Swansboro's origin come from a settlement around the plantation of Theophilus Weeks. In 1783, Swansboro was incorporated as a town, taking its name Samuel Swann, a Speaker in the North Carolina House of Commons and a resident of Onslow County. In 1818, Otway Burns built the Prometheus, the first steamboat actually constructed in North Carolina. The town, originally spelled Swannsborough, is sometimes called "The Friendly City by the Sea". M.N. Lisk, a popular Swansboro mayor, was the creator of the annual Mullet Festival, one of the first coastal seafood festivals in North Carolina. It is also the town featured in Nicholas Sparks' novel "The Guardian."
The city has a diverse selection of restaurants (including Yana's Ye Olde Drug Store diner) and shopping much of which it located along the Intracoastal Waterway or White Oak River basin. Residents and visitors alike have multiple boating facilities to choose from (including Casper's Marina and Dudley's Marina) and many restaurants allow for boaters to dock outside their establishments.
The Rotary Club of Swansboro is active in the community and regularly hosts events such as the annual King Mackerel Tournament and numerous fundraising gatherings. During the summers, the Seaside Arts Council hosts weekly concerts aptly named "Swan Fest" on Sunday evenings at the Pavilion in Olde Town Square.