Skip to main content

11 Military Recreation Areas for Your Next Vacation - CONUS Edition

by Stephanie Montague - March 17th, 2022

11 Military Recreation Areas for Your Next Vacation - CONUS Edition

Whether you’re planning for Spring Break, a weekend getaway, a PCS road trip, or a post-deployment vacation, sometimes you just want something simple that doesn’t break the bank. Fortunately, there are military recreation areas all over the country that could be just what you’re looking for. With lodging options ranging from rustic military campgrounds to upscale lodges, the 11 facilities highlighted below are just a sample of the possibilities.

1. Navy Getaways at NSA Panama City

This budget-friendly facility in Panama City Beach, Florida near Tyndall AFB overlooks St. Andrews Bay. It offers log cabins and travel trailers as well as two RV parks. Amenities include a beach, marina, and children’s playground.

Visitors can also rent a wide variety of recreational, camping, and outdoor party equipment.

The log cabins sleep up to six people and cost $70/night for military families. Travel trailers are $35 and $40 per night for off-site and on-site use, respectively. RV sites are $22/night.

Reservation Policy: Up to one year in advance for active duty, six months for all others.

2. Destin Army Recreation Center

This military recreation area is associated with Fort Benning (Georgia) but is located along Florida’s beautiful Emerald Coast, across from Eglin Air Force Base. It is a 15-acre gated resort that offers a pool, splash park, fishing pier, and boat rentals. Accommodations include two- and three-bedroom villas, suites and studios, standard hotel rooms, and a newly-renovated RV park.

There are standard year-round rates for Active Duty E-5 and below. All other guests pay slightly higher rates between March and September. Even the most expensive option, a Deluxe 3-bedroom villa, is only $170 per night during high season.

Reservation Policy: You can book most lodging, except for the villas, up to a year in advance. Active duty can reserve villas 6 months out, and all others can book them 4 months in advance.

3. Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area

This facility is located in Kure Beach, NC, between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. It offers a broad range of lodging options, including: RV, tent and yurt camping; mobile homes; one-, three- and four-bedroom cottages; and individual rooms in the lodge. Facilities include equipment rental, an outdoor pool, and a recreation building with fitness center.

Rates vary by accommodation, season, and pay grade. Click here to see the most updated rates. Peak Season is from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The rest of the year is considered Non-Peak.

Reservation Policies: Service members and families stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB can reserve up to 180 days in advance. Other active duty can reserve 150 days in advance. Retirees and all others can book 120 days in advance

4. Onslow Beach at Camp Lejeune

Located on a beautiful stretch of the North Carolina coast, Onslow Beach is a relaxing, low-key destination. Depending on what time of year you visit, you might find shark’s teeth on the beach or see turtles hatching!

Lodging options at Onslow Beach include cabanas (located directly on the beach), various one-, two-, and three-bedroom lodges, and an RV park. Some lodging units are restricted to a designated rank. Visit the Onslow Beach website for pricing.

Reservation Policy: You can reserve lodging at Onslow beach for three, four, or seven nights at a time. If you are active duty stationed at MCB Camp LejeuneMCAS New River, or MCAS Cherry Point, you can reserve up to 20 weeks in advance. Retirees and active duty from other locations can reserve 18 weeks in advance.

5. Navy Recreation Center Solomons Island

This full-service military recreation area makes a great getaway for families stationed in the Washington, DC area. The facility is located on the Patuxent River, just a short distance from the Chesapeake Bay. It offers plenty of outdoor activities, including a beach and marina, fishing, miniature golf, and the Riverside Aquatics Complex. Solomons Island is located about 20 minutes from NAS Patuxent River and is also close to restaurants and bars.

Take your pick of the many accommodation options, including cottages, cabins, apartments, military campgrounds, and yurts. Rates vary by season and type of accommodation, but even a five-bedroom waterfront cottage is just about $200 per night during peak season.

Reservation Policy: Up to one year in advance for active duty, six months for all others.

6. Great Pond Outdoor Adventure Center

This military recreation area in Maine is an activity of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard MWR. It offers a range of accommodation options, including two lodges designed for groups of eight to 11 guests, cabins, yurts, and both RV and rustic camping sites. Great Pond Adventure Center is a good option for any season; you can rent equipment for boating, fishing, hiking, biking, ice skating, and other winter activities. If you run out of things to do, you can also visit Acadia National Park, located 90 minutes south.

Lodging prices range from $30 for a Yurt to $200 for an entire lodge that sleeps 11 people. There are winter discounts between November 1 and April 30.

