Welcome to Actionville — so named for the overwhelming number of newly enlisted, super-motivated Marines who are fueled almost exclusively by Monster and deeply rooted patriotism. If you stay in the Marine Corps long enough, chances are you’ll pass through Camp Lejeune at least once. This is a major Marine Corps hub with both operational and training forces, as well as tons of land (why yes, that was indeed an artillery shell that just shook the pictures on the wall 20 miles away).
Jacksonville (home to Camp Lejeune) gets a bad rep from many older military families for being a miserable place to live, but it’s actually improved a ton in recent years. The county is constantly working to bring in new industry and amenities to make this a desirable location. So, you’ve heard the rumors, but let’s get into the details so you really know what to expect.
Being a city in the South, Jacksonville has some of the friendliest people who are always willing to chat. Most of the population seems to fit into one of three categories:
- Native locals (smallest category)
- Retired military
- Active-duty military (largest category)
Considering the population, most people here understand the life of a service member and military family. They’re happy to help and happy to lead you to the services and resources you need.
A note to the northerners: The pace of life is slow here. Many native southerners are easily flustered or irritated by what they perceive as aggressive people. This includes asking direct questions, being in a hurry, or just being in the get-stuff-done-don’t-have-time-for-tea type of mood. Don’t be surprised if your A/C repair guy seems to linger and chat for a while. It’s very friendly here, but that also means we have to slow down sometimes. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing, eh?
Western is one of the main arteries leading away from Camp Lejeune. Here you’ll find the mall, the vast majority of chain and commercial stores and restaurants, and the highest concentration of Marines. If you want to avoid running into someone after work hours, it’s probably best to avoid Western Blvd. As you’re planning your routes in Jacksonville, this is a good reference point.
Don’t get excited. We do have a mall, but if you’re from a city with more than two stoplights, this is not the mall you’re envisioning. Sears is at one side and Dillard’s is at the other. It takes about four minutes to mosey from one end to the other. That being said, this is a place to find some typical mall stores and surrounding restaurants. Word to the wise though: avoid the mall at all costs on Friday evenings because this is one of the very few places young Marines congregate. It is literally a sea of young men with super-motivated haircuts.
“There’s Nothing to Do!”
This one is a common complaint, and it’s honestly pretty inaccurate. There are not a lot of easy-to-find, show-up-and-buy-a-ticket things to do. You’re going to have to stretch a little more than that.
There is a lot to do here if you know where to look. One word: Facebook — the great majority of events and activities are marketed exclusively using Facebook events. Other than that, dissemination of information is really a problem. Many business owners here think websites are unnecessary, so Google isn’t necessarily going to help you too much. Here are a few places to look for events:
- Onslow County Tourism
- Jacksonville Parks and Rec
- Onslow County Library
- A Facebook events search
Where Should I Live?
Pose this question in any Facebook group, and you’ll get as many different answers as there are cities in the area. Some say, “Stay away from Jacksonville,” others say, “Jacksonville is ideal for us.”
It really all depends on what you want. If you aren’t a beach person, then advice from beach people who stay Jacksonville is the Devil isn’t exactly helpful. Camp Lejeune is a large base, so each side of it has different advantages. Let’s breakdown the common options.
|Ideal Location||Best Match||Commute to Front Gate|
|Beach||Cape Carteret or Sneads Ferry||25 minutes|
|Wilmington||Sneads Ferry or Hampstead||30-40 minutes|
|Close to Base and Shopping||Jacksonville||5-15 minutes|
All in all, Camp Lejeune is nestled in a friendly area with a moderate-to-slow pace of life. There’s a reason so many people retire here. Leave the base and get connected, and you’ll find a thriving community.
Photo Credits: Eastern Sky Photography, NC