This small town neat the Manning River Estuary is a regional centre endowed with an excellent gallery and performing arts stage.
Taree is a creative kind of place, with a lively arts and crafts centre and an attraction called Artisans on the Hill, combining a gallery, workshops and accommodation.
The Manning River will be a constant thread in Taree, from the scenic lookouts posted on its banks to the subtropical rainforest and sweeping beaches where it meets the Tasman Sea just 15 minutes from town.
You can cruise along the river, ride the surf, reel in fish from a harbour wall, spot beautiful wildlife and shop for the best local produce at farmers’ markets.
1. Coorabakh National Park
On the north side of the Manning Valley the scenery gets rather grand at this national park containing three striking volcanic plugs.
These huge outcrops are Big Nellie, Flat Nellie and Little Nellie, and soar over the eighteen different forest ecosystems around them.
There are lookouts on volcanic ledges for stupendous views of the Manning Valley and coastline, and you can hike among subtropical rainforest along the boardwalk hemming Starrs Creek.
Waiting elsewhere are hidden caves, and if the weather’s hot enough you can bathe in the refreshing waters at Waitui Falls.
Several threatened animal species survive at Coorabakh National Park, like the stuttering frog, yellow-bellied glider and spotted-tailed quoil.
2. Manning Valley Historical Museum
For a sense of your location there’s a regional museum a little way upriver in Wingham.
There on the town square in a grocery store built around 1880 is a large collection of rare historical objects.
You’ll come away with a real insight into the Manning Valley’s European settlement, poring over old furniture, lighting, costume, folk crafts, bottles, glassware, medicines, crockery, ironware, scales and a great deal more.
There’s a compelling piece of local history to the rear, where you can see the preserved police cell in which the indigenous man Jimmy Governor (1875-1901) was kept following the Geelong Massacre and subsequent manhunt.
3. Harrington Beach State Park
The coast is in easy driving distance, and there’s a big choice of stunning and unfrequented beaches near the mouth of the Manning River.
To the north is the 431-hectare Harrington Beach State Park, which has lots to love, both along the foreshore and by the water.
You have to wander up to Crowdy Head Lighthouse (1878) cresting the headland to the north, where you can marvel at a complete panorama of the coast.
There’s a well-appointed campsite and a few sheltered places to swim, while the park is a hit with anglers who can reel in fish from the harbour’s breakwall (dolphin fish, jew fish), beach (snapper, flathead, pearl fish), or the estuary (mud crabs, blue swimmer crabs).
4. Old Bar
South of where the two channels of the Manning River meet the Tasman Sea, the seaside town of Old Bar is only 15 minutes from Taree.
The first thing to mention about this tourist-friendly place is the gorgeous main beach, which continues for kilometres north and south and is cherished by surfers and anglers who cast their lines from the shore.
Kite-boarders also head for Old Bar to catch the ocean breezes.
If you’re keen to learn how to handle these waves there’s a surf school just south of Wallabi Point at the dreamy Wallabi Beach.
There you can while away an hour or two at the Saltwater Picnic Area, bordering the beach’s gorgeous white sands.
Back up by Old Bar you can discover the Manning Estuary at the Manning Entrance State Park, a space that serves as a breeding ground for little terns in summer and has preserve tracts of littoral rainforest.
5. Apex Lookout
For a seriously rewarding outing, make for the west side of Taree where there’s an elevated lookout on the apex of a river bend.
From here you can look across to the verdant dairy country in Mondrook, and track the course of the Manning River back towards the Great Dividing Range beyond Wingham.
Late in the day is a magical time to take in the scenery, when the low sun makes the water glow.
The Apex Lookout is in a quiet residential area and has a pair of picnic shelters with barbecues on either side.
6. Manning Regional Art Gallery
At the regional gallery in Taree, a vibrant exhibition program brings the work of national, international, regional, established and upcoming artists to this corner of the Mid North Coast.
The building is a modern take on the traditional cottage style, with a verandah giving way to airy galleries.
A few of the artists featured in the last few years are Satu Bushell, Rod Spicer, Ali Haigh, Jocelyn Maughan, Peter Schouten and Kate Dourrough.
There’s a new, expertly curated exhibition every six to eight weeks.
7. Taree Craft Centre
An endearing platform for the talents of local craftspeople, the Taree Craft Centre has an appropriate home in a cute heritage cottage.
