New Bern, North Carolina: Incredible Architecture & Amazing History

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  

New Bern, NC: A great historic town in North Carolina

How was it that I never had New Bern, NC on my radar?  I had even been to Wilmington, NC for a site visit to a museum for accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums at one point but still hadn’t put New Bern on my list.  While it is only about 30,000 people that populate the town, it still has an impressive downtown.

The Neuse River seen from the KOA Campground/New Bern, North Carolina
The Neuse River seen from the KOA Campground/New Bern, North Carolina

Well, a bit like Wilmington, NC, it is off the main expressway routes and you certainly don’t change trains or planes there.  But it is proof that you shouldn’t always take the most direct route to anywhere.  This surprising historic town is an outdoor museum of architecture from the past couple centuries with fascinating houses in the immediate streets surrounding the town’s commercial districts.

Downtown is filled with many charming brick buildings, including this one that houses a paint-your-own-pottery facility.
Downtown is filled with many charming brick buildings, including this one that houses a paint-your-own-pottery facility.

Camping Nearby on the River Neuse 

We stayed at the KOA nearby across the river and while you can’t really ride you bicycles into the town (which is a shame) it isn’t very far.  The KOA was very nice, as we have found most are, and had a great riverfront dock with boat rentals.  There are the usual cabins and various sites to select from.  The store was nice and there’s a pool.  We really enjoy staying at the KOA Kampgrounds even if we don’t take advantage of all the amenities – at least we know they’re there.

The KOA Campground was inviting at New Bern and this peaceful scene is just one of the reasons this is a great camping experience.
The KOA Campground was inviting at New Bern and this peaceful scene is just one of the reasons this is a great camping experience.

Where to Park Your RV in New Bern

So if you’re coming in your RV, the best and easiest place to park is Union Point Park at the junction of Business 17 and Front Street.  Pull in here and you should have no problem finding a space or three depending on your rig size.  From here you can cycle around the town very easily and enjoyably.  The park is nice and is a good base to explore the town from.

IMG_0369
The facade of the Birthplace of Pepsi looking toward Front Street in Downtown New Bern, North Carolina

Exploring New Bern on Bicycle

The first stop on our bicycle tour of the town was the Birthplace of Pepsi, which is really just the drugstore where it was first developed.  I would loosely call it a museum.  There were artifacts to see but mostly it was the place and the ability to get a cheap fountain drink of Pepsi while you shopped for Pepsi branded merchandise.  Don’t get me wrong, its definitely well worth stopping here – its just that it isn’t quite a museum so don’t get disappointed.  We were not at all having been told by the campground host what to expect.

The Birthplace of Pepsi in New Bern, NC, has a wide variety of merchandise mixed with some fascinating archival pieces or memorabilia.
The Birthplace of Pepsi in New Bern, NC, has a wide variety of merchandise mixed with some fascinating archival pieces or memorabilia.

We rode our bicycles down to the Tryon Palace, but didn’t go in.  It is located next to the North Carolina History Center right on the waterfront (South Front Street) in the downtown.  We were told not to wander too far across the railway line that you will soon discover just beyond the museum.  We didn’t ask questions but did make a note of the comment.  The entire town seemed more than safe but we heeded the advice given by a local.  From what I can tell you could easily spend a day between the palace and the history center.  But we didn’t have that much time.

There is a lot of architecture to see in New Bern, North Carolina.
There is a lot of architecture to see in New Bern, North Carolina, such as its City Hall.

The downtown is interesting but it is the neighborhoods directly adjacent to it that appear even more fascinating with history and architecture.  Many of the homes have plaques noting their origin and the flags are everywhere offering a festive and historic feeling to the town.  You can tell there is great pride when you walk or ride your bicycle around these neighborhoods.

Just one of many gorgeous historic homes in a variety of styles in the neighborhoods surrounding the town center of New Bern, NC.
Just one of many gorgeous historic homes in a variety of styles in the neighborhoods surrounding the town center of New Bern, NC.

If you’re touring North Carolina, this would make for a great couple day stop.  If you’re looking to stay somewhere on your north/south migration along the I-95 and are in no hurry then this is a great place to call into.  Either way, we were pleasantly surprised by New Bern and found it a charming town.

Another historic home in New Bern, NC.
Another historic home in New Bern, NC.

 

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One thought on “New Bern, North Carolina: Incredible Architecture & Amazing History

  1. Been thru New Bern on my way to Morehead City and Atlantic Beach, which is a great beach area and the southern start of the Outer Banks. You hit the high points and I noticed a lot of antique-like stores when I drove around. Now, I have the inspiration to get back and explore more!

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