One Of The Cheapest Family-Friendly Beach Vacations In The US Is Found In This East Coast City

North Carolina has something to offer every type of traveler. From the relaxing Brown Mountain Beach Resort on the west side of the state to the endless stream of beaches on the east, it's a state that's got you covered. However, some of its gems, like the charming town of Wrightsville Beach or the laid-back and underdeveloped Bald Head Island, don't leave much wiggle room in the budget. Don't lose hope, though. Taking the family on that summer beach vacation is a definite possibility when you consider the relatively low costs of Jacksonville, a two-hour drive southeast of Raleigh.


Although the cost of living in Jacksonville is slightly higher than the rest of the state, the housing prices are significantly lower. Those savings are passed onto visitors with nightly lodging that starts at $65 and averages around $170 for an apartment rental. Plus, there are endless free and low-cost activities in the area that will ensure a relaxing and entertaining trip without the sticker shock.

Natural and community attractions in Jacksonville, NC

Bringing your family to Jacksonville on a budget means embracing all the natural and community attractions in the area. For example, Onslow Pines Park offers an expansive playground for the kids, covered pavilions for gatherings, and fields for organized sports. You can explore the park on foot, take in the short nature trail, or get some exercise on the jogging path.


Another worthwhile stop on the west side of town is Walton's Distillery, a small-batch distillery that produces whiskey and moonshine using traditional methods. Tours are free, and it's a great way to learn more about the history of spirits in North Carolina and the United States in general. For a reasonable fee (adults $13, children $10), you can take the family to the Lynnwood Park Zoo, a sanctuary that houses abandoned and injured animals. Here, you can see a variety of animals, including mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The best way to stretch the budget while enjoying a vacation is to head to the beaches. You can spend a week simply exploring Onslow Beach (where you may be lucky enough to spot green sea turtles or loggerhead turtles), the quiet and undeveloped Topsail Beach, and the family-friendly Emerald Isle Beach. Admiring the area's beauty doesn't cost a cent.


Military aficionados will be in their element

Jacksonville's history is closely tied to the military presence at nearby Camp Lejeune and the New River Air Station, and country pride and national history can be explored at many locations. Check out the publicly accessible Onslow County Vietnam Memorial and scan the 58,229 names of the American soldiers who fell in the war. Located at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens, you'll also see the Beirut Memorial, the Montford Point Marine Memorial, and the 9/11 Memorial Beam from the World Trade Center. 


Even shopping in the area takes on a military vibe. Peruse the goods at Jacksonville Mall and along Western Boulevard before heading to Saigon Sam's Military Surplus, an outpost for outdoor clothing and gear. Wherever you are in town and the surrounding area, you'll see references to the armed forces. From the longstanding history of Camp Lejeune training on the beach to the fact that you still have to travel through the base to reach Onslow Beach, embrace this central element as part of the area's cultural significance.

To further explore other aspects of the area, check out the North Carolina Maritime Museum, the plantation house that is Bellamy Mansion, and let the kids experience the Children's Museum of Jacksonville. If you're looking for something different, try the Self-Love Museum or the Museum of the Bizarre. However you package your Jacksonville vacation, you'll save a bundle while still getting to take that much-needed beach vacation.