Base Survival Guide: NS Mayport + NAS Jacksonville

Base Survival Guide: NS Mayport + NAS Jacksonville

This Base Survival Guide on NS Mayport is brought to you by my friends Blakely Miller and Lacey Lepick. Blakely and her husband started their military journey in 2015 when he was a plebe at The Naval Academy. After graduation in 2019, her husband became a commissioned surface warfare officer in the Navy. They had their first child in Rota, Spain (their first duty station) in May 2021. They moved from Spain to Jacksonville, FL in June 2021 and have lived in North Jacksonville since! While it may not seem like a lot of “moves,” they've faced MANY challenges, last minute change of plans (frequently!), and some very intense times as a family in the in between, but they've always been able to adapt and overcome. They have also lived temporarily in places like Norfolk, VA and Newport, RI. They're now gearing up to welcome their second little one in December 2023 and are set to move to Maine for their shore tour (FINALLY!) in a few months! Being a military spouse is the hardest thing she said she's ever done, and her husband’s ship schedules over the years haven’t always helped (ha!). But, one thing she's so proud of—they get through everything as a team. They've been able to navigate through the unplanned and unknown and it's because of their diligence that they're able to keep moving forward in their Navy life. Lacey is a Marine wife and mama to 5 kiddos. Her husband is a pilot for the Marine Corps.


What's the weather like at this base?

Mostly warm & sunny Florida with the everyday summer time storms.

In the summer, hot and humid….but you have nice beaches to help with that! You don’t typically get cooler weather until late December into early January. The fall can be cool sometimes, but the weather will fluctuate. One day it'll be 50 degrees and the next it could be almost 80. That’s Florida! Oh, and it can monsoon in the summer for 5 minutes and then be done with amazing weather immediately after.


What's your favorite time of year there?

Summer at the Beaches!
Winter! We enjoy the cooler weather.

What's your favorite thing about living at this duty station? 

Jacksonville is a huge city so there's always something to do. Beaches, professional sports, zoos, St. Augustine, boating on the St. Johns River, and more.

We've really enjoyed the number of beaches you have access to. The base beach at Mayport is awesome!


What's your least favorite thing about living at this duty station?

The summer time is super hot!

The heat during the summer. It can be difficult to be out and about when it’s close to 100 degrees outside, especially with little ones.


Is there anything you wish you knew about this duty station before your PCS there?

Good places to live. Some people can be stationed at one base, and the move to the other one because they are so close. So I would like to know where the good school areas are, and how the traffic is in that area.

YES— how difficult it can be to find a place to live. Jacksonville is VERY populated (it’s the largest city in the U.S.), so the housing market can be a little scarce during the summer PCS season especially. Look ahead, join the spouse pages, and reach out to military friendly realtors in the area to get a feel for the best areas to live!


What amenities are on base? And what are they like? For example: Is the commissary large or small? Well stocked? Pool on base? Parks? How many? Etc.

NAS JAX has a great commissary and NEX. It also has a pool with slides and a good hospital (I delivered my first there.) NS Mayport has beach access, and a great place to camp/rv parking.

The commissary and NEX are both off base but not far from the main gate. They're both well stocked. Like a lot of commissaries though, it’s best to buy some things from other grocery stores (meat, produce). We’ve never had a bad experience, but we know a lot of other people who have. Just always check your expiration dates people! The pool on base is so nice and one of our favorite things about being stationed at Mayport. It’s large, has a water slide, and a little kid wading pool/splash pad for the tiny ones. They also provide life jackets and puddle jumpers. There's also a large pond on the base with a playground and a walking trail/sidewalk that goes all the way around. It’s a great place to go for a safe walk with your kids or dogs! Just be aware—wherever there’s water in Florida, assume there’s a gator (or several) in it…I’ve personally seen a rather large gator in this pond! We also love the pickleball courts, baseball fields, and the beach access. It’s all pretty easy to get to once you find your way around the base.


What tips or hacks would you give a  military spouse who just PCSed to that base?

There are so many people at these bases that it can be hard to get connected because you might feel intimidated. Try to get involved in the local community. There are so many wonderful churches, moms groups, and neighborhoods in the area.

My first tip would be to look for a place to live as much as you can ahead of time. We struggled to find a place to live when PCSing from Spain to Jacksonville. Thankfully, my husband knew someone on his ship whose wife is a realtor and had been living in Jacksonville for close to 10 years. She helped us so much. Just make sure to do your research, ask questions on Facebook groups, and contact whoever you can to get the best recommendations. Houses in Jacksonville can go very quick! Also—if you’re wanting to live on base, be prepared to wait. As an officer, my husband was told the waitlist for on base housing was 18 months in the summer. Yes….18 months. There’s also off base military housing not far from the main base gate, but I do not have experience in asking about this type of housing.


