NS Mayport Editorial by Ralph Williams
NS Mayport lies at the mouth of the St. John’s River and Atlantic Ocean. To the west of the base and community of Mayport lies the Jacksonville Southside area followed by the downtown Jacksonville, Fl area (and highway I-95) approximately 17 miles away, while the Jacksonville Beach areas are 4 miles away.
Naval Station Mayport is a major US Naval base on the Eastern Coast of the U.S. The Navy League base history webpage says NS Mayport was commissioned during the Second World War in 1942. It is the second modern era Navy base established in Jacksonville after Naval Air Station Jacksonville was commissioned in 1940. Over the years its mission has grown and the base has expanded to berthing aircraft carriers. The base today is the result of merging a Navy air base and surface ship base in 1992. Its airfield is over 8,000 feet long and can accommodate any plane in the “DoD Inventory.” The area’s military significance dates back to the 1500s where a fort near the Mayport base site was built by the French and soon afterward destroyed by the Spanish from their base in nearby St. Augustine. Today, this location is a National Park called the Fort Caroline National Memorial. The City of Jacksonville, Fl marked the base’s 75th year anniversary with a proclamation from the Mayor. The base in its celebration unveiled a new base logo resembling the logos on military hardware from the base’s founding days of World War II.
NS Mayport is an attractive base, when entering you will see the majestic trees along the road. It is nice to be so close to the ocean, the ocean breeze is a comfort whether at work or off duty. While driving through you will see part of the base golf course. Its name is "Windy Harbor Golf Club” for a reason, it is challenging during windy days. On the weekends, you may see groups of Sea Scouts on field trips on the base.
Facilities and Quality of Life
We use the base a lot for its commissary and military exchange stores. Jacksonville has two major military bases in the city, NS Mayport and NAS Jacksonville. In regard to the commissary and exchange facilities at NS Mayport, it is different from those at NAS Jacksonville. Whereas most military commissaries and exchanges are located on the base itself, the Mayport commissary and exchange facilities are outside the base 2 miles south of the main gate on Mayport Road. Winning the “Best Large Commissary in the United States” by the Defense Commissary Agency in 2014, it may have since been surpassed in the Jacksonville, Fl area with the new commissary at NAS Jacksonville which opened in 2017. While I prefer the newer commissary, I like the closer location of Mayport for my shopping.
Accommodations and Facilities
For retirees or those passing through Jacksonville, NS Mayport is a great place to visit. According to the Mayport MWR website, the lodging choices on base may be limited at this time as the Gateway Inns and Suites there are renovated, but recreational lodging is available at the two RV parks on base, not to mention the civilian hotels that line Mayport Road and the oceanfront hotels along the Jacksonville Beach area. For those looking for an outdoor day of fun, the recreational facilities are great. The pool has been upgraded with a water slide and is a popular destination in the summer. Because its within walking distance to the picnic areas and the beach you could make it a daylong outing. The beach on base, closed to the public, is sparsely visited and recommended for an outing. If you are on base at dusk, make sure to go to the jetties by the base’s Pelican Roost RV Park. The scenic views of the sun setting over the St. John’s river and its wildlife is memorable and my favorite moment while I was there.
Annually, the NAS Jacksonville or NS Mayport bases hold large air shows featuring the Navy’s Blue Angels. The shows held at NAS Jacksonville feature many static aircraft displays along with the flying shows. When the show is held near NS Mayport, the air shows are at the public beaches with tens of thousands attending. Along with the air shows, there are amphibious vehicle and maneuver displays with the landing craft coming onto the beaches. Would you like to see a Landing Craft Air Cushion so up-close you can climb aboard one? Then you will like this event! A ride is recommended to get there, parking is very scare at the beaches during the days of these shows.
Jacksonville Area Information
Mayport is inside of the City of Jacksonville boundaries but it has a distinctive “beach” feel. The Jacksonville area includes a wide range of experiences. From beaches along the Atlantic Ocean, to St John’s River locations, to inland wooded areas, Jacksonville has about everything except mountains and snow. The college teams that dominate here are the UF Gators, FSU Seminoles and Georgia Bulldogs. Professional sports in Jacksonville consist of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars, along with several minor league teams in baseball, soccer, rugby, ice hockey and men’s basketball. The number of teams compared to the 1990s reflect a growing city footprint.
Summary of NS Mayport
NS Mayport is part of the greater Jacksonville Navy Complex which includes the large NAS Jacksonville. As the second largest naval base on the Eastern USA, it’s future is secure. The base will continue to be updated to accommodate the changing needs of the military. The base, along with Jacksonville, are building up and updating at a fast pace making this a destination sought after by many military personnel and retirees.