The small Inner Banks city of New Bern has gained popularity among North Carolina visitors over the years, and for good reason. The picturesque town with outstanding Trent and Neuse River views in virtually all directions boasts a thriving downtown, a state-of-the-art convention center, and enough historical attractions and homes to fill up a week's worth of walking tours. Chock full of southern hospitality, a surprisingly famous legacy, and a world of arts and culture, a getaway to the town of New Bern allows visitors to get a taste of coastal North Carolina heritage while exploring the Inner Banks at its very best.
New Bern is one of the oldest towns in North Carolina, second only to the neighboring Inner Banks town of Bath, and was founded in 1710 by mainly Swiss and Palatine German immigrants. The settlement was named after the colonists' original home, "Bern," and the famous red and yellow flag with a ferocious black bear in the foreground, (a flag which is found on virtually every street in town), is a 300+ year-old replica of the original German Bern flag where the majority of colonists hailed from. In fact, locals attest that the only difference between the original 1700s European Bern flag and the current New Bern flag is a certain missing body part that the North Carolina settlement thought might be too vulgar to include in their new home identifier. (As a result, the current New Bern bear is "neutered.")
In the late 1770s, the town served as the first capitol of independent and post-Revolutionary War North Carolina, with Tryon Palace housing the governor's mansion and political center. Because of its proximity to both the Trent and Neuse Rivers, and a locale that was easily accessed by both the shipping vessels that serviced both the coastal and mainland communities, New Bern quickly grew and by the 19th century was one of the largest cities in North Carolina. By the late 1890s, the town had also become one of the largest lumber suppliers in the south, with 16 lumber mills scattered throughout the town, and dozens of lumber executive mansions along the downtown, many of which are still standing and still in their perfectly pristine and opulent original conditions.
In the early 20th Century, New Bern became the home of another successful venture, the Pepsi-Cola Corporation, which started as a local drink, originally called "Brad's Drink," served at a downtown drug store. Today, visitors can visit the original locale where Pepsi was born, and load up on antiques from the first New Bern bottling plant at a number of downtown area antique stores and second-hand shops.
Today, the town of New Bern is a vibrant waterfront community, stocked with historical attractions, cultural gems, and miles of wild natural terrain to explore. History is revered in this town, and a walking tour of New Bern's most famous residences and museums, dating back to the 1700s, is a must for new visitors. With a leisurely afternoon stroll, New Bern vacationers can visit the New Bern Firemen's Museum, the Attmore-Oliver House, the New Bern Academy Museum, the Jones House, and Tryon Palace, all of which are located either within or on the edges of the waterfront downtown.
The downtown itself is another draw to New Bern visitors. While the town is relatively quiet, and tends to shut down after 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. on weekends, during the day and evening, the collection of city blocks is bustling with antique stores, boutiques, souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants, and lots of acclaimed galleries that feature priceless regional works. The Carolina Creations and New Bern Artworks galleries are two stars on the local arts scene, with hundreds of pieces in all mediums that pay homage to the gorgeous coastal atmosphere. In addition, visitors can take in a show at the acclaimed Athens Theater, run by the New Bern Civic Theatre, and enjoy a Friday flick or a world-class performance in a historic, downtown venue.
As for restaurants, visitors will find a range of dining options, from small coffee houses to waterfront establishments, which specialize in the region's lush variety of fresh seafood. Patrons are urged to keep an eye out for seasonal favorites, like oysters and blue crabs, and dive into southern favorites including fresh fried green tomatoes and cheesy shrimp and grits. Combining home cooking, upscale flavors, and down-home seafood, the restaurants along New Bern's downtown are some of the most critically acclaimed in the Inner Banks.
In the summer and spring months, the town is a lush landscape of flowering Crepe Myrtles and wild growing Mimosa Trees bordering the open waters of the rivers, and visitors will quickly discover that the town honors its uniquely gorgeous setting. In-town parks like Lawson Creek Park and Union Point Park allow strolling New Bern visitors to enjoy this natural setting up close, while the wilder regions outside the city limits, like the Neuse River Recreation Area and Island Creek Trail are great destinations for outdoor-loving visitors who want to lose themselves in the natural backdrop of the Croatan National Forest and undeveloped Inner Banks terrain.
Visitors will also find ample options for accommodations, including campgrounds, chain motels and hotels, opulent riverfront hotels, and dozens of historic bed and breakfasts located in the heart of Downtown New Bern. In fact, with an impressive number of historic homes carefully preserved and maintained by the New Bern Historical Society and other community benefactors, the town has one of the highest concentrations of historic homes and converted B&Bs in North Carolina, making a bed and breakfast stay a tempting lodging option for couples on a romantic getaway, and any visitor who thrives on peace, quiet, and a big dose of history.
Surrounded by water, and boasting a unique culture that pays homage to its historical roots and coastal surroundings, the town of New Bern is one of the best-preserved and most popular communities of the Inner Banks. Featuring virtually every amenity and attraction a coastal lover could ask for, New Bern is a splendid getaway destination for families, couples, and anyone who wants to see the Inner Banks culture and community spirit at its very best. Enjoy a lazy long weekend by the riverfront, or book a week's worth of historical tours, and see why this little town is a big source of pride among Eastern North Carolina vacation destinations.