Do you live on or off base? What is/was your experience like?

Off base. I grew up in Orange Park near the Oakleaf area, then moved to Fleming Island as a teenager. I would highly recommend Fleming Island for families. It has so much to offer and great sports teams for kids. When I got married, we lived on the south side near the Town Center. The Town Center has all the shopping and food you could ever desire and a quick drive to the beaches.

We've been living off base on the north side of Jacksonville near the international airport. While it can be a drive with traffic on I-295, we have truly loved it. We're close to shops, restaurants, and everything we need (River City Marketplace), and we have a very quiet neighborhood with other Navy families here! It's been great for us and our two year old son.

For on base housing:

The housing on base is separated by officer and enlisted. The officer housing is Bennett Shores East, and very pretty. They are actual single family homes. I think all of them are two stories. The enlisted housing is Bennett Shores West and are two units separated by a garage and they're all one level!

If there are any full time RV families or people—they have two RV parks on base. Short term is Pelicans Roost. Long term is Osprey Cove!

Theres also off base military housing in Marsh Cove and Ribault Bay, which is about 5 minutes form base and right next to the NEX and Commissary.

For off base housing:

Town Center

Fleming Island


What are your favorite hang out spots on base? Why?

I've gone camping multiple times on NS Mayport and it's really fun and a great location.

The base beach is awesome. It’s super clean, safe, and very family friendly. It’s also easy to get to and you don’t have to park far away and walk a long distance to get to it, like other beaches nearby. They also get a crazy amount of sea turtles nesting every year! It’s super cool to see. The pool has also been great for our family. Lots of seating if you get there in the mornings, the pool is pretty large, and we liked having the kiddie pool option for our son to play with other kids around the same age.


Did you do a DITY move or military move?

Military move from Rota to Mayport.


Are there any base specific traditions that take place? What is the culture like?

NAS Jax used to host the Blue Angels every year, now I think they alternate between the base and the beaches. NS Mayport hosts country concerts often.

The base has your typical events they put on for families like an Easter egg hunt, 4th of July fireworks, Christmas festivities, etc. and they have all been so great. The MWR has done a great job during our time here in putting on these events for families. They're always organized and we have a great time! Since we don't live on base, I can’t speak to the culture as well as other families that DO live there. What I can tell you, is that this base, because of it’s location, is a little more enjoyable than others I’ve been to. There’s lots to do for people of all ages nearby and there’s always something going on in the Jacksonville Beach area. There are plenty of great local places to eat and shop nearby!


Are there any base FB pages, bloggers, or accounts/websites people should follow for the base or area?

I highly recommend following the Mayport Naval Spouses page, your command’s Facebook pages, your designated ombudsman and FRG pages, and the Jacksonville Navy Spouses page. Also recommend the Mayport Sitters page if you have kids!


What is your favorite coffee shop there? Why? What is your favorite order?

Brass Tacks Coffee is probably my favorite! They have amazing coffee and a cool atmosphere. My favorite coffee from them is the white pumpkin during the fall months. Foxtail Coffee in San Marco is also a great place. Very aesthetic and chill. Elliano’s is also a great drive thru option.


What are your favorite spots for date night?

Town Center, Tinseltown, Atlantic Beach, and Jax Beaches.

On the Northside-New Berlin Fish House and Oyster Bar Near St. John’s

Town Center- Maggiano’s

**we don’t go on a lot of dates because my husband is gone a lot, ha!**


What are your favorite restaurants? What is your go to order?

Poe's Tavern at Atlantic Beach, Grumpy's (more for breakfast), TacoLu, Metro Diner, and Angies Subs at Jax beach (best subs).

New Berlin Fish House and Oyster Bar- shrimp and grits…SO GOOD. Wasabi for hibachi food, Texas Roadhouse because rolls. Near St. John’s shopping center— Maggiano’s (we love literally everything there), Capital Grille for wagyu steak and truffle fries, Fogo de Chao for a Brazilian Steakhouse. Near Jax Beach/Mayport base— The Bearded Pig for some GOOD BBQ, Sub Cultured and Sun Deli for BOMB sandwiches, Casa Leon for Mexican food, Talkin’ Tacos for gourmet-style tacos, Huey Magoo’s for some good fried chicken tenders, Seafood Kitchen and Safe Harbor for some good seafood.


Are there any fun things to do in the area or close to base like amusements parks etc?


Jacksonville Zoo, really popular for families.

Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp baseball games, (minor league baseball).

Jacksonville hockey games.

Arts Market on the weekends in Jax Beach during the summer/fall.

Disney World: about 2.5 hours away.

