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Moree, NSW

Northern New South Wales town famous for its health-giving Artesian Spa

Moree is a town which promotes itself as "Home of Artesian Water Country" and as "Australia's Artesian Spa Capital" because since 1895 it has tapped into the hot springs of the Great Artesian Basin and promoted them as healing waters attracting people seeking healthy spa water. Moree is the major town in the affluent Moree Plains Shire. The district is famous for its rich black soil plains which, as one local wit observed, is so productive: "You could put a match in the ground overnight and get a walking stick in the morning." Wheat and other cereals, chick peas, cotton, oil seeds, pecan nuts, legumes and olives are all grown around the town. Located on both sides of the Mehi River, Moree has numerous attractive riverside parks and reserves. It is deservedly famous for its outstanding collection of Art Deco buildings which make the town centre particularly fascinating.

Location

Moree is located 625 km north of Sydney via Gunnedah and Narrabri and 208 m above sea-level. 

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Origin of Name

It is believed that "moree" is a Kamilaroi Aboriginal term meaning either "long waterhole" or "rising sun".

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Things to See and Do

Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre
Moree's main tourist attraction has recently been revamped and renovated. It is now a superb outdoor facility with mineral-rich water which emerges at 40° Celsius. The new complex comprises an Olympic-sized swimming pool; two Artesian hot pools; a Program pool which is heated to 30°C and a splash pad for tiny tots. The pools are now complemented by a gym and wellness centre. The centre is located at 20 Anne Street, is open every day (6.00 am - 7.30 pm Monday to Friday and 7.00 am - 7.00 pm Saturday and Sunday), and additional information can be accessed by tel: (02) 6757 2272 or http://www.mpsc.nsw.gov.au/index.php/home/artesian-spa-baths.

Art Deco Moree
There is an excellent, high quality and beautifully photographed, 18 page booklet - Art Deco Moree: A Guide to Moree's Exquisite Period Architecture which describes, in great detail, 17 art deco buildings in the town, eleven of which are located on the main street, Balo Street.

1. Mansour's Buildings
Located at 171-173 Balo Street, the Mansour's Buildings were completed in 1929. Note the fascinating symmetry of the "glazed blue ceramic tiles within outlined rhythmic squares" above the awning. They are designed to appear as highlight windows.

2. Salina Court
Located at 161 Balo Street, Salina Court was the local Lyceum Theatre from 1929-1974. It closed when the local drive-in opened. The building is elaborately decorated "and combines neo-classical motifs, such as Tuscan column pilasters, with revival elements, such as medallions and garlands."

3. Assef's
Located at 143 Balo Street, Assef's has an unusual projecting semi-circular balcony with paired steel posts. This style of Art Deco was inspired by huge luxury ocean liners. The sleek curves, the funnels and the streamlined bow give the impression of a ship.

4. Joblink Plus
Located at 133 Balo Street, the facade (which is well hidden by the tree) is an outstanding example of Art Deco which looks like waves - they have been emphasised by the painting in different shades of blue. The building suggests a gracious P&O liner. Notice the clean geometric lines.

5. 74 Balo Street
Once the Credit Union, 74 Balo Street is a fine example of Art Deco with the ornamental motifs echoing the tombs of Ancient Egypt and the "wheat sheaf" in the centre being a reminder of the importance of banks (it was originally the Commonwealth Bank) in the economy of rural towns like Moree.

6. Wilson House
Located at 127-131 Balo Street, Wilson House was built in Spanish Mission style in 1925. "The central portion of the building is balanced by the symmetry of the rectangular casement, windows and window hoods. The clock and building name bring focus to the overall decorative stepped parapet."

7. 123 Balo Street
Part of the Wilson House complex, built in 1925, it has the unusual facade of the "triple round-headed arches supported on scroll capital headed columns, with an outward-curved wrought iron balustrade painted black. Above is a medallion with the shaped gable."

