Jacksonville, North Carolina has really come into its own in the last few years, so if it’s not on your travel radar yet, it should be. There are countless things to do in Jacksonville, NC!
Whether you’re enjoying a weekend getaway to coastal North Carolina, visiting military family members at Camp Lejeune or stationed on base, you’ll receive a hero’s welcome and have a great time in this friendly southern city.
Jacksonville offers outdoor adventure, extreme sports events, family activities and a world of good eats, and it’s all just a short ride away from the beaches of Topsail, Hammocks Beach State Park and Emerald Isle (if you need a beach fix).
Soak in the military heritage
A stop at Lejeune Memorial Gardens is the ideal place to begin a visit to Jacksonville where a series of beautifully designed memorials pay tribute to generations of military heritage. The serene and peaceful garden setting allows for quiet reflection as you stroll the walkways.
Get out on the beautiful New River with a Paddle NC guided kayak or paddle board tour, or rent your own equipment and take off on your own. The guided eco-tour takes you on a relaxing trip in sheltered water past abundant wildlife including osprey nests and a spooky old abandoned boat. Sunset tours and full day kayaking trips are also available.
Take a sunset cruise
Let someone else do the navigating while you sit back and enjoy the beautiful scenery from the deck of the “Bayonet”. The Bayonet Enterprises sunset cruise sails for two hours, and includes beverages and snacks. Cruises of varying lengths (including overnight) are also available from mid-March to mid-November.
Participate in an extreme challenge race
Some of the most exciting races are part of Camp Lejeune’s USAA Grand Prix Series of running events where the public races alongside active-duty Marines. I attended the St. Paddy’s Day Engineer Challenge, one of the toughest events of the year. It was a mud-filled swampy obstacle course on a very chilly morning, but racers had an absolute blast!
Check out the festivals and special events
Seasonal events include Jacksonville Jamboree (May), National Night Out (August), Oktoberfest and Winterfest (December) and there are concerts, movies, and fun family events all summer long. I visited during the Jacksonville stop of the Hot Import Nights Car Show tour in March, and if you’re a car enthusiast, the expansive street scene car show is pretty amazing. There’s also live music and drone racing at the event.
Try a new restaurant
The chain restaurant game is strong in Jacksonville, and there’s a reason for that. Because of the large military population, there are restaurants from all over the country to ensure there’s a little bit of home for everyone. Kinda sweet, huh? But there are also some great independent restaurants worth trying!
Jeff’s Burgers and Shakes
The hand cut fries and hand-shaped burgers along with Jacksonville’s own Paul Parker sandwich are the stars in this old fashioned-style burger joint. I ordered the yummy chili-topped Carolina burger.
Captain Bob Beck’s Marina Cafe
There’s plenty of seafood and fried shrimp at this local dockside favorite. The Paul Parker is also served here, but I had the French Dip, which was delicious!
The Kettle Diner
Although open all day, it’s a local favorite for breakfast, and my choice of the ‘Dixie Deuces’ was fabulous!
Lilianna’s Colombian Restaurant and Bakery
Authentic Columbian food and the most amazing fruit juices mixed with your choice of water or milk are served here. I’d never tried Columbian food before, so this was a real treat!
The Milk Road
This unique coffeehouse offers single origin organic coffee and artisan made liege waffles daily. Stop in and relax a while.
For more information on the area, check out VisitJacksonvilleNC.com
Have you ever tried any of these things to do in Jacksonville, NC? If you have tips on other things to do, I’d love to hear about them!
Check out nearby Duplin Winery in the Christmas season too!
Comments & Reviews
We recently spent a night in a coastal town in NC as well. Fun exploring new places!
Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says
Jacksonville is so beautiful, and so is the area surrounding it. Thanks for all the great tips on where to go and what to do.
I have never been to North Carolina, though we have relatives in South Carolina. I’ve been hearing so many great things about North Carolina lately that it’s caused me to add it to my bucket list of places to visit.
Looks like a great adventure. I would love to go kayaking and look at all those amazing food choices!
I haven’t been to North Carolina yet, but some of my family has recently moved there, so I will be. These places look like lots of fun.
Kristen from The Road to Domestication says
Looks like there’s something for everyone! My mom was born in Camp Lejeune. I showed this to her – she was surprised at how much everything had grown!
You always go on the best adventures. Looks like there is just so much to do here, I have always wanted to visit that area of the country.
Kelly Hutchinson says
I didn’t know there was so much to do near Camp Lejeune. I think the sunset cruise would be really nice to take with your sweetie!
Susan Mary Malone says
What an absolutely beautiful place! I would so love to visit the Memorial Gardens. That sculpture is stunning.
Catherine Sargent says
This looks like a great place to take a vacation. I would love to visit and take a sunset cruise or go kayaking.
I have only ever driven through Jacksonville but it looks like I should stop next time! It is always fun finding new towns to discover.
