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Burgers, Kayaking, History and Fun in Jacksonville

Until a few weekends ago, I had never been to Jacksonville, North Carolina. I honestly didn’t even know much about it, except that it was near the coast and water. When I got the opportunity to spend a weekend in Jacksonville to learn a little more about the city (and run in a mud run), I jumped right in!

Jacksonville is about 15 miles from Topsail and the North Carolina beaches. It’s also within an hour from Emerald Isle and Wrightsville Beach, which are common landmarks. It’s also known for being home to United State Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. I had the opportunity to run around Camp Lejeune with the Marines, which was pretty neat – you can read more here!


Jacksonville is about a four hour drive from Charlotte, so I got there around 2pm on a Friday. I met up with another blogger, Liz from Eat, Move, Make and we headed to the Lejeune Memorial Gardens and learned firsthand how Jacksonville became a military town (namely, the New River access), and a little bit of history about the Marines. In 1940, they made the decision to build the United State Marine Corps Base Camp in Jacksonville. Here’s a great tool if you plan on walking through the Lejenue Memorial Gardens yourself!

We saw the 9/11 Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial, which is one of the largest Vietnam Memorials in the nation! It is also one of few that list the names of all of those who died in the Vietnam War.

Memorial Gardens

The 9/11 beam was actually the first beam to come out of the Twin Towers in NYC. Look at these nails!

Jacksonville weekend recap

I don’t have any family military ties so I appreciated all the knowledge I could get. The city has really done a fantastic job making a special space to respect and honor these soldiers. We even learned about the Montford Point Marines, who became the first African American U.S. Marines and broke the color barrier. There is a great museum dedicated just to the Montford Point Marines, filled with so much history, keepsakes that family members have donated, and lots of interesting reading.

Memorial Gardens

And if you find yourself in Jacksonville, stop by Saigon Sam’s, a huge military surplus store. They had so many unique things in there! And fun statues 🙂

Jacksonville weekend recap

We were supposed to do a sunset cruise but it ended up being too windy to take the yacht out. But, we still got to watch the sun set and enjoy some happy hour drinks and hors d’oeuvres before dinner.

Jacksonville, NC
Jacksonville, NC

Lance and Marilyn are an adorable couple who own Bayonet Enterprises and offer sunset dinner cruises, lunches, picnic cruises and day options. I will definitely be doing this next time I’m in town!

After sampling some local moonshine, we headed to dinner. I got chicken fajitas, and kept it simple before my race the next morning. Following dinner, I was in bed and asleep by 10pm and ready to rock n roll bright and early on Saturday morning.


I got plenty muddy during the race. There were lots of laughs, shivers, and I came out alive with a nice raspberry on my thigh and a skin deep splinter that took days to get out. Other than that, just smiles and memories. Could be worse, am I right?!

Jacksonville weekend recap

After cleaning up, we headed to Jeff’s for lunch. You guys, this place is a city gem. They have great burgers, hot dogs, and fresh cut fries that they hand cut every morning. The worker wouldn’t give us too many details, as to not give away the secrets. But the fries were pleasantly addicting. I ordered the burger with chili on top, which was an excellent decision. And I added an oreo milkshake to go along.

Jeffs Burgers

[Tweet “Looking for quick, fast food in #JacksonvilleNC? Grab a burger and shake at Jeff’s! #visitjacksonvillenc”]

After a little afternoon break and digest, we headed out for an afternoon Kayak Tour. One of the coolest parts of Jacksonville, aside from the Marine and military history, is its proximity to the water. While the beach is a short drive away, Jacksonville has many different water sport options right there. Paddle NC offers kayak and paddle board rentals. You can even do sunset tours, river tours, or rent kayaks for the full day with lunches included. I think they plan to offer overnight options soon with camping included!

Our whole group went out for a few hours and got a good upper body workout in!


It was so peaceful and beautiful out there.


We had a little bit of downtime before eating dinner at Liliana’s, a well known local Colombian restaurant. Lilianna, the owner, was born and raised in Columbia, so the food has such authentic vibes. I’m no expert in Colombian food, but I do love the taste of it!

We started with some empanadas – we got some with chicken and beef.

I went with the chicken, rice and veggies dish with a side of mixed fried plantains and sweet plantains. Yummm.


After dinner, to continue with our fun-filled day, we stopped at the Hot Import Nights Car Show. They do tours throughout the US (and even in Australia and Asia). Jacksonville is a great city for events, especially those that appeal to the younger crowds, since the average age in Jacksonville is 23 (much of this is due to it being a military base).

I slept really good Saturday night. We met up for breakfast at a local diner before heading back to Charlotte. All in all, it was a fun weekend. I really enjoyed seeing a new city! I was so impressed with some of the outdoor space in Jacksonville (parks, green areas, sports areas).

It provides a great opportunity to learn about some of the history that I never would have known otherwise. If you’re heading to the NC coastal beaches or Outer Banks, Jacksonville would be a great day trip spot! If you’re in the area, let me know if you need any other recommendations.

This post was written by me on behalf of my partnership with the City of Jacksonville. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Do you have any relatives in the military (past, present)?

Ever been kayaking?

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  1. What a fun sounding trip and a cool partnership with the city of Jacksonville! I’m a NC girl, too, and haven’t been to Jacksonville but it sounds like there are some cool things to check out there. That chili burger & milkshake looks SO good. What if we could just travel and sample delicious food from different cities for a living?! 🙂

  2. I also don’t really have any ties to the military other than being thankful it keeps us safe. It’s interesting that every family had a brother, father or grandfather who was drafted. I feel very privileged not to have to worry about that.
    I’ve been kayaking once and my arks were sore for days! I also flipped the boat and freaked out hahahaha
    Jacksonville looks really fun, I’ll have to visit sometime!

  3. Ok, first of all it’s so neat that you partnered with a city to bring this post; the food looks amazing, and I love how you shared the military memorials. Those are always sobering and they remind me of how I shouldn’t take any of the freedom we have for granted. It’s so easy to get comfortable and forget, but I’m thankful that these monuments were built to honor them; these men and women were a gift from God for our freedom!

    And kayaking and another mud run? I love getting out into nature and getting dirty and wet like that. 🙂

  4. What a weekend, Sarah! I am wondering can civilians drive right into or onto the base without prior authorization? I would love to visit a Marine Base. It sure sounds like you had a fabulous experience in Jacksonville.

    1. Unfortunately, civilians cannot travel on the base unless they have a business/reason to be there and can get a person with clearance to sponsor him/her. However, if you run in the Mud Run, that is one of the only ways civilians can see the base!

  5. What a fun weekend!! You could definitely have a side job of a travel and food advertiser – ps. Though I guess you sort of do, don’t you. Anyways. How great to gain more knowledge into the military history etc. And kayaking!! Gah that makes me think of home. It looks so peaceful out there!!

  6. What an awesome trip!

    I loveeee kayaking! I actually used to do it for sport at school but I haven’t been in years! I have been trying to convince Jesse to join me for a little while but he’s not so keen, haha.