8. Max Centre
Located at 30-42 Heber Street and around the corner in Balo Street, the New Max Centre was built in 1930 at a cost of £52,000. It was originally a luxurious hotel built by Herbert McDonald (Mac's place - hence Max Centre). In 1964 it was converted into Moree's first arcade with 22 shops.

9. Watson Chambers
Located at 57 Heber Street and built in 1929 and, strange for Moree, built in the style of buildings in Chicago between World War I and II. The metal framed windows have multiple glazing panels. The small stepped parapet and the window sills have what is called a "dental motif".

10. Roslyn House
Located at 61 Heber Street, this is an unusual example of what is known as Hollywood Spanish Mission architecture - "Half round, multi-coloured tiles adorn the buildings parapets and chimneys while the underawning shopfronts feature black vitreous glass, metal frames and patterned leaded glass."

11. Morgan's Building
Located on the corner of Heber Street and Auburn Street, the Morgan's Building was completed in 1929. It has a corrugated iron gable roof and sidelights as well as a hip-roof ventilator. Note the leadlight windows, the suspended awning and the pressed metal on the awning.

12. Vision Cafe
Located on the corner of Balo and Gwydir Streets (63 Balo Street) Vision Cafe is an example of classic Art Deco with the "sun burst" motifs above the main entrance to the cafe.

13. Memorial Hall
Located at 36 Balo Street, the Memorial Hall was the original Town Hall and was opened in 1923. In 1938-1939 the Council Chambers and Banquet Hall were added. It is a fine example of a 1920s Classical Revival architecture with strong Greek influences.

14. TAFE Building
Located at 38 Frome Street, this Art Deco building was originally the Moree Council Chambers and was built in 1900. It was significantly altered in the 1950s.

15. Westpac
Located at 29 Frome Street, the Westpac Bank was built as the Bank of New South Wales in the 1930s. It is the third bank on the site and is built in the Stripped Classical style which was fashionable in the 1930s.

16. Houlahan Young & Co
Located at 37 Frome Street and built by J.T. Crane in 1934 this simple building is "a Federation period shop with an outstanding parapet". The facade is intact and virtually unaltered with a suspended awning and "rhythmic spacing of the pilasters".

17. Shire Chambers
Located at 39 Frome Street, the former Shire Chambers were built in 1938. "It features symmetrical design, a terracotta tile hip roof with boxed eaves, a projecting double-storey gabled parapeted porch with balcony at first-floor level, and projecting bands of brickwork below the first floor window sills." 

Self Guided Moree Heritage Trail
Available from the Moree Visitor Information Centre, this brochure covers many of the Art Deco buildings but reaches beyond and includes a total of 14 buildings, some of which are included in the Art Deco Moree book. Other buildings of interest include:

2. Former Reids Emporium
Located at 103 Balo Street, A.C. Reid & Co Emporium was constructed as a general store in 1904. It was constructed in a Federation Romanesque style with rendered brickwork, domes fronting Heber Street and a richly decorated parapet.

3. Imperial Hotel
Located at 113 Balo Street, the Imperial Hotel was built in 1929 after a fire had destroyed the previous hotel. It is a fine example of a late 1920s Edwardian style country hotel. The original balustrade, gable vents, parapet and rafters are still intact.

4. Bank Art Museum Moree (BAMM)
Located at 25 Frome Street and built in 1910 the Art Gallery is a fine example of a Federation Freestyle building. It is a symbol of the affluence of Moree at the time. Look carefully and you will note the terracotta tiled roof, the arches, pilasters, cornices and the balustrate parapet, timber shingles, and the Art Nouveau iron lace work around the second storey veranda. It is open 10.00 am - 5.00 pm Monday to Friday and 10.00 am - 1.00 pm on Saturday, tel: (02) 6757 3320 or check out http://www.bamm.org.au.

6. Lands Office
Located at 40 Frome Street, this unusual building dates to 1893 when it was constructed out of timber and corrugated iron and consisted of eight rooms with a central corridor. The building was raised in height, and an additional veranda added, in 1902-1903. The original building was constructed to a design by W.L. Vernon who was the Government Architect at the time.

