Tryon Palace, built in 1770 by Royal Governor William Tryon, was known at the time as one of the most beautiful buildings in America. After its use as both a Colonial and a state capitol, the palace fell into disrepair. The main building burned in 1798 and the kitchen office was...more about Tryon Palace
Beautiful New Bern, situated along the Neuse and Trent rivers, invites visitors to enjoy water views, street art, unique shopping and dining options and charming bed and breakfast inns. Anchoring the town's love of history is Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens, the reconstructed home of 1770s British-Colonial Governor William Tryon. Walking tours or trolley tours of New Bern's architecturally rich historic districts provide great ways to learn about the three centuries of New World life in this region. In more recent history, New Bern is known as the Birthplace of Pepsi-Cola.
Visitors and residents enjoy fishing and boating on the rivers, golfing on local courses, relaxing in waterfront parks, visiting farms, hiking and camping in nearby Croatan National Forest and local art galleries and shows.
The town's rich history factors into many of its best attractions and things to do and see. And visitors often fall in love with the small-town appeal of New Bern — so much so that they make this riverfront town their homes.
History … New Bern’s Greatest Attraction
Swiss settlers, first led by naturalist explorer John Lawson and Swiss Christoph von Graffenried, built their town at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in 1710. Later, Col. Thomas Pollock, a wealthy landowner took over the leadership necessary to keep people both safe and interested in maintaining useful businesses trading with other coastal cities and with England. Before the settlers came, the Tuscarora Indian lived in the area and fished the waters around their town aptly named Chattoka, the Indian word for “where the fish are taken out.”
Upheaval of very long established Native American traditions began when Charles II of England created the Carolina Charter of 1660, granting vast areas called proprietorships in the New World to his eight noble advisers. Under Lord Proprietor William Craven, the area now including New Bern was explored, charted and publicized by Lawson before he brought settlers in.
From 1711 to the late 1720s, the Tuscarora, fought for their way of life. They lost their struggle to soldiers and Indians friendly to the British under Cols. John Barnwell and James Moore and were relocated to New York State. Until the late 1720s the Coree, a neighboring tribe, continued attacks and chased settlers off, leaving the city virtually uninhabited, although Pollock was selling lots from 1720 on.
Settlers dribbled in during the latter part of the decade, building the town value as a port and a political center from 1730 to 1754 when then Territorial Governor Dobbs established his New Bern residence. In 1765 Governor William Tryon saw to legislating New Bern as permanent capital of the colony, completed Tryon Palace in 1770 and enhanced a flourishing economic and cultural life in the city even though more centrally located Raleigh took the title capital in 1792. Until the abrupt decline in the mid-1830s, when Wilmington's deeper waters and railroad to Raleigh took major port business, New Bern remained the largest port and the largest settlement in southeast North Carolina.
Lumber business rebuilt New Bern's economy from the 1840s to the 1920s, as domestic building flourished throughout the colonies, barring the years of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Along with the rest of the country, the New Bern area struggled with the Great Depression, but grew again with the ever-increasing military growth along the southeast coastal waterways and new national affluence with retirement plans and family vacations. The newer directions capitalize on the rich history, fine climate, transportation, manufacturing and recreation opportunities in the area with boat builders, golf courses, cultural heritage, forest and water abundance and a favorable tax rate compared to nearly anywhere. New Bern bustles with a good variety of activities to appeal to every age group and grows every year with a keen eye on preservation of what keeps people coming back.
Historic markers point out the houses where the first elected assembly in the colonies met in defiance of the crown in 1774, where a signer of the U.S. Constitution lived and where George Washington slept — twice. Markers also point out the office of jurist William Gaston, the first chief justice of the state Supreme Court and composer of “The Old North State,” the state song.
A Town of Firsts
From the colonial capitol, to the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, New Bern is home to a pioneering spirit of firsts.
The state's first printing press was set up and the state's first book and newspaper were published here. The state's first public school opened here. The first official celebration of George Washington's birthday was held in New Bern, and it was here that the world's first practical torpedo was assembled and detonated. In the 1890s C. D. Bradham, a New Bern pharmacist, invented Brad's Drink, now known as Pepsi-Cola.
