5 Best Duty Stations for Navy Personnel and Families

By JD Collins

Top 5 Duty Stations of the Navy

Top 5 Duty Stations of the Navy

5-Norfolk, VA- Naval Station Norfolk, NAS Oceana and others

If you’re looking for a job in the Navy, move to Virginia. Housing market is cheap. HUGE navy presence so there’s a large support system available. A little lacking in off-base activities but it may be perfect for those looking for a slower pace. You get all four seasons, so for those who don’t prefer a specific climate. Virginia’s for you.

4-Jacksonville, FL- Naval Air Station Jacksonville, and Naval Station Mayport.

Warm weather, cheap housing market, plenty of activities. Jacksonville is good for the Sailors and Families who want the best bang for their buck in terms of housing. Sure, there’s a few bugs and alligators involved. But you’re into touristy-activities, there’s golf, theme parks, and all sorts of beaches somewhat close.

3-Hawaii- Pearl Harbor and Kaneohe Bay

So the government wants to send you to a place to LIVE where others VACATION… on their dime. CHECK! Activities galore here; beaches, hiking, city life, sight-seeing, awesome food! Pack away those bulky coats and boots, you won’t need them…like ever. Cost of living and distance from family are some cons. Job market may be tougher for spouses, but all four branches of the military are active on Oahu, and there’s the booming tourism industry.

2-Everett- Naval Station Everett

Beautiful Washington State. Hiking, fishing, hunting, camping. Even with the rain, Washington was made for the outdoorsy people. Bustling Seattle is 25 miles away for those job hunters. Slip away to the suburbs if you want a little more peace and quiet.

1-San Diego- Naval Complex San Diego

I’m so biased because my alma mater is here, so I chose San Diego before the Navy chose it for us. Perfect weather, plenty of activities, wide and varied job market. I will say that the cost of living is significantly higher here. It’s SoCal, you give and you get.

Bonus: Other countries, Japan, Italy, Spain, etc. If you can, I say, try an international duty station. Join the navy, see the world right? You’ll have great stories and life experiences to tell your grandkids one day.

Notes: I graded the items that were personally important to me: a decent job market, a variety of activities, a combo of city/suburb living, large naval presence that is integrated into the civilian world as opposed to a navy base that pretty much runs the town.

Let’s hear it… what are your top 5?


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15 Comments on 5 Best Duty Stations for Navy Personnel and Families

  1. Brandy
    November 19, 2013 at 1:51 am (5 months ago)

    My personal Top 5 from experience.

    1. Everett, WA
    2. Rota, Spain
    3. San Diego, CA
    4. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
    5. Naples, Italy

    I’ve also been to Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal, Pensacola, Florida, and Norfolk, VA. Norfolk was the worst duty station. There are no positives to live in Hampton Roads.

    • JD Collins
      November 19, 2013 at 8:00 am (5 months ago)

      I’m so jealous that you’ve been to all of those places. I might make a do a follow-up post that features an “audience vote” of the best duty stations. Thanks for the insights!

    • j huffman
      November 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm (5 months ago)

      I’ve lived in a few of those and I’m surprised you said Norfolk was lacking in off base activities. The beaches are wonderful and Busch Gardens is just a short drive. Washington DC is a 3 hours and the Virginia Mountains are not much further away – I guess it just depends on what you are looking to do. I can also say that the education system is much better in Virginia than California, Florida, or Hawaii. So if you are looking for someplace that has good schools for your children Hampton Roads is definitely #1 on that list.

      • JD Collins
        November 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm (5 months ago)

        I just pcs’d from Hawaii and may still have an island sense of distance so if it’s more than 15 minutes drive, I think it’s “far”. Lol. I have heard wonderful things about the school system in Virginia though. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • monica
      November 21, 2013 at 7:32 am (5 months ago)

      totally agree. norfolk is by far- the worst place i have been.

  2. Pia
    November 20, 2013 at 10:23 am (5 months ago)

    Been in Corpus, Jacksonville, Pensacola (for a short while) and now currently Spain. So far the best is Spain and absolute worst is Corpus!

    • JD Collins
      November 20, 2013 at 2:44 pm (5 months ago)

      I would love to go Spain one day! Sorry about your time in Corpus. Maybe there should be a “5 worst Navy Duty Stations List” :)

  3. Cameron
    November 20, 2013 at 11:33 am (5 months ago)

    I have really enjoyed my time in Norfolk, VA. It has everything I could want…beaches, restaurants, shopping, fun family friendly activities. The hardest part of moving to Norfolk is finding the right neighborhood for your family. The area is so big. I recommend reading neighborhood reviews from other military families and use a military friendly realtor. It will make your time here so much more enjoyable!

    • JD Collins
      November 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm (5 months ago)

      Very helpful insights, thanks!

  4. Anna
    November 20, 2013 at 1:24 pm (5 months ago)

    I love Norfolk. There are plenty of fun activities within a reasonable driving distance. I think the major mistake many navy families make when they move to Hampton Roads is not choosing a place to live close to the base where they work. It seems there are a lot of folks who choose to live in VA beach, even though they work in Norfolk. These people complain about the commute. In general, heavy traffic and dealing with tunnels and bridges everywhere can be the major drawback to Hampton Roads, but with some thoughtful planning, it’s not usually a big deal.

    • JD Collins
      November 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm (5 months ago)

      I agree that commute is a major part of your overall happiness at a duty station. My husband worked at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, and some of his coworkers lived clear across the island, and that was a 90 minute commute sometimes, therefore they “hated” Hawaii. thanks for your insights!

  5. Michelle
    November 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm (5 months ago)

    Are these places based on anything other than personal preference and/or experience?

    • JD Collins
      November 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm (5 months ago)

      There may be never be a definitive list because everyone’s preferences/experiences are different. Some like the small town feel(Charleston, Lemoore, Whidbey Island), some like the city (San Diego, Jacksonville, Everett), some like different countries (Japan, Spain, Italy). It would be great if someone could somehow survey everyone and do a massive poll :)

  6. Kim
    November 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm (5 months ago)

    We are doing our second tour in Norfolk. It does have some great activities although they can be a bit of a drive. And being in a place where doctors understand Tricare prime vs standard is nice as well as the Nex being bigger than a 7-11. But the traffic is ridiculous. I know locals who will tell you it’s bad. I’ve seen people make turns across oncoming traffic from the opposite turn lane. The tunnels and bridges back up all the time because people don’t follow traffic signs or panic about them, causing accidents. I grew up near Chicago, I understand traffic happens, but this is mind boggling traffic. Just watch people try to merge. You’d think it was rocket science. Another downside is not all the schools are great. Norfolk and Portsmouth schools and neighborhoods tend to have some bad reputations. One of my friends grew up in Norfolk and when we moved back she tried to talk us out of looking at houses in Portsmouth. Some areas, like ours, are nice, but others are very sketchy. Our favorite duty station was Saratoga Springs/Ballston Spa. Cute little upstate NY town, very family friendly, but also very little military. Joint Base Charleston in Goose Creek, SC had a really nice (and mostly new!) base housing program but good luck getting anything delivered on base and military-isolated.

    • JD Collins
      November 20, 2013 at 5:09 pm (5 months ago)

      Oh brother, traffic around any large and major Navy base is a hot mess. My poor husband worked on Coronado and we lived in North San Diego. One two lane bridge in, One two-lane bridge out. I definitely agree with you that not every duty station is perfect and has its nice parts and bad parts. Since this list came out, I’m getting feedback that Charleston should be on the list… maybe one day :)


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