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9 best military bases in the U.S. based on lifestyle

If you’re getting ready to pick your “dream list” for your very first duty station, …


If you’re getting ready to pick your “dream list” for your very first duty station, you may be a little unsure of what locations to choose for your top choices. 

Each branch has a variety of billets they must fill, so keep in mind you won’t necessarily get your first choice. 

When looking at your options based on your position, think about what you love to do on your off-time. What are your hobbies? Do you enjoy the indoors or outdoors more? What lifestyle amenities do you appreciate in your life now? 

You won’t know how you like a place until you go — it might be the best location the military could have ever picked for you. Having an open mind and a willingness to explore on and off base will make your duty station experience all the better. 

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Below, we rounded up the best military bases categorized by interests. This list is subjective, of course — there are too many duty stations to post here — so do your research before submitting your wishlist.

Best Military Bases for Outdoor Enthusiasts 

1. Naval Base Kitsap 

Location: Bremerton, Bangor, and Keyport, Washington

Military Branch:  Navy

If you love the great outdoors and don’t mind a little rain, Naval Base Kitsap is one of the prettiest places to be stationed. The constant rainfall makes the entire region green and lush year-round. 

Whether you have shore or sea duty, sailors have a good chance in getting stationed here thanks to a large fleet that includes aircraft carriers and submarines. Junior sailors, geographical bachelors, and families can all find base housing here, too. With nearly 13,000 active duty members across the area’s bases, you’ll meet people from all over the country if you get stationed here.  

Plus, the Kitsap Peninsula isn’t far from multiple day trip options, including Seattle, local mountain ranges, water trails, and even Canada. 

What’s there to do near the base? 

Best area perk? On the clearest of days, the Bremerton base has a beautiful view of the snow-capped Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. Just up the road from base you’ll find the beautiful Harborside Fountain Park with its waterside plaza where you can watch ferries depart to and from Seattle. Oh, and you can walk on the ferry for free to go to Seattle!

Learn more about Naval Base Kitsap here

2. Fort Carson

Location: Fort Carson, Colorado

Military Branch: Army

As one of the most requested locations in the Army, you’re in for a treat if you get stationed at Fort Carson. Located in the southern part of Colorado Springs, this mountainous area is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. From mountain climbing to whitewater rafting, you’ll find some of the best outdoor adventures here. Plus, it’s located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, so the mountain views don’t get much better from a military installation than Fort Carson.  

Both families and singles can easily find plenty of on-base housing, including single-family, duplex, and townhome floor plans (up to 5 bedrooms). Single soldiers, in particular, will love Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers (BOSS), an organization where soldiers can volunteer and participate in leisure activities together. 

Whether you’re on or off base, you’ll find activities to fulfill your need to explore the great outdoors in this mountainous terrain.

What’s there to do near the base? 

Best area perk? Want to keep your sharp shooter status? The Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex (CMSC) is a 400-acre site near the base that’s open daily for practice, including trap and skeet shooting. Military personnel get a discount, too. 

Learn more about Fort Carson here

Best Bases for History Lovers 

3. Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Location: Beaufort, South Carolina

Military Branch: Marine Corps

As the second-oldest city in South Carolina, history lovers will adore Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort located 70 miles southwest of Charleston. The site has roots dating back to the Revolutionary War, and now hosts more than 700 Marines, sailors, and civilians. The base is on the smaller side, so you’ll get a chance to know your fellow service members and their families well. 

On-base housing is privatized here and is open to active-duty families, DoD civilians, and active duty bachelors. If want to live off base, keep in mind the cost of living is high for junior enlisted families in particular, but you’ll likely find yourself in gorgeous historic neighborhoods. 

If you’re bored around base, catch a flick at the theater, take a walk along a trail, or check out Afterburners, a rec facility with 36 TVs, pool tables, and an outdoor tiki bar. Off base? Pick a direction and go. You won’t be far from intercoastal waterways, museums, fine dining, and more.

What’s there to do near the base? 

