The summer holidays are here but there’s no need to spend a fortune to keep the family entertained.
Here’s a guide to the top 10 free things to do across the Manning, Great Lakes and Gloucester region
Number 1 – Head outdoors for a picnic
Follow our guide to the best spots on the Mid North Coast – click on the photo below to explore our interactive map.
Number 2 – Bird watching
From the mountains to the sea the region is home to a diverse range of bird species - how many you can spot.
Click the photo below and be inspired with a gallery of some of our most popular species as identified in the recent Aussie Backyard Bird Count.
Number 3 – Wingham Brush Nature Reserve
See flying foxes, enjoy birdwatching and easy walking in the rainforest at Wingham Brush Nature Reserve.
It’s just out of town, down by the mighty Manning River with easy access through the rainforest on an elevated boardwalk.
Number 4 – go for a spin on the Taree bike track
Across from the ‘Big Oyster’ near the netball and hockey fields at Taree is the Manning Valley Cycle Club Criterium Circuit.
When it’s not being used for weekly criterium races by the club the public can jump on bikes, scooters or rollerblades and make the most of the smooth surface without the dangers of dodging traffic.
Number 5 – Ocean baths
The Great Lakes is renown for its waterways – rivers, ocean, lakes and ocean baths.
The Forster Ocean Baths – more popularly known as the Bull Ring – is located at the southern end of Forster Main Beach at the base of Second Head. There is direct access to this ocean pool from the beach.
While technically known as ocean baths, Forster’s Little Street Baths is a 10 minute walk from the surf beach on Wallis Lake’s main channel. A sandy beach and grassed picnic area sit alongside a boat ramp.
A short drive over the Forster-Tuncurry bridge is the Tuncurry Rockpool, a netted swimming area near the estuary entrance so you still need to heed the warning signs there. The pool includes a sandy beach and grassed picnic area and amenities, and parking.
Take The Lakes Way north to Hallidays Point and the Black Head ocean baths are at the southern end of the beach near the surf life saving club. Plenty of room for laps or cooling down on a warm summer’s day.
Number 6 – Bucketts Scenic Walk
Buccan Buccans, also known as The Bucketts Mountains has a scenic walk providing a panoramic view of Gloucester.
The start of the walk is located just over a kilometre out of town at 110 Bucketts Road off of the Thunderbolts Way, where there is a small car park and a signpost over the gated entrance. It is by no means an easy walk.
You follow the fence on private property, where the owner has given permission for people to access the mountain range. As you head into the bush there is a shelter with a bench for you to catch your breath before the hard hike begins. Past this point, the trail becomes dangerous with steep drops and loose rock.
The walk is suitable for moderate fitness levels and above and can take anywhere from one to three hours. It's important to note that the entire mountain range is private property and only the marked section of the trail is available for the public to use, so keep to the marked track and take out with you what you bring in.
Number 7 – Markets across the region
The Great Lakes and neighbouring Manning Valley have no shortage of community markets – from craft markets to farmers’ markets.
Fans are in for treat as local markets showcase some of the finest wares by local producers and crafty artisans.
Shoppers can browse products ranging from homewares to beauty products, jewellery and fashion, along with artworks and pet accessories. For more information on local markets follow this link.
Number 8 – Don’t forget to exercise
Free exercise equipment is available on the Manning River foreshore at Taree (pictured below), at the recreation grounds at Taree and Wingham’s Central Park.
Skate parks are located at Taree, Wingham, Old Bar, Tuncurry, Harrington and Gloucester.
Number 9 – Cattai Wetlands
Just north of Taree past the Harrington turn on Spring Hill road is the award-winning Cattai Wetlands. Internationally recognised as a birdwatching hot-spot, the wetlands now boasts a new bird hide that helps visitors keep a watchful eye on more than 180 different species of birds.
The reclaimed wetlands site is a growing tourist attraction, drawing more than 6000 visitors over the past 12 months.
Number 10 – Crowdy Lighthouse
Take in the stunning views and imagine what life was like back in the 1800s when this lighthouse was in action, guiding ships along the coast.
It is located 33 kilometres north-east of Taree at Crowdy Head, just past Harrington.
This lighthouse was designed and erected between 1878 - 1879 as one of only five smalllighthouses built on the NSW coast. The panoramic views from the lighthouse reserve are breathtaking.