The Manning Valley on New South Wales’ Mid North Coast seamlessly melds coastal charm, rural richness and emerald hinterland beauty.
Taree is one of the region’s most important arterial towns and plays a key role in keeping the valley’s agricultural heart pumping. Located a short drive from smaller characterful centres like Forster-Tuncurry, Old Bar and Wingham, Taree sits alongside the Manning River and is the gateway to everything this picturesque, fun-packed part of the state has to offer.
Here are ten of the best things to do in Taree and the Manning Valley.
Admire the beauty of what is the only double delta river in the Southern Hemisphere by wandering along the Manning River promenade from the Taree Botanical Gardens. Popular with pet owners, ParkRun participants (a weekly Saturday morning five-kilometre community run), fishers and boaties, the banks of the Manning River are a great spot for picnics, barbecues, or that early morning/sunset walk. Wet your whistle en route at the Taree Aquatic Club (‘Sailo’s’ to locals), or grab fish and chips to devour while drinking in the beauty of this watery landscape.
Spend an afternoon at this coastal enclave and you’ll be richer for it. Situated 30 minutes’ drive from Taree, Saltwater National Park adjoins a popular surfing beach. While exquisitely beautiful, it’s also something of a lesson in the history and culture of the Biripi First People. The area relates to dreamtime beliefs and there’s a section that’s been declared an Aboriginal Place by Heritage NSW. If you’re up for a challenge, the 2.4-kilometre Five Islands Walking Track follows the Khappinghat Creek and is well worth doing. Afterwards, picnic in the shade and soak up the magical spirit of the area.
The lighthouse on the hill at Crowdy Head is one of a number of great spots along the NSW coast from which to spot passing whales from May to July. Built in the late 1800s, the landmark is a favourite with tourists and landscape photographers alike due to its elevated position and panoramic vistas. On a clear day you’ll be able to see Diamond Head and the Three Brothers Mountains to the north (named by Captain Cook on his 1770 journey up the coast), and as far south as Seal Rocks. Once you’ve taken time to enjoy the views, check out the main beach and consider stopping by the Harrington Hotel on the way home for a waterfront bite or tipple.
The quiet village of Manning Point on the southern side of the river mouth is one of the Valley’s fishing hot spots. Its beach is the only four-wheel-drive access point for the popular local camping ground at Farquhar Park. When you’re not fishing, driving, or tucked up in your tent, keep an eye out for Aussie actor Dan Ewing. He and his partner are regular visitors to the area and can often be spotted out and about.
The Wallis Lake coastal lagoon is renowned for producing succulent seafood, and one of the best ways to get a taste of some of that piscatorial produce is to spend an afternoon at Hamiltons Oysters in Tuncurry. This family-owned and operated business farms Sydney rock oysters and runs an eatery overlooking the turquoise green waters. It’s the only spot on the lake that offers casual boat berthing, and is open Tuesday to Sunday.
Prepare yourself for a change of pace and a full day of fun at The Big Buzz Fun Park near Diamond Beach. This is one of the only fun parks in the region and is jam-packed with activities for all ages. Ride a toboggan, slip and slide on the slides (jumbo and toddler-friendly), whiz around on go-karts and mountain bikes, and bounce for hours on the trampolines. The kids (big and small) will sleep well that night!
The mantra of the team at The Coastal Brewing Company in Forster is LIFE — local, independent, fresh, every time — and they certainly live up to it. This 1,200-litre facility produces stouts, lagers, wheat beers, sours and India pale ales, and they’re all on the menu in the tasting room. Do a brewery tour and snack on Asian-style street food on weekends. Part of the Great Lakes Food Trail, this brewhouse is the ideal spot to while away a lazy afternoon.
Wingham Museum may be modest in size, but it holds some extremely rare items and is housed in one of the oldest buildings in the township of Wingham. Opened in 1968 by renowned aviator Nancy Bird, the museum is often referred to as an ‘archive of significance’ and boasts a collection of artefacts that represent the full breadth of the Manning Valley’s proud history. There are some 10,000 items on display across a number of categories, including natural history, Indigenous heritage, regional industry, transport, and the list goes on. Managed by the Manning Valley Historical Society, the museum is open daily.
If you’re in the market for a piece of traditional Aboriginal art or simple intrigued by this form of cultural expression, you must visit Deep Water Shark Gallery in Taree. Run by well-respected local artist Russell Saunders and his wife Laraine, the gallery sells paintings, clay and wooden sculptures and carvings, and gifts and cards. There’s a good balance of traditional and contemporary pieces, all created to carry Biripi/Worimi heritage foward. The store is located in the Centrepoint Arcade in the heart of town.
And finally, yes it’s a cliche, but it rings true; no visit to the Manning Valley would be complete without seeing Ellenborough Falls — the tallest single drop waterfall in NSW (and one of the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere). Drive the 55 minutes from Taree to the Bulga Plateau, then walk to a range of viewing platforms depending on your fitness level. Alternatively, Affinity Helicopters’ offers a 45-minute aerial tour from Port Macquarie. Either way, you’re guaranteed epic views and brilliant photographs of this sublime natural landmark.
For more information, visit www.barringtoncoast.com.au.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Taree? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Melinda Healy is an Australian-made journalist who enjoys roaming the globe and writing about it. She’s just returned to Australia after four years working in the media in Abu Dhabi, most recently as section editor of a weekly lifestyle newspaper supplement. Mel is a destination expert for Telegraph Travel and Culture Trip and has had bylines in The Times, The Independent, Etihad Airways’ Atlas online, Ultratravel Middle East, Conde Nast Traveller Middle East and The Upsider.