To continue our series from the top 10 Army stations, this article lists the best Navy bases in the United States.
Unlike Army posts, naval stations generally need to be near the water, and there’s an abundance of them in paradise-like locations. The 10 installations below are chosen for their size, importance and popularity among sailors.
10. Naval Station Great Lakes – Illinois
About an hour north of Chicago is Naval Station Great Lakes, the largest training station for the Navy. It’s known as the Quarterdeck of the Navy, and also bears the unfortunate nickname, the “Great Mistake”.
Glenview and Halsey are good on-post housing options as they are both near the commissary and MWR services. Median home value in the area is around $234,000, and rental cost for homes is $1,250 (apartments are cheaper at $950). Base amenities include a marina, bowling alley, movie theatre and golf course. Sailors can venture into Chicago for a taste of the city, or travel to Wisconsin or Michigan for more area attractions (including a great lake!)
Chicago is the windy city, and Great Lakes doesn’t disappoint. It can get down to minus 20 F in the winter, with feet of snow. However, summers are hot with an average temperature of 86 F and 100% humidity in July.
9. Naval Air Station Corpus Christi – Texas
Aspiring pilots should know Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Naval Air Training Command resides at the base, which has been training Navy pilots since 1941. It was a huge help in WWII as the largest naval aviation training facility in the world; it’s also the place where President George H.W. Bush received his wings.
Located in South Texas, near (you guessed it) Corpus Christi, this NAS boasts a beautiful and culture-rich area. There’s a reason that Texas has one of the fastest-growing populations in the States — the people are friendly, cost of living is low and it’s exceptionally military-friendly.
NAS Corpus Christi weather is warm. It hits its peak in July and August over 100 F, and lows are around 50 F in December and January. Luckily, in Corpus Christi you are right on the water. Check out the best 10 beaches of the area.
8. Naval Air Station Lemoore – California
Naval Air Station Lemoore was built “from the ground up” as a Master Jet Base in 1961. Strike Fighter Wing Pacific calls it home, and Lemoore is also the west coast site for the F/A-18 Hornet Strike Fighter, with 175 Hornets and Super Hornets operating here.
NAS Lemoore, with its parallel 13,500-feet runways and aircraft hangars, underpasses and operations centers, stands out against the Central California farmland. While beautiful, some people liken it to living in the middle of nowhere, and it can sometimes feel that way. Fortunately, you can expect good Cali weather; warm and sunny most of the year.
The sense of community is strong at Lemoore, and base housing includes playgrounds, pools and workout rooms. Lemoore and Hanford are both short commutes from base and offer good eats and events year-round. There’s also plenty of outdoor options, with lakes, mountains and beaches all within a couple-hours drive. Big cities like LA, San Diego and San Francisco range from three to five hours away.
7. Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay – Georgia
Not too far North of Jacksonville is Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, the east coast home to Trident nuclear-powered submarines. With a population of over 15,000, Kings Bay hosts the Atlantic Fleet’s Ballistic and Guided Missile Submarines. Their vision: “Transforming Challenges into Achievements”.
Small town living perfectly combines with city life in Kings Bay. It borders the cute, historic town of St. Mary’s, on the southeast corner of coastal Georgia. It’s also only 40 miles from Jacksonville. Wherever you go, there’s a big Navy presence. The median home value is $152,000.
Kings Bay summers are long and oppressively hot. Expect rain and humidity year-round, with the best seasons being the warm-yet-mild fall and springtime. The good news: constant beach access.
6. Naval Station Mayport – Florida
Naval Station Mayport is one of three major Navy installations near Jacksonville, including NAS Jacksonville (a good choice as well). Mayport has a protected harbor with a 34-ship capacity, and an airfield with an 8,000-foot runway. It’s home to the Navy’s 4th fleet.
Mayport features lots of outdoor recreation, including boating, camping, fishing and watersports. Jacksonville has a large concentration of people — around one million — nearly a quarter of which are military. The median home value is $164,000. The city itself has a lively art and restaurant scene, and dozens of venues that host acts from around the world. Overall, the area is a perfect mix of activity and quiet residential living.
With warm summers and mild winters, Florida is called the Sunshine State for a reason. It can get pretty hot and sticky in July, but coastal breezes will provide some relief.
