One of the major towns on the rivers of the New South Wales Mid North Coast, Taree is idyllically situated on the Manning River 317 km north-east of Sydney. The Pacific Highway runs right through the town taking a sharp turn on either end of the bridge over the Manning River before heading north and south. It is a big, modern, attractive town servicing the surrounding rural industries and driven by the tourists and travellers who pass through the town. It is located 16km inland from the mouth of the Manning River and consequently has tended to develop more as a service centre and stopover point than as an actual tourist destination.
In 1770 when Captain Cook first sailed up the eastern coast of Australia he identified and named 'The Brothers', a group of three mountains - South, Middle and North Brother Mountains. At the time the Biripai, Ngamba and Worimi Aborigines were well established in the district and it is probably from them that the word 'tareebit', which supposedly is the name for a local fig tree, comes. The Aborigines lived off seafood and fish from the river as well as tropical fruits which they found in the rainforest which characterised most of the area.
The first European explorer to traverse the Manning River was John Oxley who explored the Manning Valley in 1818 and named the settlement of Harrington at the mouth of the Manning River.
The Manning River was well known to the government in Sydney by the mid-1820s. By 1824 it defined the northern boundary of the vast area of land (from Newcastle to Taree) which had been granted to the Australian Agricultural Company. In 1829 Governor Darling declared the Manning River the northern limit of settlement in the colony of New South Wales.
Cedar cutters moved into the area around this time. The first official land grant (a grant of 1037 hectares) in the district was made to William Wynter to arrived and settled in 1831. The modern township of Taree stands on this land. It was Wynter who gave his family home the name Tarree and subsequently named a schooner 'Tarree'. The schooner was used for shipping cedar to Sydney and ports to the south of Taree.
By 1854 William Wynter's son-in-law, a Scotsman named Henry Flett, had laid out a private town and was hoping that the town would develop into a major centre. This did not happen as the government had already decided on Wingham as the major centre because it was at the limit of navigation of the Manning River. Flett's private town was eventually incorporated into Taree when the municipality was declared in 1885.
Although it was on the route from Sydney to Brisbane the town grew slowly - this was almost certainly due to its distance from the sea and the fact that sea transport was still the main form of transportation along the northern New South Wales coast until the 1930s.
Consequently the local Presbyterian Church was completed in 1869, the Court House was completed in 1897, the railway arrived in 1913 (this proved crucial to the development of the town as it gave Taree preference over Wingham) and a bridge, replacing the ferry, across the river was completed in the 1940s. By 1981 it had become a city.
The bridge across the river, known as Martin Bridge, was opened by the Minister for Public Works in 1940. At the time the Newcastle Herald reported: 'This is the story of men who have to yawn or blow through their noses for 17 minutes before they begin their daily work; who have to wave their heads and legs and arms about and exercise all their joints for 38 minutes before they finish.' The article went on to explain that the men who built the bridge had to work in air where the pressure was 35 pounds to the square inch and that the cylinders which formed the legs of the bridge were sunk to a depth of 70 feet.
Today Taree is a successful rural centre sustained by a wide range of activities including dairying, a timber industry, leather goods and engineering works. The famous Australian poet, Les Murray, was educated at Taree High School.
Things to see
Visitor Information Centre
There is an excellent and very comprehensive Visitor Information Centre which is located on the Pacific Highway north of the town centre. It is well worth visiting and has good parking. For more information contact 1800 801 522.
One of the town's true delights is the Fotheringham Park which lies between the Pacific Highway and the Manning River just north of the bridge. In the Bicentennial Year a community project established a very unusual 'Herb and Sculpture Garden' with tiles, two sculptured and tiled posts and a range of interesting herbs which can be picked by locals eager to add a little flavour to the evening meal.
Manning River Cruises
There is no better way of experiencing the Manning River and the area around Taree than taking a Manning River Cruise which leaves from the wharves near Fotheringham Park. Contact (02) 6552 4767 for times and costs.
Interesting Historic Buildings
The Taree Visitors Centre has a Taree Heritage Walk brochure which is a pleasant walk along the riverbank and around the main streets (Albert Street, Victoria Street, Macquarie Street and Pulteney Street in the city centre). Some of the highlights of the walk include:
Taree Public School
One of the buildings of interest in the town is the Taree Public School building, a rather pretentious piece of work which dates from 1902 although a plaque announces that public education in Taree started in 1864.
