Is Eastern North Carolina 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 into what you need to know about living in the heart of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.
WHERE IS CAMP LEJEUNE LOCATED?
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.
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 its 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 Camp Lejeune base theater and bowling alley are extremely well run, always offering an affordable option for fun.
CAMP LEJEUNE ON-BASE HOUSING
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.
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 its 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. 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 main gate 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 its 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 its 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.
CAMP LEJEUNE WEATHER
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' thunderstorms, 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.
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 its 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.
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
In military life, there is really nothing more stressful than a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Deployments are a close second, but a PCS takes the cake. Combine a PCS with a deployment and not only do you want to eat all of the proverbial cake, you want to guzzle copious amounts of wine, too. We see you. Cheers.
One company, PCSgrades, is trying to make the PCS process feel more like a three-letter acronym than a four-letter expletive. Founded by veteran Todd Ernst, PCSgrades is the epitome of the military community taking care of its own. "PCSing has an emotional connotation," said Ernst. "We use it as an adverb, adjective, a noun and even as a cuss word."
Ernst started PCSgrades in 2015 after seeing friends struggle with unethical real estate agents and being taken advantage of by moving companies who knew DoD would be a paying customer no matter how poorly the companies treated their clients - us.
Here are 4 resources PCSgrades provides that you need to make moving easier:
1. Housing reviews
Does it get any more stressful than finding out where you're going to be stationed, Googling base housing at that station and getting results from 15 years ago (if you find anything, at all)? Nope, no it doesn't.
PCSgrades is changing the game on that by having military families who live in an area provide honest, candid reviews of their housing so incoming families can benefit. With reviews of both on and off base locations, families can finally get the truth about housing, whether it has black mold or the best views in town.
2. Moving company reviews
Great, you've figured out where to live; that's half the battle. The other, larger, more complex half? Figuring out how your stuff is going to get there. Knowing someone else will be handling your personal property and driving away with it for the foreseeable future is stressful enough. But not knowing what that company's background is, well that's a whole different ball game.
PCSgrades has countless reviews of moving companies provided by military families who have used them. Let's be honest: You wouldn't try a new Chinese delivery place without looking at reviews … why should picking a moving company be any different?
3. Area guides
The giant Google machine can only get you so far in life when you're researching your new duty station. We know you're busy and you want one-stop shopping on the interwebs. What you really need is aggregate data of things like schools to attend, restaurants to try, day trips to take and neighborhoods to avoid.
Introducing Area Guides, which offer exactly that: a holistic view of where you're moving and what to do once you get there. The best part? These are written by military families who have done it, for military families who are doing it.
4. Network of realtors and resources
PCSgrades has a nationwide network of A-graded realtors who know and understand the military and veteran lifestyle. Many of the realtors are veterans or spouses themselves, which takes the empathy to a whole new level. Having a realtor who gets the pressures of PCSing and the challenges of a military move is key to finding the right home for your family.
"I have friends who are hundreds of thousands of dollars upside down after bad home choices," Ernst said. "Housing choices can be pretty limited. Our moves are way more expensive than the typical civilian move." This is why Ernst created a way to alleviate the pain points for military families through PCSgrades.
In addition to a network of realtors, PCSgrades partners with "HomeScout," which allows you to search up-to-date home listings nationwide. Simply create an account with PCSgrades and the realty world is your oyster.
Whether you're looking for a new neighborhood, trying to find a vetted realtor, need a PCS checklist (let's be honest, is it on your radar to look at the expiration date of your military ID card two months before you PCS? Yeah, we know the truth; download the checklists here), or you're just wanting to know more about where you're heading, PCSgrades is making moving easier for every military family. Pay it forward by leaving reviews and be sure to take advantage of their excellent resources, today.
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
Yeah! You got orders to (insert foreign country overseas)! You can already picture your kids in the international school, speaking with cute little accents and wearing local garments. Adorbs. You've got your housing picked out, adventures planned and passport photos taken. You're ready for your epic move ... except for that 13 hour plane ride. Have you wrapped your head around that yet? Before you grab for a paper bag and start hyperventilating, use our travel hacks to help make the emotional turbulence you're experiencing a little lighter.
We've all said it: "We'll drive. It won't be that bad." We picture the adventure, the memories, the nostalgia of car trips when we were younger.
But if we're really being honest with ourselves, think back to those car trips. Someone was crying. Someone was puking. Someone was whining. That person very well may have been your poor mother. True story, my mom once got out and walked along the highway when all six of us kids wouldn't stop fighting. A long car trip can be daunting, but with our tips and tricks they don't need to be.
WE ALL HAVE OUR SHARE OF HORROR STORIES WHEN IT COMES TO MILITARY MOVING!
Name the most disgusting item erroneously packed by your movers… for me it was used coffee grounds and of course, trash. For others, I've heard everything from wet towels to dirty diapers. I've caught movers raiding my fridge, lounging on my mattress in my front yard, and throwing out items that they've broken. Raise your hand (or have a drink) if you ever had packers show up late (or not at all). Ever had packers get into a shouting match among themselves as they were packing your china? Or have you caught your movers throwing boxes down the stairs to the basement? That would be me!
With each military move, there are "lessons learned". For instance, I won't go into great detail but let's just say after watching one packer go directly from using the restroom back to packing my kitchen without washing his hands, we now use gigantic ziplock bags to "pre-pack" all my kitchen utensils. A packers' bare flesh has never again touched one of my kitchen utensils.
My family's last military move was by far the shortest, only 1½ miles up the road. We were moving from a rental to a home we purchased. It was by far the worst in terms of damage and overall angst. I think because we were only "moving up the road" the pack job left a lot to be desired. I found one box of dishes which had not one piece of wrapping paper! Instead two throw pillows from my family room were used as a buffer! Amazingly, nothing was broken! Go figure!
When I heard glass shatter in the moving truck, I asked one of the guys what shattered.
There are any number of reasons why in a given situation renting might be better than buying or vice versa. For military families, it might make more sense to buy at one duty station and then rent at the next. Up for consideration with each PCS is whether to buy or rent, to stay on-base or off. In making these decisions, there are numerous pros and cons to consider.
PROS TO BUYING
- Purchasing the right home can be a great financial investment that can grow in value over time.
- Tax deductions such as mortgage interest and property taxes can greatly reduce your overall income tax burden if you itemize.
- Being a homeowner can give you pride of ownership and a sense of stability, rare in the military life which can seem nomadic at times.
- A mortgage payment that is lower than your BAH can result in a boost to your savings.
- You can decorate however you want! Goodbye white walls! Hello, Color!
- Anyone can stay with you at any time. So it is not a problem when your Mom or sister comes for an extended stay during a deployment or following a PCS.
- You can do (almost) whatever you want….host a late night party, plant a garden, knock a wall down!
- There are no security or pet deposits when you buy a home.
- You have the opportunity to become a landlord when military orders arrive and you have to move. Your home can become an investment property, providing a source of income which can partially or totally offset your mortgage, taxes, and insurance payments.