Best area perk? This little city has it all: beautiful scenery, protected beaches, and historic sites all over. Beaufort was also named as the South’s “Best Small Town” by Southern Living Magazine. Whether you love Antebellum architecture or visiting historic sites, you aren’t far from old-style charm when you’re stationed at Beaufort. 

Learn more about Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort here

4. Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans

Location: New Orleans 

Military Branch: Joint base

Technically located in Belle Chasse, this joint station is bustling with activity that includes the Navy Reserve, Coast Guard, Marine Corps Reserve, and the Louisiana Air National Guard. If you love blues music and jazz history, delight in the fact that there’s no shortage of that all around Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.

On your days off duty, you can explore more than 40 of the area’s museums or take a history and heritage tour to learn about the rich culture that is NOLA. On base, you’ll find everything from medical care to housing to take care of your daily needs, and off base you’ll discover a world rich in music, French culture, and history that can’t be found elsewhere. 

What’s there to do near the base? 

Best area perk? A huge Navy exchange and commissary — 100,000 square feet to be exact — was built in 2011. Shop here and skip paying sales tax on everything from electronics to groceries. 

Learn more about Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans here

Best Military Bases for Beach Bums 

5. Naval Air Station Pensacola 

Location: Pensacola, Florida

Military Branch: Joint

Do warm days and sunny skies year-round sound appealing? Then look no further than the Sunshine State. On base, you’ll enjoy access to a private, lifeguarded beach. Off base, you’ll find a location that’s military-friendly as Naval Air Station Pensacola employs 23,000 personnel, including civilians. 

And for how close it is to the water, you’ll probably be surprised by the low rates of living. Unlike many other military bases, this one has a great cost of living — it’s actually 18% lower than the U.S. national average. 

When you aren’t heading out to the coastline, you’ll find there’s plenty to see and do on base, including bowling, swimming, working out, movie-going, and dining. If that’s not enough to get you excited about this duty station, just remember you’re living in one of the top-rated cities along Florida’s coastline. As far as Navy bases in Florida go, it’s tough to beat that.

What’s there to do near the base? 

  • Bayou Grande Marina 
  • Ski Beach 
  • Fort Pickens
  • Blue Angel Recreation Park
  • National Naval Aviation Museum 
  • Perdido Key

Best area perk? Barrancas Beach is a private stretch of waterfront located on base. This on-base perk also has beach volleyball courts, cabanas with grills, and a full bathhouse. It’s also open seven days a week, so you’re able to relax on this piece of paradise on your days off. 

Learn more about Naval Air Station Pensacola here

6. Naval Air Station Key West 

Location:  Key West, Florida

Military Branch: Joint base

If you’ve always wanted to have the island experience without feeling trapped on the actual island, living in the Keys is the closest you can get to that opportunity. 

Key West — the very last Key on the string — is the dream station for anyone who loves warm weather and blue coastal waters and is one of the nicest military bases in Florida. And despite the lure of perfect weather here, if you decide to move on base, the housing waiting list is only about a month for 3-bedrooms or less! 

In the surrounding areas, you can see everything from pre-Civil War forts to the southernmost point of the continental U.S. Whether you take a trolley tour or explore on foot, the minute you step off Naval Air Station Key West, you’ll be greeted by colorful old Florida culture that can’t be missed. 

What’s there to do near the base? 

Best area perk? If you love the water, you’ll love it here. On your off-duty days, you can do everything from tasting the best key lime pie around to snorkeling, diving, or fishing off the coastline. 

Learn more about Naval Air Station Key West here

7. Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Location: Kaneohe, Hawaii 

Military Branch: Marine Corps 

If you find yourself stationed on the beautiful island of O’ahu, consider yourself among the lucky few who get this coveted duty station. At a mere 44 miles long, it can be easy to get island fever here if you aren’t actively seeking adventure while stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. 

On base, you’ll find dental care, vet services, dining, and other recreational activities for a low-key day off. Off base, you’ll find nearby volcanoes to hike, waterfalls to swim in, and beach shores to surf along.  