The centre is run by a not-for-profit organisation, selling a wide variety of work produced by its members at its gift shop.
There are two large rooms for craft classes in everything from knitting to crochet, scrapbooking and quilting, and every now and then there will be a new exhibition to peruse.
Fronting the cottage is a cafe famed for its teas, but also making salads, quiches, sandwiches and burgers.
8. The Big Oyster
Since the 1960s “Big Things” have cropped up all over Australia.
These novelty giants are minor but charming tourist draws.
Taree went the extra mile with its own monument, which is a tribute to the Manning Valley’s productive oyster industry.
The Big Oyster (1990) dominates the Taree Recreation Grounds from 100 Manning River Drive, and was once a whole complex, incorporating souvenir shops and a service station.
The venture went under in 1995, and now this giant, glazed mollusc sits on top of a Nissan and Kia car dealership.
9. Manning Valley River Cruises
To experience the picturesque Manning Valley from the water, check the schedule for the Island Explorer, which departs for cruises across the region.
This vessel has a glass-covered deck and can hold up to 50 passengers.
Typical options involve a cruise through the beautiful greenery around Wingham, a trip out to Oxley Island at the river mouth and a refined morning cruise over a Devonshire tea.
All cruises are accompanied by an informative commentary, relating anecdotes and captivating historical facts about the valley.
10. Manning Entertainment Centre
The regional performing arts centre for Gloucester, Great Lakes, Camden Haven and the Manning Valley is here in Taree.
The centre opened in 1987 and its mainstay is a 505-seat theatre.
In its time this stage has been trodden by some leading lights like The Australian Ballet, Guy Sebastian and Dame Joan Sutherland.
On the menu is a real diversity of entertainment, from plays to musicals, dance, live gigs, tribute acts, comedy, children’s theatre and talks.
The centre is also community-oriented, staging amateur productions and performances by local schools.
11. Artisans on the Hill
In dairy country across the Manning River in Mondrook, Artisans on the Hill is a few things rolled into one.
It’s a beautiful purpose-built construction wrapped in neatly landscaped grounds, comprising a bed & breakfast, an arts and crafts gallery/shop and a space for workshops where you can learn fresh skills in a comfortable and friendly environment.
You don’t need to be a guest to visit the gallery or take part in a workshop.
On sale are tide clocks made on site, woodwork, jewellery, ceramics, photography and glass/ceramics, and classes are offered in fields as diverse as candle-making and kiln-formed glass.
12. Fotheringham Park
Taree’s main urban park could not have a better location, sitting right on the Manning River a short way downstream from Coocumbac Island.
In the last couple of years Fotheringham Park has upgraded a few of its facilities, most notably the play space, which now has an accessible carousel, play tables, swings, a sand pit, a crab climber and an internal bike track.
This is also the site of Taree’s memorial, which includes a Lone Pine, planted in 1965 on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Lone Pine at Gallipoli.
13. Inflatable World
Parents stuck for activity ideas for their children on rainy days will be pleased to know there’s a cavernous indoor inflatable park right here in Taree.
Inflatable World is crammed with bouncy castles, platforms, slides and climbable obstacles, and parents are encouraged to be active and have as much fun as their children.
A single entry fee gets you a two-hour session, giving you access to all of the park’s activities.
Supervisors are on hand to ensure everyone’s safety, and after working up an appetite snacks and soft drinks are available for purchase.
14. Brimbin Nature Reserve
Under ten kilometres north of Taree is a reserve with big stands of stringybark, as well as turpentine, tallowwood and white mahogany.
The narrow-leaved red gums here are a key source of food for koalas while in the damper parts grow river mangroves, water gum, swamp oak and grey myrtle.
Many of the 260 bird species recorded in the Manning Valley can be seen in the reserve, spotted along trails like the Dawson River walking track which follows a piece of a 200-year-old bullock route.
Also here is a shaded picnic area fitted with barbecues, in an idyllic spot next to the river.
The reserve was only partially affected by the NSW bushfires of 2019-20.
15. The Hub Market
The largest regular market in the region happens at the Taree Showground on the third Saturday of the month.
You can stop by for fresh local produce, homemade jams, cakes and pastries, second-hand books, plants, seedlings and arts and crafts.
All funds raised go to local charitable groups.
Less frequent, in Taree’s eastern suburb there’s Cundletown Markets, held on the second Sunday of odd months with freshly roasted coffee, homemade goodies and always something to keep littler family members on board.