9. Moree Court House
Located at 48 Frome Street, the Moree Court House was designed by W.L. Vernon and constructed in 1903. It is considered one of the finest court houses in New South Wales.

11. Former Moree Club
Located at 57 Frome Street and constructed in 1900 for Dr Magill as a surgery and hospital, it became the Moree Club in 1920. The unusual building is a rare example of what is known as Federation Arts and Craft architecture. The Self Guided Heritage Walk brochure notes: "The building is a single storey weatherboard with steeply pitched tiled roof. The twin gables that face Albert Street have incorporated intricate timber detailing including small windows in a T-shape pattern and project gable apex for roof ventilation. A small gable marks the entrance porch. There are also elements of Queen Anne style present, which include the high pitched boarded gables, tall elaborate chimney and extensive verandas."

Moree History Tour
Departing from the Moree Visitor Information Centre, this walking tour includes the architectural highlights of the central business district. The tour explores the main street of town and focuses on the town's rich Art Deco heritage. Contact the Moree Visitor Information Centre, tel: (02) 6757 3350.

Yaama Ganu Centre
Located at 211 Balo Street, the Yaama Ganu Centre is an Aboriginal art gallery and cafe which sells works from the local Kamilaroi people as well as art works from Aboriginal communities around Australia. It is open six days a week, tel: (02) 6794 3280.

Mary Brand Park
The beautiful Mary Brand Park is located on the banks of the Mehi River and at the corner of Gwydir and Frome Streets. It is named after the woman who, along with her husband, opened a store in 1852, which proved the beginning of the town. In 1861 she established the town's first inn on this very corner. The park contained a replica of a four room slab hut known as Meei Cottage (reflecting the original spelling of the Mehi River) which was typical of a Moree residence dating from the 1890s. The park is also notable for the shady canopy of the century old Moreton Bay fig trees. The location ensures that the park is home to a variety of bird and wildlife.

Max Wales Memorial Park
Private Max Wales, a Moree local, was killed in the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam. The memorial park celebrates his life and includes 18 rose bushes which represent each of the 18 soldiers killed during the battle. The park is located on the banks of the Mehi River beside the Moree Services Club in Albert Street.

Kirkby Park/ Rocket Park
Located at the southern end of Balo Street, Kirkby Park is notable for the 14.9 metre tall Big Rocket which was launched in the park on 11 July, 2009 by astronomer Dr Fred Watson. The park also contains the historic Moree Band Rotunda and the original rocket which was built in 1972.

Historic Cemetery
On Greenbah Road (the Gwydir Highway), on the western outskirts of town, is a cemetery. Perhaps the most famous grave is that of Charles Dickens' youngest son, Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens. It is located to the left of the main gates. Young Dickens arrived in Australia in 1868. His father died in 1870. He spent the rest of his life in Australia becoming  the mayor of Wilcannia and working for the Lands Department in Moree from 1900 until his death in 1902. Another headstone marks the tomb of Mary Brand who, along with her husband, founded the townsite in 1852 when she opened a store. In 1861 she established the first inn. Her daughter, buried alongside, was the first white child born in Moree. 

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Other Attractions in the Area

Weirs and Swimming Destinations
There are three weirs around Moree: 
Tareelaroi Weir which has no picnic and barbecue facilities but locals do take their own and their are suitable places near the weir. It is 20 km east via the Gwydir Highway (take the signposted turnoff to the left). 
Combadello Weir, a good fishing and bird watching spot, is 25 km west of town via the Gwydir Highway. 
Boolooroo Weir, where there are barbecue facilities, is about 8 km north via the Newell Highway (turn left just before Boolooroo Bridge). 
The Rocks are a pleasant picnic and swimming spot. Head north-east for 11 km along the Newell Highway then turn right, heading east for 5 km to the end of the road.

