No question, Florida is a fun place to live, in spite of the frequency for hurricanes and the humidity that may affect your Yuma-perfected hairstyle. But when the orders come down for Naval Air Station Jacksonville or Naval Station Mayport, you may find yourself with more questions than answers.
WHERE IS JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA?
The area where the St. John's River meets the Atlantic Ocean is where you'll find the heart of Jacksonville. The beach and golf are two very popular things to do in the area, as TPC Sawgrass and Neptune Beach top almost every "must do" in Jacksonville list.
Jacksonville sits between two Navy installations, Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Mayport. From the city center, NAS Jax is about 10 miles to the southwest. NS Mayport is about 20 miles due east. With two installations so close to each other, families can live on either installation or somewhere in between and still have easy access to the military resources. They could also easily blend in with the locals and feel at home on the beach and in the downtown areas.
NAVAL AIR STATION JACKSONVILLE
As the largest navy installation in the Southeast, NAS Jacksonville is also the third biggest navy installation in the country, which is why you will probably run into friends from long ago on your tour there. NAS JAX is a master Air and industrial base and home to aviation training and anti-submarine warfare. With over 17,000 military and civilians working on the installation, there are over 34,000 family members in the area. Hello, military town.
NAVAL STATION MAYPORT
On the other side of the city lays NS Mayport, which is almost as big as NAS JAX. About 15,000 active duty and 32,000 family members call this area home. The port can hold up to 34 ships, and the 8,000-foot runway can accommodate any type of aircraft the Dept of Defense wants to land there. Busy is NS Mayport's middle name, and "sustain and support the fleet" their game.
NAVAL AIR STATION JACKSONVILLE HOUSING
NAS Jacksonville and NS Mayport housing are both managed by Balfour Beatty. It is a mix of older and newer neighborhoods. As is common in older military housing, some of these houses are smaller than what you would find out in town. However, the convenience of living on the installation often makes up for it.
Traffic is always a concern in larger cities and should be considered when looking at housing options. With unpredictable work schedules, overnight duties, and time out to sea, living a little farther away may not affect your daily commute enough to be a problem. Some of the popular areas to live nearby Naval Air Station Jacksonville include Northwoods, Coastal Oaks, and Carriage Crossing. Make sure to check out the reviews on these neighborhoods.
JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA WEATHER
You probably don't need a refresher on how awesome Florida weather is, but here it is in a nutshell. It's awesome! Sunny days, occasional rainstorms, warm weather year-round. Oh, and hurricanes in the summer and fall. And the unusually cold weather in the winter. Just don't complain about the weather to your friend living up North, who really don't want to hear about the temperature in Jacksonville, Florida.
JACKSONVILLE BAH & COST OF LIVING
The marketing in Jacksonville is increasing, at an average of 4.8%, with some areas, including Spring Park, increasing even more. Buying may be a good option if you are stationed here long enough or are looking for a rental property as an investment. In 2018, the average rental for an apartment increased by 11%, bringing the average for a two-bedroom apartment to $1248, which is doable for most families. However, when it comes to renting a home, the prices are all over the place, varying due to location, size, etc.
The MWR at NAS Jax boasts some great options. From golf and fishing to bowling and bingo, there is something for everyone. Learn to sail or canoe, rent a stand-up paddleboard or surfboard and explore the St. Johns River – all without leaving the base. There are monthly 5k runs and a sauna in the Base Gym. And, the commissary is open every, single day!
You can also utilize the Tickets & Travel Office to get discounted tickets to local attractions, cruises, and hotels. If you can't find something there, check out what GovX may have available in the area.
CULTURE & CUSTOMS
Florida can often be caught in the middle between southern and not southern. While in the south, it's not really "the deep south." But, don't worry, you can still find some awesome restaurants and shops in the area.
We know you like coffee, or, if you don't (we still love you), you know that meeting someone for "coffee" is the start of a beautiful friendship. Skip the Starbucks and head to Bold Bean Coffee on Stockton Street or Hendrick's and order a spiced chocolate latte or a honey latte with almond milk. Chamblin's Uptown is a beautiful place to grab a cup of coffee and wander through the bookstore. Cinnamon apple cider sure sounds good while sitting outside reading your new book.
Food is fuel, for the mind, body, and soul. Finding a solid date night restaurant, one for ladies' night out, and the one you can take your toddler to on a rough deployment day is hard. Here are some suggestions. The Metro Diner has been voted the best breakfast in JAX since 2006. They've also been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Go ahead, order the meatloaf plate or maybe the Pittsburg Steak salad. Or both.
Another great breakfast idea is Maple Street Biscuit Company. With at least half a dozen locations in Jacksonville (and some in other excellent places!) you won't want to miss out. They serve good food, with fun names like The Squawking Goat and The Sticky Maple, with a great attitude. Make sure you get there early in the weekend though, they're closed on Sundays. And, for date night or something a little fancier, try Copeland's of New Orleans.
RIVERSIDE ARTS MARKET
Each and every Saturday, the Riverside Arts Market features local artists, farmers, and other creatives as they show off their wares and sell their products from 10 am to 3 pm. Fresh produce is a huge draw for locals, and this venue accepts WIC, EBT, and SNAP! There's morning yoga starting at 9 am, and this family-friendly event will be full of strollers, bikes, and toddlers. Each week about 4,000 people head down to the area under the Fuller Warren Bridge.
Like any new place, you may be overwhelmed by all the options. Here are some of our favorite things to do around NAS Jacksonville.
THE JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA BEACHES
While the Emerald Coast and Pensacola's beaches are some of the most beautiful in the country, the Jacksonville Florida beaches give them a run for their money. Ponte Vedra Beach, home to the golf world, is calmer than some of the "Spring Break friendly" places while Jacksonville beach is the quintessential vacation-style beach area. Shops, restaurants, boardwalks, and surfing make this a much-see place. St. Augustine's beaches are a great place for a family adventure and the only place you can drive your car on the beach.
The sporting scene in Jacksonville goes way beyond the Jaguars, thankfully. There's a minor league baseball team, the Jacksonville Suns, which can improve any summer evening. The Sharks bring indoor football to a whole new level. You may be able to snag some tickets to the Players Tour (golf – for those who aren't fans), and the Daytona 500 is only a quick hour away.
Each January, the TaxSlayer Bowl is held in Jacksonville (and tickets are infinitely easier to get for military families) and when the Georgia Bulldogs head to visit the Florida Gators, the entire city loves football.
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.