Moree is abuzz these days, thanks to the influx of industry generated by the construction of the multi-billion-dollar Inland Rail freight network (which will connect Melbourne and Brisbane).
This northern New South Wales hub of 7,000+ people is a seven-hour drive from Sydney and five hours from Brisbane, or a 1.5-hour flight from Sydney with Qantas. Visitors flock here throughout the year to soak in the town’s warm artesian waters. The aquatic centre is among the most popular attractions and your motel might just have its own mineral-rich pool.
Here are ten of the best things to do in Moree.
Situated on NSW’s rich black-soil plains, Moree is recognised as Australia’s artesian spa capital. Here, thermally heated ground water from the Great Artesian Basin rises to the surface via natural springs and bores. One spot to enjoy it is at the Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre, where you can slip into the two therapeutic hot pools, clock up laps in the Olympic-sized pool, hit the waterslide and supervise the kids as they enjoy the waterpark. There’s also a wellness centre where you can book a massage, facial, mani/pedi and other body treatments.
The complex, which opened in 1895 and underwent a $7 million upgrade in 2011/12, played a pivotal role in the nation’s Indigenous civil-rights movement. Charles Perkins led the 1965 Freedom Ride through outback NSW. In Moree, the Freedom Riders brought attention to a council bylaw that prevented Indigenous people from using the pool. The bylaw was rescinded and the protest came to symbolise the Freedom Ride. A striking mural commemorating this seminal event covers the side of the Yaamaganu Art Gallery.
On the southern approach to town, not far from the regional airport, there’s an unusual sight. Dramatically parked outside the Amaroo Tavern is a former RAAF aircraft. The C47 Dakota, manufactured in 1943, was eventually converted to a DC3 and handed over to Papua New Guinea’s defence force. After many years of service, an engine sprang a leak and had to be shut down while in flight. The plane was flown to Moree in 1993, lifted into place by three cranes, and opened as a tourist attraction the following year. Visit during the tavern’s opening hours to enjoy one of Australia’s most unusual beer gardens.
Stroll around Moree’s town centre to see the exquisite Art Deco buildings that line Balo, Frome and Heber Streets. The ornamental features on display include motifs inspired by ancient Egyptian discoveries of the 1920s, wheat sheaves that reflect the region’s agricultural base, stylised sun bursts, medallions and garlands. One of the most stunning structures is the 1923 Moree War Memorial Hall — a stately concrete building that’s all curves, columns and period colour.
Spend time browsing the works on display at BAMM (Bank Art Museum Moree), which occupies an imposing Edwardian-style corner building (circa 1911). The institution is renowned for its collection of Aboriginal paintings (the most significant held in regional NSW). If that whets your appetite, see more Indigenous artworks at Yaamaganu Gallery. Inspect what’s on the walls and ask to see what’s held in the stockroom. Adjoining the gallery is the Aboriginal-owned and operated Café Gali, which dishes out delicious corn fritters, salmon tacos and more.
Moree’s best places to eat are sometimes found a little off the beaten track. Moree Golf Club, for example, on the western side of town, houses Ma Ma Chim restaurant. It serves Thai classics such as red, green and yellow curries, salt and pepper prawns and spicy duck. A short drive north will bring you to Burke and Wills Motor Inn and Explorers Restaurant, where the fare includes Tassie oysters, racks of lamb, barramundi and Angus steaks. Back in the town centre, the Royal Hotel bangs out pub classics such as lamb’s fry and bacon, bangers and mash, seafood baskets and royal parmies (just like your regular parmy, but with bacon).
One of the most popular cafes in Moree is Brooker Trading Co on Balo Street. Line up at the coffee window to place your order, then take a seat beneath the grapevine trellises shading the footpath to wait and watch the world go by. The breakfasts (think stacked avo on sourdough, honeycomb French toast, toasties and falafel wraps) could have come straight from the kitchen of any trendy capital city eatery. Locals also swear by the bean beverages at 61 Balo. Head into this Art Deco beauty (that was once a corner store) for a ristretto, macchiato or affogato spiked with Frangelico.
East of Moree, near the village of Pallamallawa, is a pecan-nut plantation so large that it produces 95 percent of Australia’s annual crop. The pecan, native to the southern United States, flourishes on the flagship Trawalla farm near the banks of the Gwydir River. The nuts are harvested with a mechanical shake of the tree from May to July. Access is only possible via a guided tour with O’Dempsey’s Tours, which includes morning tea under the trees.
With some of the world’s richest black soil, the Moree region produces a wide variety of crops. From March to July, paddocks are speckled with white tufts of cotton fibre bursting from their bolls. Find out how the cotton is transformed from bolls to balls on a tour of a working cotton farm and gin.
Drop in to the Moree Visitor Information Centre to see two prized possessions. The Moree Town Crier’s jacket and the Moree quilt were both made by talented members of the town’s quilting group. The jacket, adorned with cotton bolls, sunflowers, kangaroos, sheep, the Gwydir wetlands and more, was made for the local town crier to wear during a championship event that came to Moree in 2012. The quilt, immortalised on postcards, incorporates the region’s most notable icons.
Pay homage to the remarkable pioneering businesswoman Mary Brand (nee Geddes) at both Mary Brand Park — overlooking a peaceful stretch of the Mehi River — and the Moree Cemetery, where her tombstone incorporates a thistle to denote her Scottish roots. The thrice-married mother of eight was Moree’s first store-keeper and hotelier. The cemetery is also the final resting place of Edward Dickens — the beleaguered youngest son of English novelist Charles Dickens. After an early career in outback NSW politics, his fortunes hit the skids and he died destitute at the age of just 49.
For more information, visit www.moreetourism.com.au.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Moree? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Cover image: Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre. Image: Destination NSW. Additional images: Bigstock
Katrina Lobley grew up in Queensland, moved to New South Wales after university, and stayed put. She worked as a writer on regional newspapers in Grafton, Orange and Wollongong, before relocating to Sydney in 1997 to take up a role at The Sydney Morning Herald. Katrina turned to freelance writing in 2001, and today she writes about travel, arts and culture for a variety of newspapers, magazines and online sites. Her favourite time of year is November, when the enormous jacaranda tree in her backyard finally breaks into bloom.