Grafton in the Northern Rivers region is elegant, from the colonial buildings to the leafy streets. More than 2,000 Jacarandas blossom in spring, creating a sea of mauve for the famous Jacaranda Festival, the oldest flora festival in Australia. The city is also a gateway to wilderness adventure.
On the banks of the Clarence River, Grafton is rich in Victorian and Edwardian architecture. You can explore the beautifully preserved buildings on the Grafton Heritage Trail. Stop at the Clarence River Historical Society and explore the museum in Schaeffer House, a magnificent federation homestead.
Jacaranda trees in Grafton date back to 1879 when seed merchant Henry Volkers, who owned a local nursery, introduced the exotic species. Over the years more jacarandas were planted, attracting visitors from far and wide for the spring bloom. The first Jacaranda Festival was celebrated in 1935.
The Grafton Regional Gallery is in the Prentice House, built in 1880. The gallery has a wonderful collection, including works by Ken Done, Doris O’Grady and contemporary indigenous artists. There are regular exhibitions and the Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award is a prestigious biennial award.
Check out the vibrant events calendar for exhibitions, markets, shows and sports, such as the thrilling Grafton Bridge to Bridge Ski Classic. The lovingly restored Saraton Theatre is a National Trust-classified building. Built in 1926, the 950-seat venue hosts concerts and other performances.
You can browse fresh seasonal produce at the Grafton Farmers’ Market, held every Thursday morning in the carpark of the heritage-listed Christ Church Cathedral. You’ll find charming cafes, delicious restaurants and heritage pubs. A short drive northeast is the 1906-built Ulmarra Hotel.
You’ll find accommodation to suit various budgets in Grafton, a great base for exploring the wild rivers, stunning gorges and ancient rainforest. Kayaking, canoeing and rafting are all popular in the Nymboida National Park. The exquisite Clarence Gorge is 90 minutes’ drive northwest of Grafton.
Getting to Grafton in the Clarence Valley, on the NSW North Coast, is easy. The drive south from Brisbane is 3h 40min and north from Sydney 6h 40min. You can fly to the city and rent a car, or arrive by train. The gorgeous ocean beaches at Iluka, Yamba and Wooli are less than an hour away.