Tampa/Busch Gardens: 3.5 hours away.

Jacksonville Jaguars football games.

• Multiple beaches to visit— Jax Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Ponte Vedra, etc.

• St. Augustine: beach and fun attractions.

Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island: Beautiful downtown with a great beach and fun shops and places to eat! The Ritz Carlton is also there!

Savannah, GA: 2 hours away from North Jacksonville (great weekend getaway!)


What are some of the things you would put on a bucket list for other military spouses coming to that base?

Take your family to Micklers beach and collect sharks teeth, I've never seen as many as at that beach! Also go to the TPC when it comes to town. They always give away tickets to military.

My best advice would be to visit the variety of beaches (if you like the beach), and to explore nearby cities that are within a relatively short drive. You have SO many options to visit some really great places that are 2-3 hours away! Jacksonville is a great central location if you want to visit other parts of Florida or South Georgia.


Are there any cities you recommend for weekend getaways? Why? What did you do there?

Orlando, Savannah, Daytona Beach, and St. Augustine.

My husband and I spent a weekend getaway in Savannah, GA and it was great. We stayed at The Thompson hotel and had a GREAT stay there. We explored the downtown area and walked around to see all the shops. Wormsloe Plantation was also beautiful!


Best places or activities for kids? Why?

Museum of Science and History.

Jacksonville Zoo.

Jaguars games for the older kids.

Jumbo Shrimp baseball games.

• Hockey games in downtown Jacksonville.

• So many parks in the area (my favorite is in St. Augustine near St. George Street).

There’s also trampoline parks and things of that nature in the area as well.

• The Beaches area is great for kids because, well, the beach.


Any local festivals/traditions held for the holidays in that area?

• Orange Park and Green Cove host Christmas Parades.
St. Augustine Nights of Lights at Christmas time.
Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island to see Christmas lights and decorations downtown.
Blackhawk Bluff Christmas lights in Jacksonville: THE most amazing Christmas light display I have ever seen in my lifetime. It’s all put on for free by the Blackhawk neighborhood community and it's our favorite thing to do each year!
Fourth of July fireworks at various beaches.

Local Recommendations:


Natural Healing Day Spa

Hand and Stone and Integration Spa (on the Northside)


Nail Tech

JT nails at Jax beach

Vannisa Nail Spa in Jacksonville Beach. Best nail techs ever!



Andrea Does My Hair

Hawthorn Salon in Five Points (Marlana is the BEST!)



iBeauty Cave in Jacksonville



I went on base at NAS JAX but had a good experience.

Beaches OBGYN



Orange Park Peds.


Primary Care Doctor

My doctor was on base when I was on Prime.



Park Ave Dental, Weaver and Stratton for kids.



ER: OP Medical Center, Wolfson's Children's Hospital downtown for kids, Shands, Mayo, there are so many! Any Baptist hospital.



Plantation Animal Hospital in Fleming Island, Black Creek Vet.

Highly recommend Dr. Devine at the Petsmart on the north side (32218 zip code). A lot of other people like Monument Road Animal Hospital which is about 15 minutes from base.


Dog Parks

There’s one at Ed Austin Regional Park right down the road from the main gate entrance. It’s a public park!



There’s a nice gym on base! They have everything you’d want and classes you can take. You can also borrow equipment (tennis rackets, pickleball equipment, etc.) at no cost. There’s also CrossFit Jax right down the road from the main gate that a lot of people also like. I haven’t been to it but it’s highly recommended!
There’s not really a YMCA or anything nearby. There’s places like LA fitness, Bailey’s (I guess that’s a Florida or Jacksonville thing), Planet Fitness, etc in different locations!


Kids Tutor/Babysitter

Always check the spouse pages!



Intercoastal Kids and Mayport CDC (military daycare).



Anything in Clay Country or St. John's county is a safe bet. Grace (for private schools). Also, there's a big homeschooling community in the area.



Elaine Morgin is the only realtor you need! And she’s a Navy spouse!



Mandee Matthews

You can find her website here


Light on the Sugar Bakery Cafe.


Grocery Stores

Publix, Winn Dixie, the commissary.


Party Rental Company

The base has a lot of good cheap rentals!


Ball Dress Shop

Look at the Avenues Mall, or town center.



Park Ave Tailor and A Golden Needle Alterations.



Kingsley Jewelers.


Shops + Boutiques

Altar'd State at the Town Center is my favorite.



Overall I would rate this base at a... (1-10, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best)

Lacey: 10/10

Blakely: 8/10



Slideshow Mayport



If you'd like to learn more, have any questions or just want to follow Blakely's journey you can find her over at her Instagram here!


You can also get a PDF version of this guide here!

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