5. Naval Base Kitsap – Washington
The Pacific Northwest is another Navy hub. Naval Base Kitsap is the largest Navy installation in the area, accompanying NAS Whidbey Island and NS Everett, and nearby the massive Army / Air Force Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Naval Base Kitsap was created in 2004 with the merging of former NS Bremerton and the Submarine Base Bangor. It’s the home base for the Navy’s fleet throughout the West Puget Sound, and holds the title of third-largest Navy base in the U.S.; featuring four nuclear shipyards and one of only two nuclear weapons facilities, as well as the Navy’s largest fuel depot.
The Puget Sound area is the reason why most service members love this duty station, with tons of outdoor activities, beautiful scenery, and attractions in the Emerald City. The median home value in Bremerton is close to $300,000. Weather is mild with lots of precipitation.
4. Naval Station Norfolk – Virginia
A very common duty station, Naval Station Norfolk is the world’s largest naval station, with more than 80,000 active duty sailors, 112,000 family members and 30,000 civilians. Its location is near the site of the original 1607 Jamestown settlement.
NAS Norfolk is the hub for Navy logistics, going from European and Central Command operations, all the way to the Caribbean. Due to the high populace of people, base housing may be hard to get into. The median home value in Norfolk is around $200,000, which is low compared to surrounding areas.
Virginia Beach is known for its activities; with a three-mile boardwalk, ocean views and a storied history, you won’t get bored. The climate is mild, with summer highs in the mid-80s and winter lows in the 30s. They receive only seven inches of snow per year, and 213 sunny days.
3. Naval Station Pearl Harbor – Hawaii
Part of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, NS Pearl Harbor is the most famous on our list. In use since 1899, Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 and became the deciding factor in American involvement in WWII. Adjacent to Honolulu on the island of Oahu, Pearl Harbor-Hickam is home to 66,000-plus sailors, airmen and their families.
Pearl Harbor has 160 commands and provides berthing and shore support to ships and submarines, as well as maintenance and training. Hawaii is a known tourist-destination, and this base is no exception, with year-round visits from submariners.
Off base housing can get expensive; the median home value on Oahu is upwards of $700,000, with small apartments close to $2,000 a month. You’ll be hard-pressed to find somewhere very affordable. Make sure to get on waiting lists fast if you plan on staying on base.
On the plus side, Hawaii boasts gorgeous beaches, hiking areas and a melting pot of cultures. It’s very military-friendly, and you’ll be sure to feel part of a community right away. Over the course of a year, temperatures typically flux between 63 F and 89 F, with lots of sunshine and ocean breezes.
2. Naval Air Station Pensacola – Florida
Another Florida base, Naval Air Station Pensacola is located in the northwest panhandle and houses around 15,000 active personnel. It’s known as the first Naval Air Station, commissioned by the Navy in 1914. “The Cradle of Naval Aviation” has trained tens of thousands of naval aviators; these include John H. Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, and Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon in 1969.
Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) resides here, along with Training Air Wing SIX. NAS Pensacola is also the headquarters for the renowned Blue Angels. This duty station is one of the most sought-after; with Pensacola’s median home cost of $133,000, and the bustle of Navy activity in the area, it’s easy to understand why.
The only downfall of Pensacola living is how far it is from everything else. It’s a five-hour trip to Jacksonville, and six hours to Orlando. Panama City and Tallahassee are two to three hours driving. As stated before, Florida summers are long and hot, and the winters are short and windy. While you may not be up Tornado Alley, hurricanes are a big threat here.
1. Naval Base San Diego – California
Finally, topping our list is Naval Base San Diego, the MOST sought-after duty station in the Navy. It’s the second largest Surface Ship base and holds over 50 ships from the Pacific Fleet. Made up of 13 piers over 1,000 acres of land, this installation boasts more than 24,000 military personnel.
San Diego is a military town, and a very desirable location for most service members. It has near-perfect weather, with incredible beaches and close access to Mexico for travelers. Locals refer to this station as “32nd Street”. It’s nearby Naval Base Coronado, NAS North Island, Naval Base Point Loma, and multiple Marine and Coast Guard stations.
A couple things to remember: tourism thrives in San Diego, so it is a very crowded city. That makes commuting a struggle, so consider using public transportation or simply living on base. The cost of living in SoCal is notoriously terrible, with median home prices of around $600,000. In addition, California offers a very special property tax called “Mello-Roos” that can run you upwards of $500 a month. Do your research before buying a home.
Despite the price tag of big city living, there’s a reason so many people love it. You’ll never run out of places to see and things to do. Los Angeles is only two hours away, and offers a huge art scene for creative types. Military spouses will find it easier to make connections and launch careers. Lastly, Naval Base San Diego is a vacation destination and beautiful year-round. Enjoy your time here!