December 7, 2014 This is one of the area's favorite Christmas celebrations. The first Sunday in December, townspeople gather for a Christmas carol sing-along, family entertainment and often a live nativity scene. Other communities are welcome to join the fun....more about Christmas in The Park
Located in Craven County and bordered on three sides by the Croatan National Forest, Havelock, NC, is just a short drive from Crystal Coast beaches and home to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, the largest Marine Corps Air station in the world. A sportsman’s paradise that’s surrounded by hunting, fishing and boating opportunities, the residents of Havelock also have a great appreciation for the U.S. military’s presence in the town. Every other year, Havelock hosts the free Cherry Point Air Show, featuring aerial displays of military and civilian aircraft, static displays of military high-tech equipment and spectacular fireworks. Havelock hosts a large Chili Festival in the fall as well, but out of all Havelock's events, the Cherry Point Air Show is the greatest, with nearly 100,000 people participating in the giant open house and celebration.
The military influence is hard to miss in this small gateway between the tourist attractions of New Bern and the Crystal Coast. Visitors should expect to hear and see military jets training and crossing over Highway 70 as what is commonly referred to in town as “the Sound of Freedom.” This pride is marked static displays of planes beginning on the Western edge of town and continuing on to the Havelock Tourist and Event Center, where you’ll find restored planes like a Douglas A-4M Skyhawk, a McDonnell Douglas RF-4B Phantom and a Grumman F9F-6P Panther. The Havelock Tourist and Event Center is a popular hub, not just for tourists seeking out the USMC aviation museum or the Eastern Carolina Aviation Heritage exhibit, but it’s also growing as one of Havelock’s most popular spots for events, too.
But don’t feel like Havelock is just for military personnel.
Like many towns in Eastern North Carolina, Havelock’s proximity to sandy soil, water and forests make it an ideal location for outdoor recreation. Whether it’s boating or kayaking down the Neuse River, teeing up at a beautiful golf course or setting up a tent in the Croatan National Forest, Havelock is a sportsman’s paradise. In fact, Havelock and the surrounding forests in Craven County became such a popular hunting location in the late 1800s on through the 1930s that baseball greats like Babe Ruth and Chris Mathewson were known to hunt in the area.
The combination of the Croatan National Forest’s 160,000 acres and numerous sandy beaches on the banks of the Neuse River provide plenty of camping opportunities. Whether you’re looking to go primitive and camp from your kayak or plug in a camper and stay for a week, one thing is for sure … you’ll be able to fish for dinner every day and sleep under the stars every night. Numerous campsites are dotted along Highway 70 but perhaps the best blend of convenience, water access and nature can be found at Flanners Beach, located just West of Havelock.
Golfing is also quite popular in the area, with Carolina Pines Golf and Country Club seeing plenty of action on the Western end of town and Cherry Point Golf Course offering an alternative that’s only available to base personnel. The Links did offer a third option on the Eastern end of town and closer to Beaufort, but has since closed. No matter, as the two courses that are still open still see plenty of action and reasonable rates for Havelock residents, while those feeling a little more adventurous can explore different courses with just a 20-minute drive to neighboring courses in New Bern, Brandywine Bay in Morehead City and Bogue Banks. It’s normally not too difficult to get a tee time during the shoulder months but expect to wait a little longer during the warmer months for larger groups of golfers, vacationers and a handful of tournaments.
As family members are often visiting with military personnel many activities at the base are opened to them, including marina facilities, clubs, recreation opportunities and boat rentals. However, visitors should be aware that security is much tighter on base than it was 10 years ago and it has become increasingly difficult for civilians to gain access to certain events.
Finding affordable meals and a place to stay is easy in Havelock. Used to many people visiting relatives on the base or those seeking less pricey accommodations that are still close to the beach, the hotels and motels in Havelock cater to visitors with familiar chain motels and family-oriented restaurants. Most of these restaurants are closed by 10 p.m., so any search for nightlife will lead you out of the restaurant and into one of several taverns, biker bars and pool halls scattered across town.
When it comes to shopping, don’t expect to find too many familiar names, box stores or malls. There is a Wal-Mart in Havelock but otherwise you’ll find that shopping opportunities are better suited for young men in the military, rather than boutiques and dress shops.
Havelock’s affordability and proximity to the beach has caused its population to remain stable in recent years. Not only is this city a perennial destination for military and civilian retirees, it has made a name for itself as an affordable first-home for young professionals working in surrounding Carteret County and New Bern. The biggest question that remains for Havelock in the next few years will be determined by how the military is affected by the Federal government’s spending cuts, and how the city markets itself to the growing number of tourists visiting New Bern and the Crystal Coast.