Welcome to Eastern North Carolina! Here you can expect relatively mild winters, humid summers, mosquitoes by the masses, friendly people ready to help, and an overall laid-back atmosphere with the sound of freedom soaring overhead and plenty of planes on display. That’s the gist, but let’s get deeper into life in Eastern North Carolina.
Location and Drive Times
Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point is located in Havelock, North Carolina. Right outside the base, you’ll find the typical used car sales lots and quick-service businesses, but venture a little farther, and you’ll see that the surrounding area has a lot of charm. New Bern is the closest larger city with family attractions and local restaurants. In fact, New Bern was the original capital of North Carolina, so you’ll find lots of historical buildings including Tryon Palace.
There are front and back gates at the base with the following general drive times each way:
- Five minutes from Havelock
- 15 minutes from James City
- 25 minutes from downtown New Bern
- 30 minutes from Swansboro
- One hour from Jacksonville
As for traffic, there really isn’t any. Heavy traffic (excluding accidents or construction) means sitting through an extra stop light cycle or two. Of course, both the front and back gates experience your typical morning commute traffic, but they do a pretty good job of getting people through the gate quickly.
Where to Live
After you see those orders, one of the first questions is, “Where should I live?” Everyone has their favorite place to be, but it really depends on which factors are most important to you and your family.
If you’re longing for the beach, Morehead City, Cape Carteret, and Swansboro are all areas with quick access to the water and that coastal feel. You’ll trade the beach for a slightly longer drive time to MCAS Cherry Point.
Feeling the forest vibe? James City is situated between Havelock and New Bern and is nestled in the Croatan National Forest. If you like tall, sturdy trees and quiet neighborhoods, James City to the North or Newport to the south may be the place for you. You’ll be about 10 minutes from stores and services, but that’s pretty standard for the area as a whole.
If being close to attractions and local restaurants is important and you’re willing to drive a little longer to get to the base, downtown New Bern or Swansboro may be good options. There are plenty of local eateries and character in both of those areas.
Once you zero in on a couple of areas, be sure to ask what utility company services the home you’re interested in renting or buying. New Bern, in particular, has one company that charges significantly more than the other. They include multiple services in their rate, but the bottom line is often more expensive. Just be aware so that you can budget accordingly.
Hiking, camping, beach going, local dining, craft beers, historic homes and tours, and much much more — there is plenty to do in Eastern North Carolina. The challenge is finding these activities. We’re a little behind the times as far as effective information dissemination and marketing. Visit the local spots, chat with business owners, and connect with people and businesses on social media who have been here for a while. Facebook events are often one of the only ways events are marketed, so search there for things to do.
We have numerous poisonous snakes, huge spiders, and mosquitoes — oh, the mosquitoes! It’s worth a trip to the local ranger station (located about 15 minutes from base) to ask about creatures.
Some snakes are actually good! There is an all-black snake, in particular, that is territorial and keeps all the other ones away. This is one you do not want to kill. It will just patrol your property and is not harmful to humans. The same can be said of the garden spider. It’s enormous and scary looking, but never leaves its web. Let them feast on the mosquitoes! Don’t let the nature scare you. Just know what’s out there and you’ll be just fine.
If you aren’t from a hurricane zone, it may be scary to think you’ll now be in their path. In recent years, several hurricanes have made landfall in the area, including Florence in 2018 and Irene in 2011. The islands are extremely efficient at evacuating, and the government is very good about being proactive and keeping people informed. Follow your local government on social media as well as ReadyNC.org. Have a plan and a list of supplies either packed or ready to pack. Also, know how early you want to decide to leave. If you have animals, multiple children, or members of the family with special needs, you may want to leave earlier than the government decides to recommend evacuation. Also, recognize that your spouse may not be able to come with you depending on his or her job. For example, pilots may be tasked to fly an aircraft out well before you know if you should evacuate.
All in all, Eastern North Carolina is a welcoming place with friendly, laid-back people and plenty to do. Get connected when you first get here and you’ll have no shortage of friends and activities.
Photo Credits: Eastern Sky Photography NC | Laura Gallaway