- Things to Do
Things to Do
Itinerary: Find Your Best Self in Jacksonville NC
Use this handy guide to plan a trip full of easy adventure and quiet, memorable moments.
(Photo: A couple cruises near North Topsail Beach, minutes from Jacksonville.)
Jacksonville, North Carolina offers lots to do: Food, soft adventure, and more. Experience our independent ethic restaurants and chain offerings you won't find in other cities of this size. Tour our one-of-a-kind national military memorials, get on the water, soak up the beach and shop in Swansboro. Whether you're doing a solo dive, traveling as a couple or getting together with friends, this itinerary offers a well-rounded experience with just the right balance of "thrill and chill."
Insider Tip: Download the Jacksonville-Onslow County Visitor Guide
Day One: Explore Our Gardens & Find Fun Sips
Jacksonville is home to US Marine Corps Camp Lejeune. Our military history offers a thoughtful, energetic perspective to our visitors. So, begin your trip at the Freedom Fountain in downtown Jacksonville.
(Photo: Freedom Fountain, the gateway to downtown Jacksonville--and a popular selfie stop)
Visitors say it's one of their favorite photo spots.The Fountain features a large, endless edge pool with fifty bubblers and three water spires with archways showcasing the emblems of each branch of service. The Freedom Fountain is dedicated to all who pass through Onslow County in service to our country.
Just a few blocks away, stroll the azalea-lined trails of Lejeune Memorial Gardens:
- The Montford Point Marine Memorial is the only national memorial to the first black Marines who trained just a few miles away during and after World War II.
- The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the country's largest with every life sacrificed etched into glass walls in alphabetical order.
- The 9/11 Memorial Beam and Beirut Memorial capture other pivotal moments in American history.
- The Eagle Globe & Anchor statue, the symbol of the US Marine Corps, sits in a reflective pool, the largest 3-D representation in America.
Download our Lejeune Memorial Gardens Guide to reference as you walk.
(Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lejeune Memorial Gardens)
After the walk, grab a coffee (or some fresh soups and salads) at Brewed Downtown! It's a weekday-only gathering spot with a menu that updates daily, so breakfast, brunch or lunch is the perfect time to go. Veteran-owned Southern Harvest Soul Food (try the Shrimp and Grits or a breakfast bowl) stays open until 2 pm every day except Sunday. For lunch or dinner, look to nearby Jeff's Burgers, Dogs & Shakes, known for their hand-cut fries and hand-shaped patties. They also have a signature Paul Parker Sandwich, a favorite of the local radio personality by the same name.
Treat yourself to a tasty sip at Walton's Distillery (a 15-minute drive from downtown). The distillery blends local traditions of moonshiners with Kentuckian distillery methods to make truly exciting moonshine. See how it's made and taste test all of the various flavors. Ready to browse a serious collection of imported wines and beers? Visit Wines & Wares and ask for a tasting, too.
For dinner, you have options. Treat yourself to an ethnic adventure at Liliana's Colombian Restaurant & Bakery. It's one of the few authentic Colombian restaurants in North Carolina known for their food, fruit drinks, and cakes. El Cerro Grande serves up authentic Mexican and serious margaritas. Check out more restaurants here.
Day Two: Shelling to Shopping
(Photo: Pristine Bear Island, Hammocks Beach State Park)
Rise and shine! Start the morning at Angie's Family Restaurant or The Kettle Diner, two local favorites known for breakfast. Afterwards, it's straight on to Hammock's Beach State Park. Less than a half-hour drive from Jacksonville, enjoy scenic, undisturbed, undeveloped shoreline. Tote your beach chair and a picnic to Bear Island, accessible by ferry from the Visitors Center. Check the ferry schedule before you go. The ferry operates in warm weather months. In those same months, Paddle NC offers kayak rentals and tours from the park site. Swansboro's Marsh Cruises takes guests on shelling cruises to Bear Island.
(Photo: Historic Downtown Swansboro)
Next, head over to charming Swansboro to shop and dine. National travel site Matador Network named Swansboro one of the "25 Coolest Towns in America To Visit in 2021." Here, cute shops such as Candy Edventure, Coastal Farmhouse and Lovely's Boutique whisper to visitors ducking in and out of restaurants and the local Irish pub.
Notable Swansboro dining includes The Boro Restaurant & Bar, offering bistro-style casual food and outdoor patio dining. Bamboo Asian House plate presentations are crafted with precision; the tradition has been passed down through generations. The Saltwater Grill celebrates local seafood with waterfront views and excellent service.
It's easy to spend an entire day and evening between Hammock's Beach State Park and downtown Swansboro. OR...
(Photo: North Carolina Products Barn at Mike's Farm)
Head To The Farm: About 25 minutes northwest of Jacksonville sits Mike's Farm, which hosts seasonal events throughout the year. The petting zoo and holiday gift shop at the restaurant keep kids of all ages occupied. For those craving fried chicken with all the fixin's, this old-fashioned country food satisfies. Call ahead for dinner reservations here. Shoppers delight in the NC Products Barn at Mike's Farm -- the only place in North Carolina offering an extensive collection of state-produced goods. The carefully curated barn, complete with a fudge and coffee bar, showcases at least one item from every North Carolina county. Choose from handmade leather bags, pottery, specialty food gifts, wine, clothing and more.
(Photos: Duck's Bar & Grille, Splash by the Sea, Marrakesh Mediterranean Cuisine)
For dinner in Jacksonville, select Duck's Grille & Bar, known for their cocktails and selections of scotch and whiskey. Their chef prepares seafood and American-style cuisine. Marrakesh Mediterranean Cuisine serves Greek specialities such as kabobs, pilaf, and shawarma. Their homemade grape leaves here may be some of the best you've eaten. Some nights feature live belly dancing. For dinner with an ocean view, head to Splash By the Sea at North Topsail Beach (about 30 minutes from downtown).
Day Three: Greet the Morning With A Sunrise Over the New River
(Photo: Just Got Reel Inshore Charters takes guests on a sunrise fishing cruise.)
Welcome the new day with a guided fishing trip on the New River. Our seasoned fishing guides host beginners and advanced anglers. You don't have to get up at dawn, but the rewards are...significant. Hooked? Learn fishing details and see our list of New River guides; get information on nearshore and offshore charters going out of North Topsail and Swansboro.
After a morning on the river or a short walk on the boardwalk at Sturgeon City, you'll be ready for fuel. Visit Blend Nutrition Bar, offering breakfast bowls, smoothies, avocado toast, and printed (on the foam!) coffees. The Milk Road, a veteran-owned specialty coffee roaster, is known for their liège waffles. If you've never eaten one of the pearl-sugar-coated waffles, it's a must.
On your way home, stop at that shop that caught your eye, or check out the country's latest travel craze at Cracked It! Escape Rooms. Discover clues, solve puzzles, and "escape" from themed rooms in 60 minutes or less.
Find The Right Place To Stay
(Photo: Staybridge Suites fire glows, anticipating guests.)
BOOK NOW! Western Boulevard hosts a wide variety of attractively priced brand name hotels at attractive prices. Our “strip” caters to the tastes of traveling military personnel and families from across America, and we know we'll make you happy, too. As home to Camp Lejeune, the city offers a collection of chain retail and dining here you may not have encountered, even in larger cities. Mix in our independent shops and eateries, and you're in for a treat. Extended stay hotels such as Staybridge Suites offers well-appointed rooms with kitchens designed for cooking. Our enticing AirBnB and VRBO options cater to a variety of tastes.
Looking for something else to do?