There’s rivers, empty beaches, World Heritage rainforest reserves, quaint fishing and surfing towns, and old-fashioned festivals, yet the Clarence Valley still flies under the radar of many visitors. Discover the historic town of Grafton, spectacular outdoor adventures and a laid-back country lifestyle.
Dating back to 1851, Grafton is the main town in the Clarence Valley and it sits on the Clarence River. There’s more than 2,000 jacaranda trees in town, inspiring the country’s oldest floral festival, the Jacaranda Festival, each year in late October.
Discover its preserved colonial buildings on a heritage trail, see the fine art collection in the Grafton Regional Gallery and taste fresh local produce at the weekly farmers market. It’s also the perfect jumping off point for boating on the Clarence River, Australia’s largest east coast river system.
Fun on the Clarence River
Take on Australia’s longest whitewater trail in the upper Clarence Valley. The canoe and kayak trail flows 195km on the Mann, Nymboida and Clarence rivers – there’s everything here from easy floating options, to some of Australia’s most challenging Grade Five rapids.
Wild river adventure tours depart from Grafton. There are also lots more things to do along the Clarence River as it winds its way to the sea. Hire a houseboat and explore the river slowly. Discover rustic river towns like Maclean along the way.
Explore the coastal towns of Iluka and Yamba at the mouth of the mighty Clarence. Iluka is on its northern side, beside the Iluka Nature Reserve, part of the UNESCO-listed Gondwana Rainforests. Clarence River Ferries has daily passenger services to Yamba, on the southern side.
Famous for its prawns and world-class surfing, Yamba is a popular destination for a beach or fishing holiday. Surfers can ride the legendary waves at nearby Angourie Point, one of Australia’s National Surfing Reserves. Wind your way along the coast here on a multi-day hike in the Yuraygir National Park.
The national park continues south to Wooli, a fishing village on a narrow peninsula with the Wooli River on one side and the Solitary Islands Marine Park on the other. The coastline from Wooli to Iluka in the north is full of empty, pristine bays.
Getting there and where to stay
Getting to the Clarence Valley is easy by road, train or air. It’s a 7hr 30min drive from Sydney and just under five hours from Brisbane. Clarence Valley Regional Airport is close to Grafton and has regular flights to Sydney. By train, the journey from Sydney takes around 10 hours or there’s a direct bus, which takes about nine hours.
Accommodation in the Clarence Valley ranges from waterfront holiday parks and resorts to hinterland retreats, heritage pubs, motels, hostels and campgrounds within national parks. You can even hire a houseboat and sleep right on the river while you explore the region.