in the area to choose from, as well as several DOD schools for base residents.
PCSgrades Author: Tiffany McCawley, freelance writer and blogger, virtual assistant and homeschool educator, is both a Marine Spouse and Veteran, mama to 5, and a follower of Jesus. She blogs The Clan McCawley, chronicling life amidst the grief of losing 2 children while raising her surviving 3. She and her husband, a soon-to-be retired Chief Warrant Officer, launched The SaMercy Fund with the help of family and friends following the untimely deaths of Sam and Mercy McCawley in a UTV accident, with the intent of spreading safety awareness and helping other grieving families. You can follow Tiffany on her blog and on the SaMercy Fund facebook page.