The rich history, moderate weather, and incredible natural beauty of Craven County and the surrounding areas make New Bern the top getaway to some of the best beaches and coastal recreation areas in the state of North Carolina.
Whether you’re kayaking at Radio Island, diving into the history of Fort Macon, or just getting away from it all at Cedar Island, the shores near New Bern are an excellent choice for your vacation.
Beaches near North Carolina:
- John Bond Town Beach
- Radio Island Public Beach
- Fort Macon State Park
- Atlantic Beach
- Emerald Isle Beach
- Hammocks Beach State Park
- North Topsail Beach
- ORV Beach Access
- Cedar Island Beach
- Cape Lookout National Seashore
- Cabin Lake County Park
1. John Bond Town Beach
- Distance from New Bern: 30 miles (37 minutes)
- Activities: Dog Walking, Swimming, Sunbathing, Picnicking
- Amenities: Picnic Tables
This quiet neighborhood beach is a little slice of paradise at the mouth of the Neuse River.
As the closest beach to New Bern, it’s great for a quick picnic lunch with a family on the beachfront or just a lazy afternoon in the sun.
You can take the dog for a dip in the cool waters or inquire at the nearby Whittaker Creek Marina for information on a boat launch.
What this beach lacks in size, it makes up 5 fold in character and tranquility. If you’re looking for a peaceful beach day without the hassle of a road trip, John Bond Town Beach is your spot.
2. Radio Island Public Beach
- Distance from New Bern: 39 miles (50 minutes)
- Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Paddleboarding, Swimming
- Amenities: Boardwalk, Marina
The calm waters of Bulkhead Channel gently caress the shore at Radio Island Public Beach, making it a local favorite destination for kayaking, paddleboarding, and other watersports that require a flat surface.
Beach goers love to soak up the sun and serenity of this wide, sheltered cove, just a short walk from parking along a well-maintained boardwalk.
A stone’s throw from the beach is Newport River Boat Ramp, one of the largest public boat ramps in the state, which makes this beach a friendly spot for anglers to rest after a morning of chasing their quarry on the Atlantic or Newport River.
Located just off Olde Towne Yacht Club Drive (not Road), keep your eyes peeled for this almost secret local beach.
3. Fort Macon State Park
- Distance from New Bern: 39 miles (50 minutes)
- Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Beachcombing, Historical Interpretation
- Amenities: Bathhouse, Picnic Facilities, Partially Paved Nature Trails
With some of the most beautiful beaches in the state and a rich history dating back at least 3 centuries, it’s no wonder Fort Macon is North Carolina’s most popular state park.
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the protected Beaufort Inlet swimming area has lifeguards and refreshment stands to ensure a wonderful day of sun and fun for all, but even in the off-season, the park has a lot to offer.
Several exhibits illuminate the area’s storied past from Blackbeard the Pirate right up through modern day efforts to preserve the coast’s natural beauty, including several enticing nature trails across the park. A trip to Fort Macon should definitely be on your to-do list for family fun in the summer.
4. Atlantic Beach
- Distance from New Bern: 37 miles (50 minutes)
- Activities: Swimming, Surfing, Surfcasting, Beachcombing
- Amenities: Lifeguards, Volleyball Nets, Close to Other Amenities
Atlantic Beach is probably the most popular beach on our list, but it is also one of the largest and best equipped for a variety of fun coastal town activities.
The gently sloping sands of this barrier island face directly south, giving the beach plenty of sun all day long and keeping the waves relatively small for swimmers and novice surfers to enjoy the cool Atlantic waters.
If you get a little too hot on the beach, just across the historic boardwalk are a plethora of shops, resorts, hotels, and a family-friendly amusement park.
Fort Macon lies just a short walk away, making these two destinations a great pair for a weekend trip to the coast.
5. Emerald Isle Beach
- Distance from New Bern: 42 miles (55 minutes)
- Activities: Swimming, Surfing, Fishing, Boating
- Amenities: Lifeguards, Picnic Facilities, Boat Launch, Volleyball Courts
This quieter neighbor to Atlantic Beach is the pride of the town of Emerald Isle.
With at least 9 beach access points and the productive Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier, this stretch of the Crystal Coast makes a great tranquil retreat for those looking to get away from it all.
With a few RV spots nearby, you could even make an extended stay in this sleepy beach town to work on your surfing and surf casting on the Atlantic side, or stroll across the island to take a leisurely paddleboard or kayak trip up and down the sound.