Because it’s an island, the cost of living is high but can be offset if you live with roommates or use base housing and budget wisely. When you’re stationed in a stunning location like Hawaii, get outdoors as much as possible. You won’t want to miss a minute of taking in the natural beauty of Hawaii’s third-largest island. 

What’s there to do near the base? 

Best area perk? You’re never far from outdoor island adventures here. Surfing, hiking, ziplining… the list is endless. Plus, you’ll have about 200+ days of sunshine here to enjoy most every day you’re outside  — on base or off.  

Learn more about Marine Corps Base Hawaii here. 

Best Military Bases for Adventurous Souls 

8. U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)

Location: Doral, Florida 

Military Branch: Joint command

At SOUTHCOM, you can expect to meet a lot of different people as its a joint base. Located in Miami-Dade County, get an introduction to the melting pot that is nearby Miami’s culture. For service members who love to travel, you’ll be happy to know you’re only 1 mile away from Miami International Airport.  

As for day-to-day operations, the command’s area of responsibility includes Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, including U.S. resources located in those areas. The Panama Canal also falls under the protection of this base. 

When you aren’t working, swing by MWR to snag clearance tickets to Miami Dolphins games and other attractions like concerts, shows, and sports events in Miami. You also won’t be far from beautiful natural attractions like the Florida Keys and the Everglades. 

What’s there to do near the base? 

  • Everglades National Park
  • The Tank Brewing Co. tasting room
  • Trump National Doral
  • Florida Keys 
  • Doral Central Park

Best area perk? The year-round sunny weather. Any time you want to participate in any outdoor activity, you can pretty much guarantee the weather will be ideal to spend time outside. 

Learn more about SOUTHCOM here

9. Fort Greely 

Location: Fort Greely, Alaska 

Military Branch: Army

As the “Home of the Rugged Professional,” this base is perfect for adventurous service members who don’t mind the cold. Fort Greely is also considered a remote duty station as the next closest large city — Fairbanks — is 100 miles away. The primary duties of this station include supporting the Alaska National Guard with its key mission of monitoring security and operation of the Missile Defense Site. 

Everything on base is within walking distance, which is perfect for those who don’t have transportation, including the commissary, barber shop, automotive shop, chapels, and a fitness center. 

Off base, you can take to the mountains or surrounding regions for snowshoeing, hunting, camping, and fishing. To enjoy all that the area has to offer, dress accordingly — on and off base — to explore the best parts of this beautiful region.

What’s there to do near the base? 

  • Donnelly Dome
  • Clearwater State Recreation Site
  • Moose Pond
  • Gulkana Glacier Trail 
  • Alaska Interior Game Ranch

Best area perk? The unique wildlife that calls Alaska home. Driving along the roads, don’t be surprised if you see herds of moose or elk wandering along the side of the road. If you’re traveling near the Delta Junction area, keep your eye out for rare sightings of wild buffalo. 

Learn more about Fort Greely here

The Best Military Base is the One You Call Home 

As a service member, there’s a good chance you’re going to move around a lot. If you consider every relocation an adventure, it will be easier to think of every duty station as the best military base. 

When you view any duty station as your new home, you’ll be able to better embrace the local culture and unique base aspects. If you love it, perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to get extended there. If you really hate it… well, at least you won’t be there forever, right?

Yes, some bases may be better for certain demographics, so prior to having to pick your dream list, do a bit of research. Look at what matters most to you, and then research if those amenities and interests are present in the duty station location. 

If you have time to research, do the following: 

  • Join base-specific social media groups
  • Read the base area’s local news
  • Ask senior leadership about base options
  • Check out online forums like Reddit for open discussions

The above list is by no means an exhaustive list of the potential options for duty stations. For a complete directory of U.S. and overseas military installations, visit the Department of Defense Military OneSource network.

What’s your dream duty station and why? Share with us in the comments below!


The editorial team at Sandboxx.