Located off of I-95, north of Wilmington and east of Raleigh and I-40, Onslow County, North Carolina, encompasses the areas of Richlands, Jacksonville, Camp Lejeune, North Topsail Beach, Sneads Ferry and Swansboro. An area with deep roots in African American history, as well as the Marine Corps, Onslow is also a destination full of family fun for all ages and generations. For an authentic experience and perfect introduction to the area, visit the Onslow County Museum in Richlands, with more than 40 years of regional history, Huffman’s Vineyard, offering handcrafted wines in small batches and Mike’s Farm, for popular seasonal entertainment like pumpkins and Christmas trees. In Jacksonville, the county seat, dip in for a sip and a tour at Walton’s Distillery, the main distillery in North Carolina, manufacturing corn whiskey and moonshine. Make waves with a boat tour and hop aboard Jacksonville’s Bayonet Enterprises Cruises for a wine and hors d’oeuvres tour of the area or set sail with Lady Swan Tours to learn about the history of nearby Swansboro, Bear Island and the area’s connection to the infamous pirate Blackbeard. The entire county is a playground for outdoor activities from enjoying the waterways and beaches, either aboard a friendly charter or via your own watercraft or something rented from one of the area’s many outfitters, to exploring nature at Hammocks Beach State Park. Back in Jacksonville, Lejeune Memorial Gardens pays moving homage to the area’s military heritage through patriotic monuments and memorials commemorating the Montford Point Marines, Viet Nam War, Beirut Incident of 1983, and 9-11.  Plan to visit during one of Onslow County’s special events, like Walton’s Distillery’s once a month (September-May) open house, complete with live music and food cooked up by the owner’s mama, Swansboro’s annual spring PirateFest or the annual Ocean City Jazz Festival, held Independence Day weekend, in North Topsail Beach.  www.OnlyinOnslow.com

Fast Facts

  • Onslow County and Jacksonville are home to the oldest continuous USO in the country.  
  • The oldest standing structure in Jacksonville, the Pelletier House, was built in the 1850s. (The house is open to tours by appointment) 
  • Onslow County is one of the oldest settled counties in the state of North Carolina. The first Europeans to settle in what is now Onslow County arrived in 1713.  
  • The county is named after the Right Honorable Arthur Onslow, the Speaker of the House of Commons. Meanwhile, the county seat, Jacksonville is name in honor of (President) Andrew Jackson. 
  • The town of Swansboro welcomed its first settlement in 1730. The Downtown historic area  is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  
  • Huggins Island is the site of a Confederate 6-gun fort guarding the entrance to Bogue Inlet. This island is only accessible by boat and is property of the state.  
  • The first African-Americans to earn the title of United States Marine trained at Montford Point, now named Camp Johnson. It is estimated that 20,000 men trained on these grounds from 1942 to 1949.  
  • The first Governor in North Carolina to be elected by popular vote is Edward Bishop Dudley. He served from 1836-1841.  — 28th Governor, born near Jacksonville, NC 
  • With World War II raging, there was a need for an East Coast amphibious training facility leading to the purchase of 110,000 acres now known as Camp Lejeune. Thus, this is where the U.S. Army trained for D-Day.  
  • The Venus flytrap, only one of six carnivorous plants native to the United States is also native to Onslow County. It is a felony punishable by a fine of $10,000 per plant and jail time to remove Venus flytraps from their natural habitat.  
  • Operation Bumblebee, the U.S. Navy’s secret guided missile testing program, operated on Topsail Island from 1946-1948. See the remnants of a tower when visiting North Topsail Beach!  
  • During World War II, 1,074 women trained and were awarded wings as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. One of the two training locations were at Camp Davis Army Air Field in Holly Ridge, North Carolina. These pilots had the very dangerous mission of flying planes that towed targets for anti-aircraft training.  
  • It is said that the legendary pirate, Blackbeard, utilized some of the shallow inlets on Topsail Island to launch a few attacks.  
  • Legend has it that Topsail Island was named by merchant captains who learned to spot the highest masts, or Tops’ls, to outrun the looters.  
  • Jacksonville is home to the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast, Camp Lejeune.  
  • Camp Lejeune, located in Onslow County, is home to 3rd battalion/8th marine(Marine) regiment, the battalion devastated by the Beirut Bombing on the barracks in Lebanon on October 23, 1983.   
  • Ocean City Beach, a mile long community between North Topsail Beach and Surf City, was one of the first coastal community in North Carolina where African-Americans were able to purchase and own land.  
  • Hammocks Beach State Park was a designated beach resort area for African-Americans until 1961. That same year, the land was donated to the state of North Carolina to be further developed as a park. (First was privately owned, then given to Hurst Family who requested it be donated to the NC Black Teachers Association for African Americans during the era of segregation the Association gave it to the State for development as a park and conservation area. Important area for sea turtle nesting) 
  •  Historical coincidence – the motto of the Onslow Family was Semper Fidelis which is also the motto of the USMC. 
  • Part of the land acquired by the government for Marine Corps Base – Camp Lejeune included the community of Marines named not for the fighting force but for the last name of the family who lived in the area. 
  • The New River is the only river in the state of NC that has its headwaters and mouth within the boundaries of the same county. 
  • Following the election of 1896, the Governor of NC Daniel Lindsey Russell and the Secretary of State – Dr. Cyrus Thompson – were raised in Onslow County.  Governor Russell is buried here in a cemetery known as Hickory Hill in the White Oak District.  Dr. Thompson was born and raised in Richlands.   

Annual Events

Engaged Onslow Bridal Expo
February
www.engagedonslow.com

Pirate Fest
May
www.onslowcountync.gov

Arts By The Sea
June
www.swansborofestival.com

Ocean City Jazz Festival
July
www.oceancityjazzfestival.com

Sneads Ferry Shrimp Fest
August
www.sneadsferryshrimpfestival.org

Swansboro Mullet Fest
October
www.swansborofestival.com

Onslow Oktoberfest
October
www.onslowoktoberfest.org

Swansboro Christmas Flotilla
November
www.swansborofestival.com

Jacksonville Winterfest
December
www.jacksonvillenc.gov

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