There’s few more elegant cities in regional Australia than Grafton in the Clarence Valley, on the NSW North Coast. Built on the banks of the Clarence River, part of the east coast’s largest river system, it’s home to grand historic buildings, classic country pubs and a captivating floral festival.
There are over 2,000 Jacaranda trees in Grafton and when they blossom each Spring the whole city turns purple. Jacaranda trees in Grafton date back to 1879 when seed merchant Henry Volkers introduced the species. Over the years more jacarandas were planted, attracting visitors from around the world for the famous purple blooms.
Time your visit to take in Grafton’s iconic Jacaranda Festival held from the last weekend of October to the first weekend of November. It’s the country’s oldest floral festival, dating back to 1935. The city comes to a standstill for Jacaranda Thursday with a parade, markets, entertainment and more.
Things to do
Explore the town’s rich Victorian and Edwardian architecture on the Grafton Heritage Trail. Step back in time at the Clarence River Historical Society at Schaeffer House, a magnificent federation homestead. Grafton is the perfect base for exploring the wild rivers, stunning gorges and ancient rainforest of nearby Nymboida National Park.
The Grafton Regional Gallery is in Prentice House, built in 1880. See works from famed Aussie artists like Ken Done and Doris O’Grady, as well as contemporary indigenous artists. Check out the events calendar for exhibitions, markets, shows and sports, like the Grafton Bridge to Bridge Ski Classic, a 108km race where skiers exceed 120 kmh.
Eat and drink
You can buy 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 cafes, restaurants and heritage pubs, while a short drive northeast of the city is the iconic 113-year-old Ulmarra Hotel.
Getting there and where to stay
Getting to Grafton is easy. The drive and north from Sydney is 6h 40min and south from Brisbane is 3h 40min. You can fly into Clarence Valley Regional Airport, 12km from the town centre. By train, the journey from Sydney takes around 10 hours or there’s a direct bus, which takes about nine hours.
You’ll find accommodation to suit all budgets in Grafton, from quaint cottages on the river and rooms in historic pubs to motels, B&Bs, farmstays and holiday parks. There are also a number of secluded campgrounds along the river or in untouched bushland.