Without question, New Bern's centerpiece is Tryon Palace, the lavish Georgian brick mansion named after British Colonial Governor William Tryon. The original palace burned in 1798. It was reproduced in the 1950s from the original plans, which were found in England. It is a sumptuous showplace inside and out, and now part of a complex including the Carolina History Center.
Surrounded by Recreation
As the confluence of the Trent and Neuse Rivers, New Bern is a popular spot for watersports of all kinds. Not only can you enjoy stand-up paddle boarding at Lawson’s Park and kayaking at Union Point, more avid boaters can sail and power along the city’s waterfront with the help of numerous boat ramps. Traveling on down the Neuse River, many boaters enjoy fishing their way to the Intracoastal Waterway, where they can meet up with friends in nearby Beaufort, Oriental and Core Sound.
Land lovers have plenty to work with, too as New Bern's southeastern boundary is only a few miles from the Croatan National Forest, a 157,000-acre preserve sheltering deer, bear, alligator and the rare, carnivorous Venus flytrap. Canada geese and osprey are often seen along with resident great blue herons along the rivers. Gardens, both public and private, extend throughout the city and its suburbs. Summertime brings day lilies, dahlias, zinnias, black-eyed Susans and petunias. Home gardens produce tomatoes, herbs, squash, corn and other favorites. In fall chrysanthemums paint vibrant color in nearly every yard.
Commerce and Industry
Surrounding military bases like Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, one of the largest Marine Corps air stations in the world, the Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) East in Havelock and Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville play a huge role in New Bern’s economy. Combined with the Industrial Park and Craven 30, both located west of town on Highway 70, New Bern’s local economy is well-rounded and diverse.
Tourism helps balance out New Bern’s industry with numerous restaurants, hotels, retail stores and marinas that depend on seasonal visitors. Several active organizations like Swiss Bear, the New Bern Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Association, are always working to promote local business and bring more tourists to the area.
A Sense of Community
From the downtown historic district to Ghent and beyond to the sister city of Trent Woods, New Bern has approximately 14 different communities and neighborhoods. While so many neighborhoods might seem like New Bern is a fractured community, many of these neighborhoods are similar in spirit. Some differences are measured by more affluent suburbs and riverfront property values, but overall the biggest differences in these neighborhoods is based on geography and architecture, particularly when looking at some of New Bern’s oldest neighborhoods.
New Bern has four historic districts with homes, stores and churches dating back to the early eighteenth century. Within easy walking distance of the waterfront are more than 164 homes and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also nearby are several bed and breakfast inns, hotels, restaurants, banks, antiques stores and specialty shops. The historic districts also are home to many of the town's 2,000 crape myrtles — New Bern’s official flower — and glorious gardens. During the spring explosion of dogwoods and azaleas, a ride through many town neighborhoods is unforgettable.
As New Bern has no public transportation system, any first-time visitor to New Bern will notice an overabundance of traffic lights on U.S. 17, the city’s main thoroughfare. Drivers heading south need to catch the lights just right on Dr. M. L. King Jr. Boulevard and expect too many stops along U.S. 17. And, at the peak hours of 8 AM, noon and 5 PM, bottlenecks are inevitable around the road’s intersections with Simmons Street, U.S. 70, McCarthy Boulevard and Glenburnie Road.
Entertainment, Nightlife and Annual Events
As for New Bern's nightlife, there are a few lounges, some live music in restaurants, wine bars and coffeehouses and two movie theaters, but those wishing for more need to hit town at the right time. All but a couple of taverns close by 11 p.m. and depending on the day of the week, you may still not find one open.
New Bern has good professional and amateur acting groups (including the annual Shakespeare festival), several subscription performance seasons, an annual Chamber Music festival and an annual Sunday Jazz Showcase worth the wait. The town also has wonderful festivals and shows. Mumfest, New Bern Preservation Foundation's Antique Show and Sale, the Spring Homes and Gardens Tour, Ghostwalk, Bike MS and Tryon Palace Christmas Candlelight Tours are among the favorites. Otherwise, the town's social life takes place in private homes and social clubs and at various civic and charity functions staged on an annual basis.
Make sure you’re always entertained by regularly checking our events calendar.