Many of the historic homes are situated close to the waterfront, with more than 150 homes on the National Register of Historic Places. The downtown area is made up of several walkable historic districts, with plenty of crape myrtle bushes--the city's official flower--and mini parks, pedestrian areas and quaint shops. New Bern is a popular spot for retirees and home to lots of Northern transplants. So if you don't like a Long Island accent or can't live without a 3am rave, you might not enjoy New Bern that much.
Like much of the South, there's really not a distinct area of town you can categorize as bad. In New Bern, sometimes the best spots are one street away from the worst. Try to visit areas you're interested in at different times of the day to get a better feel for how the neighborhood really is.
James City: There are no waterfront properties here. This newer area on the south side of town is known for its large homes on larger lots, but you can find a few rentals if you look hard enough. If you're looking for a convenient spot close to, well, anything, you may want to look to the north or west.
Fairfield Harbour: On the northeast side of town across the Neuse River, you have waterfront property, plenty of space and plenty of rental homes. The drawbacks? There aren't a lot of apartment complexes, and it has higher rents than other areas.
Rhems: The southwest corner of New Bern is a popular spot for rentals, including townhomes, apartments and homes. Trendy (and expensive) gated community Trent Woods is just south of Rhems, so you can enjoy the upscale grocery stores and nice roads without having to sell your first-born to afford it.
Downtown Historic District: The Persimmons Waterfront, with its grand historic homes and picturesque streets, is the selling point for this 'burb. Rental prices here are hit-or-miss, as is the space you'll be renting. You might hit it out of the park (and pay through the nose) for a rehabbed loft, or save serious money and score a serious fixer-upper.
Because of the pleasant (yet humid) subtropical climate and the waterfront areas, most of New Bern's social life revolves around outdoor activities, especially those on the water such as fishing and boating. Yes, summers tend to be hot and humid (there's that word again), and July temperatures regularly reach the high 80s, but spring, fall and especially winter tend to be much milder here. Summer afternoon thunderstorms happen almost daily, and you can easily separate the locals from newcomers by how they handle this weather (Hint: it doesn't storm for long, so there's really no need to cancel all your plans for the day because of a little rain.).
You can be at the beach in less than an hour and to the state capital of Raleigh in about two hours. New Bern has some of the highest gas prices in the area, so try to drive slightly out of town to fill up.