6. Hammocks Beach State Park
- Distance from New Bern: 43 miles (50 minutes)
- Activities: Camping, Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking,
- Amenities: Bathhouse, Restrooms, Boat Ramp, Visitor Center
Accessible only by ferry or private boat, Hammocks Beach on Bear Island is the ultimate getaway for those seeking unspoiled beaches and time close to nature on the North Carolina coast.
With several campsites nestled in between the sweeping sand dunes, this isolated barrier island is supplied with potable water from the mainland in the warmer months and has a modest bathhouse for those who want to rinse off after a day of fun in the sun, sand, and salt.
The variety of beach activities, relative isolation, and facilities for extended stays make this beach an excellent destination for the adventure seeker in you.
7. North Topsail Beach
- Distance from New Bern: 64 miles (70 minutes)
- Activities: Swimming, Surfing, Fishing, Paddling, Biking
- Amenities: Restrooms, Showers, Fishing Pier
The drive over the bridge onto Topsail Island offers a breathtaking view of what’s to come at this North Carolina staple for year-round coastal fun.
Everywhere you look on this 12-mile-long, sparsely populated beach is a picturesque vista of smooth sands, warm Atlantic waves, and quaint surf-town charm.
Anglers love the island for schools of mullet who play where the warm Atlantic and cooler inland waters meet.
All visitors are advised to keep an eye out for the endangered sea turtles that are often seen in the area, so if you’re looking for some unique wildlife viewing opportunities, North Topsail is your place.
8. ORV Beach Access
- Distance from New Bern: 69 miles (80 minutes)
- Activities: Swimming, Surfing, Fishing, Paddling, Biking, 4×4 Driving
- Amenities: Restrooms, Showers
At the northern edge of Topsail Island is the designated off-road vehicle beach access. If you’ve been waiting to shred up the dunes with your 4×4, look no further.
While off-road vehicles are restricted to the northern section of the beach, you can still enjoy all the fun activities and spacious vistas North Topsail has to offer.
Being located directly next to an outlet of New River, this section has some of the best opportunities for fishing on the island.
So strap down your cooler and buckle up for an offroad adventure on this wilder section of the Carolina coast.
9. Cedar Island Beach
- Distance from New Bern: 72 miles (90 minutes)
- Activities: Boating, Fishing, Hunting, Wildlife Viewing, Bird Watching
- Amenities: Ferry Terminal and a Motel nearby
Touted as the “best-kept secret you now know,” Cedar Island is our most secluded option on the list.
If you’re looking to get away from crowds and the hustle and bustle of the city, it doesn’t get much quieter than Cedar Island Beach on the southern side of Pamlico Sound.
Home to a national wildlife refuge, the island hosts a stunning variety of birds and other coastal creatures, and boasts some of the best fishing on the coast due to its seclusion and infrequent human activity.
The best word to describe a day at this beach is ‘solitude.’
10. Cape Lookout National Seashore
- Distance from New Bern: 67 miles including ferry (2 hours 30 minutes)
- Activities: Fishing, Camping, Shelling, Historical Tours, Star Gazing, Primitive Camping
- Amenities: Visitor Center, Restrooms
Accessible only by boat, Cape Lookout is the first place on the East Coast to be designated a Dark Sky Park, making it the best place in the state for stargazers.
History buffs will also love this secluded barrier island as it is home to the iconic Cape Lookout lighthouse and village, which can be toured courtesy of the National Park Service.
Spring and Fall bring some of the most productive surf casting on the East Coast, and you can take your catch back to your primitive campsite right on the beach.
This national seashore is well worth the trip for a weekend full of adventure.
11. Cabin Lake County Park
- Distance from New Bern: 55 miles (1 hour)
- Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Hiking, Camping
- Amenities: Bathhouse, Boat Rentals, Picnic Shelters, RV hookups, Fishing Pier
If you want to experience the placid beauty of a clear North Carolina lake, Cabin Lake is your best option.
With excellent freshwater fishing and a great designated swimming area, it’s easy to see why locals love this hidden gem in Duplin County.
The park’s 2.3-mile hiking trail winds through the deciduous forest, where you can immerse yourself in the splendor of nature.
Or you can rent a canoe or paddle boat to paddle around the lake’s cool, dark waters before retiring to one of several tent or RV campsites at this quiet lakeside retreat.
Check out other outdoor locations on our North Carolina page.
Lakes in North Carolina: