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10 Ways to Have a Fun Memorial Day Weekend

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Memorial Day Weekend is right around the corner!  What better way to kick off summer than at North Carolina’s southern coast in Onslow County?  Embark on an outdoor adventure in our coastal towns of Swansboro, Sneads Ferry, North Topsail Beach, Richlands, or Jacksonville, home to US Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune!  Here are 10 ideas to enjoy a great Memorial Day weekend, #OnlyinOnslow!

Chillaxing at North Topsail Beach

If you like the idea of leaving the mainland behind, get over to North Topsail Beach!  The scenery begins as you drive across the bridge and the Intracoastal Waterway.  Unwind into a leisurely weekend and a couple of beach chairs chatting with friends with the sound of the waves in the background – or grab a cooler with your fishing gear and cast a line!  See more information about parking at North Topsail Beach on our InspiredbyOnslow blog.

Photo:  Instagram / @topsail_images

Tour Lejeune Memorial Gardens

Head to downtown Jacksonville to Lejeune Memorial Gardens and Freedom Fountain.  These are wonderful places to pause, reflect and honor our American military servicemen and women.  Feel the sense of awe as you explore the beautiful landscape!  You can also enjoy a virtual Memorial Day Observance at the Coastal Carolina State Veterans Cemetery on Monday, May 31 at 11:00 am, held by Jacksonville’s local Military Order of the Purple Heart.  See it live on the City of Jacksonville Facebook Page.

Photo: Facebook / @ Visit Jacksonville NC

Shelling & Birdwatching at Bear Island 

For a feels-like-you’re-the-only-one-here kind of experience, adventure over to Bear Island at Hammocks Beach State Park to explore three miles of unspoiled island beachfront – – with all the salty air, wave action, seashells, sand dollars, and sharks teeth you might find!  Take the ferry directly from the park – be sure to check out their schedule and availability. Or charter your own adventure with one of our specialty cruise operators. Marsh Cruises offers sunset, shelling, and night excursions along Bogue and Bear Inlets. Hop aboard a sunset birding cruise with Lady Swan.  Take a guided kayak eco-tour with Pogie’s Fishing Center, Swansboro Paddle Boarding & Kayaking, and Paddle NC.

Photo:  Facebook / @ Marsh Cruises

Sunset Cruise along the Intracoastal Waterway

Explore Swansboro by sea on the Lady Swan, a 40’ Coast Guard inspected pontoon boat that cruises Swansboro’s surrounding waters. Known for its scenic sunset cruises, the Lady Swan features a fully shaded top, comfortably padded seats, and onboard restrooms. Yes, you and your guests will be cruisin’ the coast in style! Experience the Lady Swan’s popular historic and nature cruises, too. Both are a great way to discover Swansboro’s local history and distinctive coastal beauty.

Photo:  Facebook / @ Lady Swan Boat Tours

Savor Local Flavors

The perfect getaway calls for an exploration of the best local cuisine, and what better place than at the coast?  Sample traditional mouthwatering southern delicacies, fresh local seafood,  indulge a pasta craving or some good authentic Mexican, or your favorite sushi. Endless options are available and we’re sure your taste buds will be satisfied.  See all of our local restaurants on our website.

Photo:  Instagram / @nctripping / Old Siam, Jacksonville, Saltwater Grill, Swansboro

Kayaking & Paddle Boarding

Whether you are an expert or a beginner — enjoy kayaking and paddling along the Intercoastal Waterway in Swansboro, at Hammocks Beach State Park, in Jacksonville on the New River, or at North Topsail Beach. Check out our local paddling outfitters, Pogie’s Fishing Center, Swansboro Paddle Boarding & Kayaking, and Paddle NC for rentals and gear as well as joining guided tours!

Photo:  Facebook / @ Pogie’s Fishing Center

Cast a Line in our Waters

Recreational, sport, and commercial fishing have deep roots in our coastal communities of Onslow County.  If you’re interested in casting a line or two, you might catch your own dinner and enjoy seafood at its freshest! List of all fishing outlets.

For the land-based angler, head over to Seaview Fishing Pier or enjoy walking along North Topsail Beach and fish the surf and the areas around the inlets. Be sure to obtain a permit and review the rules and regulations from the Town of North Topsail Beach.

Saltwater fishing from both land and boat is an angler’s dream in Onslow.  You’ll find an abundance of speckled trout, flounder, red drum, bluefish, sea mullet(whiting), croaker, Spanish mackerel, and spot in our waters.   Those that have larger boats can fish for cobia, Mahi (dolphin), king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, grey trout, flounder, black sea bass, various groupers, and more.  Unless you are fishing from a pier, head boat, or charter, you must have the appropriate license to fish saltwater.

Photo:  Instagram / @northtopsailbeachnc

Freshwater fishing opportunities are available along the New River in Jacksonville and the White Oak River in Swansboro.  Anglers enjoy catches of speckled trout, red drum, flounder, largemouth bass, sunfish, and white catfish.

Visit to obtain information about obtaining a fishing license in addition to rules, regulations, and related guidelines.

Cruise the New River with Bayonet Cruises

Board Bayonet Enterprises Cruise private yacht charter, with Captain Lance, a retired Marine Colonel, and his first mate, Marilyn for a relaxing day on the water. Cruise along the New River and enjoy the sights of downtown Jacksonville and the surrounding wildlife. Choose from a champagne brunch, lunch cruise, sunset retreat, a mini overnight getaway, and more.

Photo:  Facebook / @ 365 Atlanta Traveler

Fresh Strawberries & the NC Products Barn at Mike’s Farm

Strawberries are in season!  Take home a bucket full available for purchase at Mike’s Farm. The NC Products Barn is home to the largest variety of products that are all produced, manufactured, and crafted in our great state. From the Mountains, Piedmont, and the Coastal Plains they hope to have all 100 counties represented. From suspenders, pottery, and mismatched socks to specialty coffee, handcrafted foods and unique wines there truly is something for everyone!

Photo:  Facebook / @ Mike’s Farm

Get Outdoors at our Local Parks

Being outdoors is a way of life for us and we hope you enjoy our parks as much as we do!  Paddle trails, bicycle routes, tennis, playgrounds, picnic areas, basketball courts, disc golf, splash pads – you name it!  We encourage you to visit Onslow County’s Parks & Recreation website as well as the Recreation & Parks – Jacksonville, NC Facebook Page for a whole slew of happenings and activities to enjoy throughout the year. See a list of our parks here.

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