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.
Visitors will find that New Bern is so much more than just a picturesque waterfront, and a collection of chic downtown shops. The area has a wide range of “claims to fame” that will engage visitors of all ages, and will make every stay a surprising and fascinating tour of local history, culture, and incredible things to do.
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 Carolina Creations gallery is a downtown New Bern legend, and an instrumental contribution to the town's thriving art scene. Founded in 1989 by owners and artists Janet & Michael Francoeur, the gallery features their personalized "Celebration Pottery" works in addition to thousands of inspired and unexpected pieces, contributed by artists from around the state.
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.
A rainy day is no reason to stop the fun in New Bern. With a treasure trove of museums, unique downtown destinations, and plenty of kid-friendly activities, an overcast day never puts a damper on a New Bern vacation. In need of a little inspiration? Then check out these attractions and activities that are always worth a trip, rain or shine.
First time visitors should note not to ask for a Coke in the Inner Banks town of New Bern. The community has a proud history as the Birthplace of Pepsi Cola, and this claim to fame is celebrated at a number of locales around downtown, including the newly built Pepsi Family Center at the North Carolina History Center, (an interactive museum that takes patrons back in time to the year 1835), the innumerable antique stores which showcase pristine old Pepsi bottles, and the signature Pepsi Store.Any of these attractions are worth a look, and visitors should not be surprised that Pepsi is the star of local memorabilia, local menus, and drug store soda shops all around the town.
Visitors who are heading to the Crystal Coast will find a scattering of hotels and motels throughout the shoreline and inland communities, but will soon discover that the primary type of accommodations available are vacation rentals. Located all along the Crystal Coast beaches from Atlantic Beach to the town of Emerald Isle, a vacation rental is the generally preferred accommodations option for vacationers thanks to ample space, exceptional locales close to the water, and plenty of homes and condos to choose from.
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.
The Shackleford Banks is part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, and is a barrier island system that is found just off the coast of Beaufort and Harkers Island, and which is a popular offshore beaching destination for summertime Crystal Coast visitors. Accessible only by a private ferry, water taxi, or personal vessel, the beaches are nevertheless popular with longtime Southern Outer Banks vacationers for their unspoiled beauty, exceptional fishing and shelling, and famed herd of wild ponies, known as the “Banker Horses” or “Banker Ponies.”
Visitors who crave a kayaking adventure will fall in love with New Bern. This Inner Banks destination at the heart of the “Twin Rivers” region boasts access to more than 250 miles of mapped paddling trails as well as more than 30 launch sites throughout Craven County. As a result, paddlers from beginner to expert levels will find endless room to roam, from the downtown area to the wilds of the nearby Croatan National Forest.
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.
The Crystal Coast Civic Center serves a variety of needs for coastal North Carolina's visitors and residents. As a popular venue for private conventions, weddings and events, as well as a public "meeting space" for local concerts and shows, the Civic Center, located along the waterfront in Morehead City, is instrumental in bringing this small coastal community together.
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.
It can be difficult for New Bern newcomers to figure out what to do first. In a community that’s teaming with history, a vibrant arts scene, and a chic downtown area, new visitors will soon discover that he town is brimming with all sorts of attractions and destinations for vacationers to explore. With that being said, however, there are a few “must see” destinations that any vacationer will want to visit to enjoy the full New Bern experience.
Dive into a wealth of coastal artifacts, folklore, and legendary figures with a visit to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Operating as one of three maritime museums along coastal NC, this distinctive site is known for its unique ship-worthy exterior, its vast collection of exhibits that span centuries, and its close ties with the Southern Outer Banks’ most famous resident, Blackbeard the Pirate.
The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is one of the most distinctive lighthouses along the Outer Banks coastline, due to its black and white diamond-patterned exterior, as well as its remote location along the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Accessible only by boat or a small privately-run ferry, the structure is nonetheless a striking and rewarding site, thanks to its stature and its stunning locale surrounded by miles of desolate beaches.
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.
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.