For postcard-perfect long weekends, or full week stays that have exceptional access to indoor and outdoor pools, restaurants, and amenities, there's nothing quite like the convenience of a stay at a local hotel or motel. A number of area hotels have been welcoming guests for decades, and as a result, vacationers have come back year after year for the fantastic service and the million-dollar views.
As the esteemed second oldest town in North Carolina, as well as the original seat of North Carolina state government, New Bern has more than its fair share of educational sites and exhibits that will impress visitors from the inside and out. Featuring dozens of museums and attractions, as well as ancient homes that span the centuries, New Bern is arguably the optimal destination for an education on regional and state-wide history.
With a fantastic locale that borders the intersection of the Trent and Neuse Rivers, New Bern is a prime destination for mariners of all varieties. Whether a visitor wants to explore the local waters for an afternoon, or an adventurer needs a place to rest for a couple nights during a long trek along the Intracoastal Waterway, New Bern has everything a boating enthusiast could require to enjoy ample time on the water.
Take a walk on Pine Knoll Shores' wild side with a visit to the pristine, undeveloped Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, an expansive 265 acre nature preserve, conveniently located next to the town's most visited attraction, the North Carolina Aquarium.
When it comes to stunning scenery, New Bern is certainly hard to beat. Straddling the Neuse and Trent Rivers, this coastal community is renowned for its brilliant waterfront views in every direction, as well as its historic downtown scene where the waterfront is almost overshadowed by the variety of historical structures and sights. To make the most out of a scene-stealing vacation, make sure that you check out these top destinations for a waterfront sunset, a little birdwatching, or just a breath of fresh air with a stellar backdrop.
The waterfront world of Beaufort, Morehead City, the Shackleford Banks, and everything in between is at a mariner’s fingertips when they launch from the Newport River Pier and Ramp. Located directly on the water in between Morehead City and Beaufort, this sprawling launch site is a popular destination for visiting and local mariners alike.
The New Bern Fire Department began as a fraternal organization and was originally called the "Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company," and was the first chartered fire department in the state of North Carolina. This original company became inactive during the Civil War when many of its volunteers were fighting for the Confederate Army, and noting a need for local firefighters, invading Union forces who had infiltrated and then settled in New Bern during the latter portion of the war, set up a rival company in 1865, the "New Bern Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1." The two companies remained in service well after the Civil War ended, but the initial rivalry between north and south originating companies never dissipated. Both companies would try to "out-do" each other with station equipment upgrades, and both companies regularly competed against each other in state-wide firefighting competitions. (Incidentally, both performed exceedingly well, perhaps due in no small part in an effort to out-do the other rival.)
The Crystal Coast has more than 85 miles of coastline, which includes 56 miles of protected and unspoiled beaches that make up the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Because of this, folks will find plenty of stretches of sand where they can use their 4WD vehicle to cruise, explore, and find a remote beach spot to call their own.
Treasure hunters of all varieties will find that New Bern serves as a fine launching point for a shelling adventure or two. From the ancient relics that are buried just outside the Aurora Fossil Museum to the isolated finds along the Cape Lookout National Seashore, New Bern visitors will find that some of the best shelling in the coastal Carolina region is just a short road trip away.
Hitting the seashore in Atlantic Beach is an easy venture, thanks to a number of local public beach accesses, including the sprawling Picnic Street Park. With a prime locale that straddles the borders of the Fort Macon State Park and the town limits of Atlantic Beach, this expansive parking area, known locally as "The Bathhouse," can accommodate hundreds of summer visitors, and provides a perfectly relaxing and undeveloped stretch of seashore that's easy to enjoy on any summer day.
Fort Macon State Park, located outside the eastern borders of Atlantic Beach, is one of the most visited and highly acclaimed destinations along the Crystal Coast, and for good reason. The expansive 389 acre park, which features gorgeous inlet views, fantastic beaches, and plenty of history in plain view around every sand dune, always tops the list of Crystal Coast attractions that can't be missed.
One of the most sought-after attractions of the Shackleford Banks are the famed wild horses that call this deserted barrier island terrain home – the Shackleford Banks Wild Horses. Local residents for hundreds of years, these feral horses may be shy and only make occasional appearances when humans are around, but they are nonetheless one of the most unique and popular aspects of the 56-mile long Cape Lookout National Seashore. Every beach visitor hopes for an opportunity to spot one of these feral horses in their natural environment, and often, a chance to see one of these famed island residents is just a short water taxi or ferry ride away.
The Cape Lookout National Seashore is a 56-mile long stretch of the Southern Outer Banks barrier island terrain that runs from Ocracoke Inlet to the northeast side of Beaufort Inlet. Comprised of three separate islands – the North Core Banks, the South Core Banks, and the Shackleford Banks – this wonderfully remote destination can only be accessed by a personal vessel, or a privately operated ferry or water taxi. As a result, it’s world-renowned for its miles of undeveloped and scenic beaches, its remarkable fishing, its exceptional shelling, and its abundant wildlife that thrives in the undisturbed and inherently wild environment.
Visitors are often surprised at the number and variety of weekly vacation rentals throughout the area.. Vacation rentals are, in fact, an increasingly popular accommodation available to vacationers, and visitors will find that the sheer number of rentals available allows them to find an ideal retreat to fit their crew, from quiet condo complexes to brightly colored oceanfront sand castles.
The Havelock Tourist & Event Center and Marine Corps Aviation Exhibit, located just off of US 70 and close to the Havelock Chamber of Commerce is a must-stop for travelers who are new to this region of the Inner Banks. Stocked with military history, area information, and ample space to accommodate groups of all sizes, the center is a multi-purpose modern building dedicated to tourism, education, and all things Havelock.
Trace the historic roots of Harkers Island and its centuries-long life on the water with a visit to the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center. Located in the heart of Harkers Island along Island Road, (an authentic Crystal Coast community that is a far cry from the bustling beaches), this uniquely surprising museum shines a light on how fascinating and essential this small-town community is to the Southern Outer Banks landscape.
The Crystal Coast's offshore waters are guarded by the US Coast Guard, and Emerald Isle is home to one of their flagship stations, encompassing a large section of the town's western edge, adjacent to the inlet, and marked by an unimposing station house that more closely resembles a classic beach cottage than a military outpost.
The Crystal Coast Tourism Authority has been instrumental in introducing newcomers to this picturesque stretch of barrier island beaches and barely-inland maritime communities, and serves as an essential tool for visitors to discover this remote but accommodating coastal region.
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.