This looks like so much fun! I’d love to go on that sunset cruise with my husband.
All of this looks like it would be so great! I have always wanted to visit this area.
Dawn Lopez says
Jacksonville looks like a blast! I think the kayaking adventure sounds amazing. It’s on my bucket list!
Claudia Krusch says
North Carolina is on my travel list. I have friends there I would love to visit. It looks like there is a ton of fun things to do in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville, North Carolina sounds like a fantastic place to visit. These are fantastic photos. I am hoping to be in the area next winter.
I’d love to try kayaking there. The water looks so calm and serene.
Jocelyn @ Hip Mama's Place says
This is awesome, there are plenty of things to do there and it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy the weather. That cruise sounds perfect! I love that it allows you to enjoy the sunset!
Amy Desrosiers says
Wow does everything look awesome and peaceful there. I would love to float around in that lake and relax.
Hey Sharonoox says
This looks like such a fun place to visit.and the food looks yummy that it makes me hungry! I’ll be adding this to my travel list.
MAKEBA GILES says
I’ve never been to Camp Lejeune or even Jacksonville, but all of this makes me want to plan a trip there! Sounds like such an awesome place to visit!
There is so much to do and eat in this area. That Colombian food sounds good and I am always a big fan of sunset cruises.
Heather Johnson says
What a great list of things to do! I have not been to North Carolina for many years.
I have never been to North Carolina, but this area sounds wonderful. I love visiting places that offer lots of different activities and food options. Sounds like this area fits the bill!
What a great city! I would love to go kayaking! ANd the food looks amazing!!
Dawn McAlexander says
Jacksonville is on my list of places to visit here in NC. I want to see all the great things that this state has to offer. This would be one of them.
I so want to visit. If for nothing else but the food. Everything looks so delicious.
Amanda Love says
Jacksonville is an awesome place and it would be nice to escape there for a few days! I would love to enjoy what they have to offer and just relax as well.
Carol Cassara says
That race looks challenging but also fun especially if you do it with friends! I’d love to plan a vacation here with my husband and some friends that we usually travel with. It would be so nice.
Louise Bishop says
Kayaking is so much fun! We’ve gone a few times and it’s one of our favorite outings now.
Kita Bryant says
That sunset cruise is calling my name. IT sounds like the perfect vacation idea.
Pamela King says
I’ve heard about Camp LeJeune but never been. Thanks for giving us ideas of what to do and where to visit.
Wow this place looks great! I am loving your photos!
Janella Panchamsingh says
I think I am more interested in the food than anything else. I love trying new food.
Annemarie LeBlanc says
I would love to do kayaking. It looks like a nice, enjoyable activity especially in groups so you can look out after one another. I did not know there are so many fun activities to do in Jacksonville NC!
Looks like some great food options and vacations are all about the food, of course the kayaking also looks fun to burn off the calories.
Holly @ Woman Tribune says
There are definitely a lot of things to do in Jacksonville! I have always wanted to do a challenge race, but the fear of making a fool out of myself is strong.
amely rose says
Wow this is such a lovely and magical place.
Thank you for sharing These Pictures with us 😀
I have never been there before, but I want to go after seeing your great pics!
Our Family World says
There is so much to explore in Jacksonville! I have a good friend who lives in NC. I will ask her to show me around when I come to visit. I would love to do some kayaking too.
Alissa Apel says
The canoeing looks like so much fun to me. It’s been a long time, since I’ve done that.
Kristen Linn says
Check out Walton’s Distillery in Jacksonville, NC! Walton’s Distillery is a locally owned and operated craft distillery. Currently the distillery is producing moonshine, whiskey, and bourbon. We are constantly trying to expand our variety and are working towards more spirits as well. We have many unique and distinct flavors of moonshine such as Junior Walton’s Pine Shine Colada which will leave you feeling like you’re back at the beach; Mag Walton’s Peach Shine that’s good for sipping alone and great in tea; Mag Walton’s Salted Caramel Shine that is sweet and savory like drinking a caramel candy; Kitty Walton’s Apple Pie Shine that’s definitely not your gramma’s apple pie; and Junior’s Authentic Carolina Moonshine which comes right out of the still, no flavor added, and topped off at 100 proof; and our latest addition we now offer is Junior Walton’s Premium Select where we took our authentic shine and aged it for n less than one year before pulling it and and creating a beautiful amber colored spirit with it’s own unique flavor and topped off at 101 proof. We offer free tours daily on site with a detailed explanation of what we make and how we make it, and will finish off with free tastings of all of our products. We also offer a gift shop at the front of the distillery where you can purchase limited quantities of spirits, souvenirs, and gift items unique from Walton’s. Walton’s Distillery hosts multiple events throughout the year with free lunch, live music, and tons of fun! We highly recommend you check it out. You won’t be disappointed.