Touring a Pecan Plantation
Located 35 km east of Moree, the Stahmann Farm Enterprises run Trawalla Farm which has 850,000 pecan trees on 700 hectares of rich, black soil. Stahmann's produce 95% of all Australian pecans. It is possible to join a guided tour on the property. They are organised through the Moree Visitor Information Centre. For more information tel: (02) 6757 3350 or check out http://www.stahmannfarms.com.au/trawalla. The pecan farm is part of a guided tour of the area by Hann's Tours and Charters, tel: 0428 460 097.

Gwydir Wetlands
Located 60 km north-west of Moree these superb wetlands are a rare example of a terminal delta wetland and they are one of the few wetlands on the Murray-Darling basin. Since records began in the 1920s, at least 75 waterbird species (50 breeding) have been recorded in the Gwydir Wetlands including straw-necked Ibis, intermediate egrets, glossy ibis and nankeen night-herons. There was a time when the wetland extended over 100,000 ha, west from Moree to the Barwon Darling River. Today it is only 15% of that. In a move to halt continual wetlands loss, four local land owners listed portions of their wetlands under the International Ramsar Wetlands Agreement in 1998. The public can now visit the 'Waterbird Lagoon', north of Watercourse Road, which is open during September and October. A bird hide is located at the 'Waterbird Lagoon', where visitors can observe the wetlands birdlife. A map available from the Moree Visitor Information Centres shows the route from Moree. This trip is recommended in dry weather. Check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/wetlands/GwydirWetlandsGinghamAndLowerGwydirBigLeatherWatercourses.htm for more information.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the Kamilaroi people.

* The first European into the area was an escaped convict, George Clarke, who had been living, in the area to the south of the townsite, with the Kamilaroi from 1826-1831. 

* The surveyor Thomas Mitchell reached the area in 1832. He had been sent to investigate the district after the recapture of Clarke who told of a great river called the Kindur. 

* Squatters followed Mitchell's exploration and favourable reports. They established pastoral runs, among which was 'Moree'  which was established in 1844. 

* James and Mary Brand built a general store on the future townsite in 1852. 

* A post office was opened in 1853. 

* James Brand died in 1858 leaving Mary with six children so she opened a store in Bank Street. 

* In 1861 Mary Brand opened the town's first inn. 

* Moree was gazetted in 1862 with land sales occurring that year. 

* A court of petty sessions was established in 1863. 

* A severe flood submerged the town in 1864. 

* The first constable arrived and a police station was set up in 1865. 

* The town's first church (Wesleyan) was built in 1867. 

* Banking began in the town in 1876. 

* The first local newspaper was set up in 1881, at which time the population was 295. 

* The town became a municipality in 1890. 

* In 1895 the Great Artesian Basin was tapped for water.

* The railway reached the town in 1897.

* There was a dramatic increase in wheat cultivation after World War II.

* A flour mill was built in 1951. 

* The town's bore ceased to flow in 1957 and is now worked by a pump. 

* Cotton cultivation began in the early 1960s.

* In 1965 the famous Freedom Ride, led by Charles Perkins, arrived in town and successfully desegregated the local swimming pool.

* The first commercial pecan nut farm was established on the Gwydir River in 1966. 

* In 2007 the local council started a $14 million program to upgrade the hot thermal baths.

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Visitor Information

Moree Visitor Information Centre, 67 Alice Street, tel: (02) 6757 3350.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out http://www.moreetourism.com.au.

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Got something to add?

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

2 suggestions
  • Moree Golf Club, Moree motor cross club’s Boolooroo MX track voted best in Australia 2 years in a row. Moree Airport with daily flights to Sydney and Brisbane,

    Colin Thomas
  • There are a huge variety of local creative and performing arts showcases and events. Moree Arts Community Theatre group holds a community performance each year as well as monthly performance evening titled ‘Creatively 3’, in which performers have 3 mins on stage to perform an original work. Moree’s school communities are also heavily involved in the arts, with schools presenting various musicals, plays and MADD nights each year. 2minus1 Productions is a local theatre company committed to providing professional and high quality entertainment to the local community.

    Stevie Drenkhahn