- Being the Jacaranda Capital of Australia
- Beautifully-preserved heritage buildings
- Vibrant arts scene
- Nearby national parks & the Clarence River
At the heart of the Northern Rivers region lies Grafton, an historic town lined with glorious Victorian and Edwardian architecture, on the banks of the Clarence River. With the arrival of spring, this pocket of North Coast NSW becomes the most Instagrammable destination in the state as the more than 2,000 jacaranda trees that line streets turning the town an eye-popping shade of purple.
Festivals & events
Over the spring months, jacarandas sprinkle NSW with an iridescent rain of purple flowers. And while the entire state appreciates the dose of imported Japanese colour, they’re particularly revered in Grafton. Here, October/November’s annual Grafton Jacaranda Festival (the oldest floral celebration in the country) paints the entire town lilac, from specially curated art exhibits to nightly fireworks, parades, markets and entertainment.
Check out the events calendar for other exhibitions, markets, shows and sports throughout the year, like the Grafton Bridge to Bridge Ski Classic, a 108km race where skiers exceed 120km/h.
Grafton is the gateway to the wild rivers, ravishing gorges and ancient rainforest of nearby Nymboida National Park. Here, forest-clad escarpments create a striking backdrop for paddling, hiking, camping and 4WD touring, with all manner of birds in your company from white-bellied sea eagles to elegant osprey. In summer, nothing beats a swim in the cool, clear waters of the river. Pick a safe spot, and revel in the tranquillity of this unspoilt place.
History & culture
Even minus the flowers, Grafton’s broad avenues offer reasons to linger, with many of its buildings significant National Trust sites. Take them in on the self-guided Grafton Heritage Trail, highlighting the Grafton Gaol and 1884 Christ Church Cathedral, as well as the Clarence River Historical Society at Schaeffer House, a magnificent Federation homestead. Don’t miss the 1915 Bendy Bridge, particularly popular near dusk when visitors flock to its walkway for sunset views over the river.
The Grafton Regional Gallery sits pretty in historic 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. Don’t miss the seasonal exhibition revolving around those jacaranda trees.
Eat & drink
You can buy fresh seasonal produce at the Grafton Twilight Farmers Market, held every Thursday afternoon in Market Square. Pick up fruit and veggies, then wander between stalls while munching on pulled-pork buns, gluten-free doughnuts and loaded slices of pizza.
The formal dining scene around town unites country swagger with innovation, from cafes and restaurants to breweries and pubs. Not least the legendary century-old Ulmarra Hotel just outside of town, replete with an expansive veranda and one of the best beer gardens in the state – as voted by those in the know.
Getting there & where to stay
Getting to Grafton is as much about the journey as the destination. Enjoy the 6.5hr drive north from Sydney or 3.5hr drive south from Brisbane, lingering at charming country and coastal towns en route. By train or bus, your route from Sydney takes around 10 hours. You can also fly into Clarence Valley Regional Airport and hire a car to explore the region.
When you arrive in Grafton, you’ll find accommodation to suit all budgets, from quaint cottages on the river and rooms in historic pubs, to motels, B&Bs, farmstays and holiday parks. A number of secluded campgrounds are available along the river or in untouched bushland.