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Harrington, NSW

Sleepy town at the mouth of the Manning River

Historically Harrington was a sleepy fishing village at the mouth of the Manning River. In recent times the town had grown dramatically and as a result housing estates, shopping villages and a golf course have changed (and modernised) the nature of the town. In the nineteenth century a series of dangerous sand bars off the coast at the mouth of the river resulted in a number of vessels being shipwrecked while attempting to enter the Manning River. In recent times a long breakwater has been built to alleviate the problem. However in the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century the boats entering the Manning River were brought across the bars by pilots familiar with the dangers and the shallow shoals. Today the locals fish the waters near Harrington and bring in good catches of snapper, bream, blackfish and whiting.  Beyond Harrington is the charming fishing village of Crowdy Head with its 1878 lighthouse and its substantial fishing fleet.


Harrington is located at the mouth of the Manning River 336 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Motorway and Pacific Highway. It is 34 km north-east of Taree.


Origin of Name

The surveyor and explorer John Oxley travelled through the area in 1818 and named the mouth to the Manning River, the Harrington Inlet, after Charles Stanhope, the Earl of Harrington.


Things to See and Do

Harrington Self-Guided Heritage Walk
There is a Harrington Self-Guided Heritage Walk (it can be downloaded at http://taree.cc/assets/Main-Site/Files/FP-Heritage/Harrington-amended.pdf) which lists 13 places of historic interest including the Harrington Hotel, the amusing bollards around the town, the pilot station and Pilot Hill and lookout. Unfortunately many of the locations are now little more than memories of former places of interest which have been radically changed or removed over the years.

Pilots Hill and Pilot Lookout
The town's one historical monument is located on Pilots Lookout, a headland to the north east of the town. Here the graves of the pilots and some of the members of their families lie overlooking the bar and the ocean. The Harrington and Surrounds website explains: "... a Pilot Station was established as early as 1860 on the headland to the north of what is now Harrington and was manned for nearly a century. Known as Pilot Hill there is no longer any evidence of the Pilot Station other than a monument and a small cemetery. The gravesites at this lookout are a marker of the pilots whose job it was to assist navigation for the increasing and prosperous cargo and passenger trade over the dangerous sand bar. It is understood that those buried here were several employees of the pilot service and members of their families."

Harrington Bollards
Beside the river foreshore are a series of carved bollards depicting the historically significant people who have been uniquely important to the development of Harrington today.


Other Attractions in the Area

Crowdy Bay Lighthouse
The small (it is only 7.3 metres above the ground) lighthouse is 61 metres above sea level and has a range of 16 nautical miles. It was built out of local stone in 1878 and automated and demanned in 1928. In 1878 it replaced a pilot station which had been built at Harrington in 1860. Designed by the prominent colonial architect, James Barnet, it was the last of a series of small lighthouses he designed. The light was converted to mains electricity in 1972.

Crowdy Bay National Park
The major natural attraction in the Harrington area is Crowdy Bay National Park, a park of 5,639 ha which runs north along the coast and features beaches, sand dunes, coastal forest, heathlands, swamp areas as well as excellent bushwalks and, as a specific highlight, the Crowdy Head lighthouse. The lagoons in the park are habitats for diverse species of water birds and the beaches are quiet and peaceful. The Park itself is a combination of Crown Land and land which was previously privately owned.  For more details on all the walks check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/crowdy-bay-national-park.

(a) Diamond Head Loop Walk
Diamond Head is a spectacular outcrop 113 metres above sea level which was originally named 'Indian Head' by Captain Cook in 1770. He sighted Aborigines, whom he called 'indians', on the craggy headland. The walk is a 4.8 km loop which lasts around 2 hours and is defined as medium difficulty. It passes through heath and forests of paperbark and swamp mahogany. The headland offers views north to Point Perpendicular and south to Crowdy Head. It is called Diamond Head because there is lots of shiny quartz in the area. Sorry! No diamonds.

