New Bern: Attracting boaters for centuries
New Bern was settled by Europeans in 1710 because of its proximity to navigable waters, and before that, it was a small Tuscaroran fishing village called Chattawka.
Old New Bern is located on a peninsula formed by the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers. Thanks to that, it is well suited for a full range of boating activities, from paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes, to Jet Skis, to sailing, fishing, and pleasure cruising.
By the mid-1770s, New Bern was one of North Carolina’s principal seaports. Its significance to North Carolina was sealed when William Tryon, the colonial governor of North Carolina, moved the capital from Wilmington to New Bern in 1770.
From New Bern, the adventurous can continue down the Neuse River into Pamlico Sound. From there you can venture into the Atlantic, or keep to the Intracoastal Coastal Waterway, which provides a navigable route along its length without many of the open-ocean hazards.
Closer in, explore placid, ancient creeks like Brices Creek, which feeds into the Trent River, and Broad Creek, which empties into the Neuse River. Or put your boat into an inland lake like Great Lake or Catfish Lake in the Croatan National Forest.
The centerpiece of water activities in New Bern is at the mouth of the Trent River, where it empties into the Neuse. Though many marinas were hit hard by Hurricane Florence in September 2018, most are open for business. They include New Bern Grand Marina, Galley Stores & Marina, River Bend Marina, Bridgeton Harbor Marina, Northwest Creek Marina at Fairfield Harbour, and several marinas around Oriental.
There are also numerous boat ramps in and around New Bern. Go here for a list.
According to Wikipedia, “The (Neuse) river has one of the three oldest surviving English-applied placenames in the U.S. Colonists named the Neuse River after its name by the American Indian tribe known as Neusiok, with whom the early Raleigh expeditions made contact. They also identified the region as the ‘Neusick’. Two English captains, Arthur Barlowe and Phillip Armadas, were commissioned by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584 to explore the New World. They landed on North Carolina’s coast July 2, 1584 to begin their research. In their 1585 report to Raleigh, they wrote favorably of the Indian population in ‘…the country Neusiok, situated upon a goodly river called Neuse…’, as it was called by the local population.”
The Trent River is of equal historical significance. While it was the Neuse that provided access to the world, it was the Trent River that provided access to the Neuse. Up until the 1970s, the banks of the Trent River were lined with marine industries including wharfs, boatbuilders, warehouses, and fish shops.
One historically significant boat builder, Barbour Boat Works, was located where the N.C. History Center is now located. Barbour Boat Works was noted for its high-quality work, and built numerous naval and Coast Guard vessels starting in World War II, along with commercial tugs, tankers and barges, as well as private pleasure craft.
Boatbuilding has declined in New Bern (with one notable exception, Hatteras Yachts), but as it did so, it was replaced by recreational boating.
Wharfs and riverbank docks were replaced by marinas and boat ramps as New Bern transformed from a working-class riverfront town, to the quaint, historic attraction that it is today.
Here’s a rundown of some tourist-friendly water attractions in New Bern:
Cruise The Neuse Boat Tours
101 Craven Street, New Bern
Come aboard their comfortable 24-foot pontoon boat for a relaxing hour-and-a-half tour of the Neuse and Trent rivers. They offer three daily cruises and a sunset cruise. Enjoy a scenic tour of the river while your captain tells stories about the history of New Bern. You will pass New Bern’s lovely riverfront homes including that of bestselling author Nicholas Sparks.
Dragonfly Boat Tours
101 Craven Street, New Bern
Experience the river aboard an electric boat on a 90 minute tour of the Trent River. You’ll see wildlife and historical points of interest. Tours depart from Dock E at the New Bern Grand Marina at 10, 4 and 6 Tuesday through Saturday and 2, 4 and 6 on Sundays.
Palm Coast Tours
104 Marina Drive, New Bern
Enjoy a relaxing 90 minute ride on the beautiful Neuse River aboard a 20-foot Sweetwater pont0on named River Glide. You can participate in steering the boat, learn to tie a knot or tow or just sit back and relax. Tours depart from Northwest Creek Marina seven days a week with a total of 21 tours available.
Spec Fever Guide Service
PO BOX 1029, Oriental, NC
Capt. Gary Dubiel has over 20 years of guiding experience. He guides full time and spends in excess of 225 days a year on the water. He is USCG OUPV licensed and fully insured and carries a NCDMF “For Hire” license and NC Wildlife guide license. Captain Gary has appeared on more than 20 TV shows throughout North America and in the European Union, in numerous magazines and books and he works with some of the finest tackle companies. His boat is fully stocked with a full range of that tackle. Captain Gary is an IGFA Fly Rod World Record Holder and is the inventor of the Pop-N-Fly.
Paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes
Stand Up Outfitters
1305 Country Club Road, New Bern
Bear Town Adventure Co.
230 Middle Street, New Bern
Merchant’s Canoe Rentals
1801 Brices Creek Road, New Bern