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.
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.
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.
Founded in 1710 at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers, New Bern was settled by Swiss and German adventurers led by Baron Christopher de Graffenried from Bern, Switzerland. New Bern is the second oldest town in the state. Royal Governor William Tryon made this seaport his colonial capitol and residence, Tryon Palace, was built in 1770.
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.
As New Bern’s reputation as a unique and charming coastal destination grows, so does the assortment of vacation rentals that are available in the region. From unique luxury cruisers that are perched on the water to decadent riverfront homes that are large enough to accommodate the entire family, the range of vacation rental properties in New Bern is wholly unique. As a result, visitors who want their vacation accommodations to feel like a home away from home will discover that it’s easy to find just the right fit for their family when they opt to stay in a New Bern vacation rental.
Latham Whitehurst Nature Park is one of the newest parks in Craven County, and was first opened to visitors and locals alike in 2011. Located in a quiet eastern section of the town of New Bern, the park is a popular destination for wildlife fans of all varieties, including hikers, kayakers, birdwatchers, fishermen, and everyone in between.
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.
Crystal Coast visitors who want an easy-going day on the seashore can head to one of the most convenient public beach accesses in the region, the Circle at Atlantic Beach. Known as the main “Town Beach” and located in the heart of the busy Atlantic Beach community, The Circle offers a myriad of ways to stay entertained, both on and off the sand.
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.
The Rachel Carson Reserve is a stunning stretch of barely-barrier island shoreline that’s found just off the coast of historic Downtown Beaufort. Covering 2,205 acres, this collection of three islands that are found along Taylor’s Creek at the mouth of the Newport River can be easily and scenically admired from veritably any waterfront vantage point from the heart of town, and are a stunning and undeveloped addition to the vast wildlife scene of the Crystal Coast.
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 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 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.
Lawson Creek Park is an active destination that's suitable for nature lovers and outdoors fans of all genres. Encompassing a massive 140 acre site surrounded by the waters of Lawson Creek and Trent River, this park is a perfectly scenic locale that feels worlds away from the rest of Eastern North Carolina, but still has ample amenities to keep its more active visitors hard at play.
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.