As North Carolina’s second-oldest town, New Bern has a very rich history. It was once known as the “Athens of the South.” Today, it has four historic districts and over 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. A great place to raise a family or enjoy retirement, this riverfront city is an especially welcoming place both visitors and new residents.
Tryon Palace was once called the Governor’s Palace, referring to the British colonial governors of North Carolina from 1770 to 1775. It was the official residence of the title of governor as well as the administrative headquarters of the colony, as New Bern was the capital of North Carolina from 1770 to 1792. It later burned to the ground but was restored according to the original architect’s plans and opened to the public in 1959. Today, Tryon Palace offers tours and interactive exhibits. The grounds feature 16 acres of gardens with trees, flowers, and shrubs from all over the world.
New Bern’s location on the Neuse and Trent Rivers makes it a prime spot for water activities. Take a relaxing river cruise from one of several boats touring companies. It’s a great way to learn about the history of New Bern and its connection to the Neuse River, an American Heritage River. You can also rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard to explore on your own. The Neuse is also a great fishing destination, as New Bern is so close to the sea. This gives fishermen both fresh and saltwater fishing opportunities.
The Birthplace of Pepsi
New Bern is known as the birthplace of Pepsi. In 1893, pharmacist Caleb Bradham invented what he called “Brad’s Drink,” a mix of carbonated water, sugar, vanilla, rare oils, and kola nuts. He later renamed it Pepsi-Cola in 1898, and it quickly gained popularity throughout the Southeast. Today, you can visit the Pepsi Store and Museum, located in the original drugstore where Bradham first created this iconic beverage. It provides a true “blast from the past,” with timeless décor and centuries-old memorabilia.
New Bern Civil War Battlefield Park
Located on the Neuse and Trent Rivers, New Bern played a significant role in the Civil War. The Battle of New Bern was one of the largest battles to take place in North Carolina during this time. Today, the New Bern Civil War Battlefield Park offers visitors a chance to explore the grounds and learn about this important piece of history through walking tours, informational signs, and special events. It also features an area where you can sift the rocks for the shark’s teeth.
The New Bern Firemen’s Museum and Watercraft Center
The New Bern Firemen’s Museum honors the history and service of the New Bern Fire Department, featuring firefighting equipment dating back to 1869. The Museum showcases memorabilia from North Carolina’s oldest fire company. It includes a variety of vehicles and watercraft used for fire and rescue missions on the rivers surrounding New Bern. There is also an exhibit dedicated to the Fire of ’22, the worst fire in the history of New Bern. The museum offers guided tours and hosts special events throughout the year.
Union Point Park
Union Point Park is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. Located on the Neuse River, the park offers breathtaking views and a variety of things to do, including fishing, crabbing, kayaking, picnicking, walking trails, swings, and public bathrooms. There is also an area to feed the ducks, geese, and seagulls that call the area home. Generally, it is a relaxing space but also well-suited for events like weddings and other celebrations. The gazebo and wide lawns are ideal for functions both large and small.
Croatan National Forest
Located just a short drive from New Bern, Croatan National Forest offers over 160,000 acres of land for outdoor adventures like hiking, camping, kayaking, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding. The Pine Cliff recreation area has designated campsites and also features an accessible fishing pier. Visitors can also explore the Neusiok Trail, a 20-mile hike through diverse ecosystems including pocosin, hardwood swamp, and coastal plains. This national forest provides a chance to appreciate and experience the natural beauty of North Carolina.
Every October, thousands flock to New Bern for Mumfest, a two-day festival that features carnival rides and games, live music, food vendors, and a wide variety of craft vendors. Mumfest has won awards such as Best NC Main Street Downtown Event and the Sun Journal Reader’s Choice winner as Best Festival. It also includes special events like auto shows, BMX exhibitions, and more. If you’re in New Bern during October Mumfest is an absolute must-attend event, especially if you have a family.
New Bern is just a short drive away from some of North Carolina’s most popular beaches on the Outer Banks, like Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle. Spend the day soaking up the sun, playing in the waves, seashell hunting, or even try your hand at surfing. Don’t forget to check out local seafood restaurants for a taste of fresh catches straight from the ocean. Coincidentally, this proximity to both fresh and saltwater sources make New Bern a top tier city for seafood.
Do you know of a great destination in New Bern we missed? Please leave it in the comments below! Or, share your experience at any one of the locations we mentioned below. And if you’re considering moving to the area or have other temporary housing needs, you might consider our rental homes.