New Bern, NC

Nicholas Sparks had something to do with it, I'm almost sure. But whether Spark's books or another factor influenced me, I decided our first North Carolina outing would be the tiny coastal town of New Bern.

Our first stop was the Visitors Center located on the corner of South Front St. and East Front St. After stocking up on much needed maps, guides, and brochures, we drove across the street to Union Point Park and began our foot tour of New Bern.

Copyright 2007 K Buffaloe
According to the Official Visitors Guide, New Bern was founded in 1710 by Swiss and German colonist. Located on a slice of NC where the Neuse and Trent rivers meet, New Bern has a quiet beauty that shadows that of Charleston without the hassle of the tourists. I'm told New Bern was recently voted Best Undiscovered City. I can't find the documentation, but I don't doubt it. During the low season, streets, sidewalks, the riverwalk and restaurants were strangely empty. It resembled a ghost town instead of a coastal getaway.

But hey, I can live with that.

We walked around Union Point Park enjoying the hundreds of seagulls, pigeons, and ducks swarming the banks trying snatch bites of bread several children handed them.

Copyright 2007 K Buffaloe
Copyright 2007 K Buffaloe
Afterwards, we strolled along the sidewalk edging the blue rivers, and finally, walked through the historic district, enjoying the Federal Style, Georgian, and various other attractive homes, without passing nary a soul. Well, we did pass a Postal Carrier who said hello…

Okay, so we did see a dozen or so people during our short visit, but to quote author Ralph Grizzle:
Driving the empty downtown streets of New Bern one balmy July night, I was struck with the same sentiment as George Bernard Shaw when he arrived on a Sunday in New Zealand. The English playwright proclaimed: "I went to New Zealand . . . but it was closed."1
Copyright 2007 K Buffaloe
It was that quiet. However, that only enhanced our experience, as did the friendly welcome. We chatted with the good folks of Mitchell Hardware ("if you're looking for it, Mitchell's has it", a long-time resident told us. He was right), a waitress at a local deli, a resident who stopped us in the street to explain why a pulley was located at the side of the Isaac Taylor House, and listened with interest as the proprietor of the Bern Bear Gift Shop gave us a brief history of New Bern.

This visit was short, but we've returned to New Bern on numerous occasions since I first published this post. It's become a stopping point for down east outings. The crowds come and go with the seasons, but New Bern remains a delightful destination. We often park on Middle Street and eat at Captain Ratty's before strolling around the historic district. We've also visited the former governor's mansion, Tryon Palace, once known as "the most beautiful public buildings in America."2. And we'll return again. Perhaps in the fall for the walking tours or to visit the National Cemetery. We always find something to do in this riverside town, so it's worth the drive.

Other facts about New Bern:
  • Home of "Brad's Drink", a.k.a Pepsi Cola
  • Second oldest town in North Carolina
  • Named after Berne, Switzerland. Bern(e) meaning Bear. Berne Switzerland's flag flies throughout the city
  • Like most NC coastal cities, pirates were frequent visitors to New Bern
For a personal look at New Bern, check out Ralph Grizzle's Online Portfolio which includes the story of the pulley at the Isaac Taylor House.

Photos are on our Smugmug site at

[1] Our State "New Bern Perfect Weekend"
[2] New Bern…Official Visitors 2007 Guide, Pg 9
Other Sources:
- Official Visitors Guide

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