St Pauls Church
The oldest building in town is St Pauls Presbyterian Church which dates from 1869 and is a typical Victorian Gothic Revival building. It is a rather simple building located in Albert Street which is one street west of the Pacific Highway.
Taree Court House
Over the road from St Paul's Church is the magnificent Court House which was completed in 1897 and consists of the two-storey court room with single storey offices on either side. There is a small police station out the back. The Court House is particularly attractive because of the trees and shrubs which have been planted around it.
St Marys Catholic Church
Nearby is the huge St Marys Catholic Church which was built in the 1930s to replace the original church which was constructed in the 1870s. The Presbytery was built in 1890.
The Big Oyster
The tastefulness of Fotheringham Park (which is an ideal picnic spot) is sharply contrasted by the bizarre ŒBig Oyster¹ (it looks more like a Big Clam) on the northern outskirts of town. The unceasing quest for novelty knows no bounds and the ŒBig Oyster¹ has got to be one of the most original and outrageous novelties on the coast. The same company also lay claim to the ŒBig Prawn¹ at Ballina.
Kiwarrak State Forest
Located 5 km south of Taree and clearly signposted from the Pacific Highway the Kiwarrak State Forest has a 16km signposted drive which includes Breakneck Lookout and a delightful picnic area known as The Pines.
Cundleton, 6km north of Taree, has become a suburb of Taree. Therefore it blends in with the surrounding countryside. It is located on the Dawson River to the north of Taree. Its main claim to historical fame is based on its connection with the poet Henry Kendall, famous for his poem 'Bellbirds' which generations of Australian schoolchildren learnt off by heart. Kendall lived in Cundleton from 1881-1882 and was employed as the local inspector of forests. He died of consumption in 1882.
Kendall actually wrote about Taree in one of his poems.
'Tis where the green and gold is,
Secure from the storms and the sea,
Where never of winter's cold is,
The beautiful quiet Taree.
It is not one of Kendall's better poems. Kendall's connection with the town is commemorated by a monument in Kendall Reserve. Turn right at the Post Office.
Located 15 km south-east of Taree, Old Bar is the southern entrance to the Manning River. It was first discovered by Europeans when John Oxley passed through the area in 1818. It boasts an excellent surfing beach, good fishing in the estuary and the surf, and attractive picnic locations beside the beach. To get there head south along the Pacific Highway for 4 km then turn left onto the signposted road which leads straight out to Old Bar. This road passes turnoffs to Manning Point (8 km along on the left) and Saltwater (9 km along on the right).
About 2 km west of Old Bar a side road heads south for 5 km through Wallabi Point to Saltwater - a tiny holiday village which is notable for a beautiful beach that stretches northwards for 6 km to Old Bar. It is known as the best and most popular surfing destination near Taree and it also boasts a safe lagoon for toddlers. There are excellent views up and down the coast from Wallabi Point.
The turnoff to Manning Point is located about 3 km west of Old Bar. Follow this side north for about 4 km then take the signposted turnoff on the right which transports you the final 12 km to Manning Point - a delightful seaside resort town situated on the principal estuary of the Manning River. This is a great place for surfing and swimming as well as a popular haunt for anglers. It is also known for its excellent oysters.
Coopernook Forest Drive
Coopernook Forest Drive passes through the Coopernook, Lansdowne and Comboyne State Forests, following Stewarts River for quite some distance. It is well signposted with brown-and-white signs and is suitable for 2WD vehicles in dry weather but slow speeds and care are vital.
The drive commences from the Forest Headquarters just north of Coopernook (22 km north of Taree). The route takes in Coopernook Forest Park, Vincents Lookout (330 metres above sea-level), Newbys Creek Walk, Newbys Lookout, Starrs Creek Picnic Area, Big Nellie Mountain (a 560-metre volcanic plug), Flat Rock Lookout (atop a 500-metre drop to the valley floor) and the modest Waitui Falls where there are swimming and picnicking opportunities.
State Forests of NSW publish a guiding pamphlet of the drive, tel: (02) 6551 0249.
Manning Valley Tourist Centre
Manning River Dve Taree North
Taree NSW 2430
Telephone: (02) 6552 1900, 1800 80 1522
Facsimile: (02) 6552 3889