(b) Crowdy Gap Walking Track
This short walk links the Crowdy Gap campground to Crowdy Beach and is an opportunity for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. It is only 400 m each way and takes around 30 minutes return. The National Parks note: "Passing through rare coastal rainforest of turpentine and scentless rosewood, you might glimpse a regent bowerbird or a swift parrot. Remember to keep looking up in the branches of nearby gums, as you might just be lucky enough to see a koala. There are sweeping views along the coast, with Diamond Head to the north." Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/crowdy-bay-national-park/crowdy-gap-walking-track/walking for greater details.

(c) Forest Walking Track
This 1.5 km walk (one way) between Indian Head campground and Diamond Head campground (it take 30 minutes each way and is defined as easy) passes through lush rainforest. The National Park website explains: "Listen for the distinct call of the green catbird and you might glimpse a bower bird among the foliage. Towering turpentines give way to she-oaks and three different types of banksias. Winding down towards the creek, the path opens up to grasslands, including delicate ground orchids and rare kangaroo grass. In summer, gorgeous Christmas bells and wildflowers pop up through the dunes." Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/crowdy-bay-national-park/forest-walking-track/walking for more details.

(d) Mermaid Lookout Track
Across the footbridge at the creek at Diamond Head is a 700 m one way, medium difficulty walk to the Mermaid Lookout. It offers dramatic views across Dunbogan Beach to North Brother mountain and is an ideal place for watching whales in the spring months. It takes around an hour return.

(e) Metcalfes Walking Track
This 600 metre easy walk (it takes around 30 minutes) joins Kylies Beach with the Indian Head campground at the north of the park. The National Parks website explains its appeal: "In spring, the heath erupts with colourful wildflowers, attracting nectar-loving birds. Behind the dunes, native grasses give way to woodlands including tall trees such as blackbutt, brush box and paperbarks. Be sure to look high in the branches for koalas, glossy black-cockatoos and parrots." One of the most famous inhabitants of the area was a man named Ernie Metcalfe who was subject of a story by Kylie Tennant titled The Man on the Headland. Metcalfe built Tennant a house near Diamond Head which was given to the National Parks in 1976 and restored in 1980. The walk offers spectacular views over the ocean and south towards Crowdy Head. The hut is located at Kylie's Walk-In Camping Area. Check out http://www.harringtonandsurrounds.com/our-history/heritage-sites.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the Biripi Aborigines who lived mainly off the rich supplies of fish and shellfish in the area.

* In 1770 Captain James Cook noticed the fires of Aborigines along the coast and named one of the headlands in Crowdy Bay, Indian Head. Indian being a common term for "native" at the time.

* Surveyor John Oxley passed through the area in 1818 and named the mouth to the Manning River, Harrington Inlet, after the Earl of Harrington.

* In 1826 the river was named after Sir William Manning, the Deputy Governor of the huge Australian Agricultural Company.

* The river was crossed and surveyed in 1827.

* From 1827-1860 the river was used increasingly to transport timber, limestone and livestock but the dangerous shoals at the mouth led to numerous shipwrecks.

* A pilot station was established at Harrington in 1860.

* A lighthouse was built at Crowdy Head in 1878.

* The railway reached Coopernook during World War I.

* In the 1920s local fishermen began to send their catch to Sydney by train.

* Land auctions occurred at Crowdy Head in 1958.

* In recent times Harrington Waters, a housing development, has seen the area grow and modernise.


Visitor Information

Manning Valley Visitor Information Centre, 21 Manning River Drive, Taree North, tel: (020) 6592 5444 or 1800 182 733. Open seven days from 9.00 am - 4.30 pm.


Useful Websites

There is an excellent local website - http://www.harringtonandsurrounds.com.au/ - with lots of suggestions of what to see, where to stay and where to eat. There is also a photo-rich site which is worth checking out https://barringtoncoast.com.au/destinations/harrington-crowdy-head.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

2 suggestions
  • Work on the breakwalls stopped in 1904, not recently. The grand plan has never being finalised

    keith richardson
  • I’d like to contact Ms Monica Gilbert, who is an ex-Britax employee (Taree) and member of the Orca Foundation. I last saw Monica 21 years ago and I lost touch. She’s a native of Harrington.

    Would you kindly ask her to contact me at the email stated below. Thank you.
    John Gaffarena – jvgaffarena@hotmail.com

    John Gaffarena