Travel Destinations

Falling in Love with New Bern NC

Falling in Love with New Bern North Carolina
Written by Duke Stewart

We are big fans of small towns and knew coming in that New Bern, near the Carolina coast, was going to win us over. Even so, I’m pretty sure to say that we fell in love with Bear Town and can’t wait to go back, retire, and call it a day in our lives. First, you’ve gotta see what we’re talking about though, right? Thanks to bears, history, great food, and more, you’ll see exactly why we fell in love with New Bern, North Carolina, a beautiful coastal town.

New Bern, North Carolina

Bears Galore

New Bern North Carolina Bear

Fun Fact: New Bern gets its name from the capital city of Switzerland. Even more fun fact: Bern means bear and the people of New Bern love showing off their “Bear Town” pride. There are over 60 statues throughout New Bern and I challenge you to go find each and every one of them. Unlike the Swiss city’s wild bears, these statues depict professionally trained bears who work for a living, holding positions such as lawyer, doctor, and real estate agent. We’re going to be covering these bear statues in more detail very soon so stay posted! Does your town do anything similar to this?

Colonial and Modern History

Tryon Palace New Bern North Carolina

New Bern is North Carolina’s second oldest town (after Bath) and home to the first permanent capitol at Tryon Palace—be sure to emphasize “permanent,” or else you’ll get flogged or punished in some other time-accurate way. There are many more famous historical sites in New Bern, including some beautiful churches, the first fire station, and the birthplace of Pepsi. There’s actually a store on Middle Street where you can have a fountain soda and imagine its medicinal power running through your body.

Great Food

With all this history and bear hunting, a person has to eat when hanging out in New Bern. Eat breakfast at Baker’s Kitchen and don’t even think about avoiding their spectacular Dutch Potatoes. Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant is the first place many people will point you to for a great meal with a view. MJ’s Raw Bar & Grille has colorful decor to go along with a delicious menu. We also opted for the Stingray Cafe, which is a bit more low-key but has a menu that doesn’t mess around. Beer Army has a huge craft beer menu but also some of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. I’m serious.

Downtown

Downtown New Bern North Carolina

New Bern’s slow-paced downtown is easily walkable. I recommend getting an early start because people will be out visiting the town’s interesting buildings and locally owned businesses. There might not be any beaches here (see “Places Nearby”) but the Waterfront at Union Point Park is a wonderful spot to catch the sunrise and watch boats as they pass by. You can spend as much time as you want there, sitting on a bench or walking along the wooden boardwalk. It’s a great place to just slow down and take it easy for a while. Personally, I can’t wait to get back and do just that.

Getting to New Bern

New Bern is accessible via US Highway 70, 17, and NC Highway 17. Many people will come from I-95 or I-40 to reach those highways that lead into the city. It’s about 3 hours by car from the Raleigh-Durham area, depending on traffic.

Where to Stay

New Bern North Carolina Behind Courtyard Marriott

There are a lot of quaint and historic Bed and Breakfasts in Downtown New Bern, not far from the water. We spent a wonderful evening at the Courtyard by Marriott, thanks to the kind folks at the New Bern Convention and Visitors Bureau. That lovely hotel is right on the water and next to Union Point Park. There’s a Doubletree by Hilton on the other side of the CVB, near a huge dock where you’ll get a look at tons of boats. Either way, I think you should stay by the water or in one of New Bern’s hotels or cozy BnBs for relaxation and access to the city’s most beautiful views. We use Booking.com to take care of our reservations when out on the road and stand by that recommendation. If you book by following those links, we will receive a small commission. However, the price won’t increase and in many cases, our links lead to a better deal!

Places Near New Bern

Croatan National Forest North Carolina

There are tons of North Carolina beaches near New Bern, and the closest would be Atlantic Beach in Carteret County. That’ll get you into North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, where you can explore 85 miles of beautiful coastline. For a mix of hiking and beaches, Croatan National Forest is about an hour away from New Bern and full of fun. You can also island hop by taking the Cedar Island ferry to Ocracoke, Hatteras, and other barrier islands. New Bern is a great jumping off point to many of North Carolina’s most beautiful coastal spots.

Our Thoughts and Yours

New Bern North Carolina Birthplace of Pepsi

So while we keep our eyes out for homes for sale in New Bern, we’d love to know what you think. Have you ever visited this little slice of paradise? If not, when are you planning to go? Slot it into your next North Carolina vacation and you can’t go wrong.

Either way, we’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below:)

Special thanks to the New Bern-Craven County Convention & Visitors Center for setting us up with an awesome weekend. All opinions within this article are my own. For hotel booking, if you purchase those items through our links, we will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. In fact, we oftentimes are able to negotiate a lower rate (or bonuses) not available elsewhere. Plus, when you order through our link, it helps us to continue offering you lots of free stuff. Thank you, in advance for your support!

About the author

Duke Stewart

I'm a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family's travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

12 Comments

  • New Bern greatest place to retire. First visited there two years ago. 21 more months and we hope to call it home. Great food, wonderful farmers Market, many cultural events and festivals.

  • Great article, Duke !! We moved here 9 months ago from outside of Philly. We knew it would be a great place to retire when we visited here 2 years ago. Cost of living, housing, and live style all conducive to a more laid back (and cheaper) existence. Plenty of golf, tennis, pickle ball, hiking, and biking to be had. Lots of Civil War and Revolutionary War history here too. Then the icing on the cake is the beach is only 40 minutes away. Ahhhhhhhh …

    • Thank you, Jody! I appreciate you stopping by and glad to know that you’re loving life in New Bern. We’re hoping to keep going back and may see you there when our retirement happens:)

  • It looks a lovely place Duke, clean and quiet and probably an ideal retirement location. Will certainly visit should we find ourselves out that way – we retired to Hong Kong would you believe, quite the opposite of New Bern but exciting nonetheless !

  • We moved here almost 4 years ago (from Minnesota, originally from West Virginia) and we LOVE it. I haven’t felt at “home” since we left our hometown in 1984, but this is the place.

    • Wow! Such a small world. I wasn’t born in WV but def call it home when people ask. Great to see that you’ve found home in New Bern! Maybe someday we’ll all meet when our family retires there, lol.

  • Hey Duke,
    Awesome article. I have never been to New Bern but you make me want to go. I love quaint little towns like this.I have been to Cedar Island where you mention the ferry. I went Duck hunting there back in 05. I live in S. Carolina and the outer banks is about 8 hr from me. I will have to check this out and drop by a few restaurants there you mention to do a review for my blog. Thanks for the information.