All eligible patrons can reserve up to 12 months in advance.

7. Lake of the Ozarks Recreation Area (LORA)

This facility is part of Fort Leonard Wood and is located in Linn Creek, Missouri. Set in a beautiful area surrounded by Lake of the Ozarks State Park, LORA offers plenty of aquatic activities, including boating, jet-skiing, swimming, and water skiing. You can also enjoy hiking, biking, and fishing.

LORA has one-, two-, and three-bedroom cabins ranging in price from $85 to $165 per night during the regular season, with lower prices from November through February. They also have military campgrounds, including RV hookups rustic campsites.

Reservation Policy: Up to one year in advance for active duty, six months for all others.

8. Fort Tuthill (Flagstaff, AZ)

Fort Tuthill, part of Luke Air Force Base, is located in Flagstaff, Arizona. In addition to being an affordable launching point for your visit to the Grand Canyon (90 minutes away), Fort Tuthill offers year-round outdoor activities. During the warmer months, you can enjoy hiking, canoeing, and whitewater rafting. In the winter, you can ski or snowboard in the southern foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Fort Tuthill also provides numerous organized tours, including paddling, hiking, mountain biking, and rafting.

Lodging options include a hotel, cabins, yurts, and an RV/camping area. Accommodations are rustic but have all the necessities. Rates vary depending on the accommodation and time of year.

Reservation Policy: Up to one year in advance for active duty, six months for all others.

9. Joint Base San Antonio Recreation Park at Canyon Lake

This year-round recreation area is located about an hour north of San Antonio, Texas. It offers relaxing beaches and a range of outdoor activities, including boating, biking, hiking, and the new “Neo Canyon” for kids.

Canyon Lake has various cabins and cottages that accommodate four to eight people. They also have an RV park and camping sites. See their brochure for pricing.

Reservation Policy: Up to six months in advance for active duty, three months for all others.

10. Big Bear Recreation Facility

Another of our year-round military recreation centers is Big Bear. This military recreation area is located in the San Bernadino Mountains, about 100 miles west of Los Angeles, CA. In the winter months, you can ski, snowboard, or snowshoe. When the weather warms up, enjoy hiking, fishing, mountain biking, tennis, water skiing, or boating.

Big Bear has eight cabins, each of which accommodates up to six people. They also have five RV sites and designated camping areas. Rates vary depending on the time of year and day of the week. Nightly rates for the cabins range from $79 on weeknights in off-peak season to $169 per night on a weekend in peak season. This brochure provides detailed pricing.

Due to the relatively small number of cabins, getting a reservation can be competitive, so Big Bear has strict policies. You can make a reservation up to 90 days prior to the month of your visit, starting with the first calendar day of the month (i.e. call the first day of March for May reservations). Active duty Marines and other active duty service members stationed on a Marine Corps installation have a slight advantage; they can call the first day of the month. Other active duty members may reserve starting the second day of the month. All others must wait until the 3rd day of the month. For other restrictions and policies, visit their website.

11. Navy Getaways Pacific Beach

This recreation facility is located along the beautiful, rugged coast of Washington, about 140 miles from Seattle. There’s something interesting to do any time of year, whether it’s beach activities, whale-watching, storm-watching (yes, that’s a “thing” on the coast of Washington!), fishing, or hiking at nearby Olympic National Park.

Pacific Beach has a newly-renovated hotel in addition to three-, four-, and five-bedroom cottages. They also have an RV park and campgrounds. Rates are the same for all patrons but vary based on the season. For detailed rates, visit this page and select “Pacific Beach Rates” from the Downloads section on the right side.

Reservation Policy: Up to 14 months in advance for Active Duty, 12 months in advance for all others.

Military Recreation Areas: Affordable Vacations for Military Families

Military recreation areas offer something for everyone in your family, at a price you can afford. If you like the idea of military recreation areas but aren’t close to any of the locations highlighted above, try searching Navy Getaways or the Army’s Paths Across America websites for more ideas. You can also find more tips for saving money on military vacations here

Check out the OCONUS edition to learn about military recreation areas in Hawaii, Alaska, and overseas!

screenshot of member reviews
screenshot of member reviews

Stephanie Montague

Stephanie Montague is a communications consultant and freelance writer. She is the founder of Poppin’ Smoke, a website designed to encourage members of the military community to use their military benefits for (fun) travel. Stephanie shares news from military MWR facilities, updates from other military blogs, and links to great travel content on the Poppin’ Smoke Facebook Page.