Maclean’s Scottish history dates back to the 1840s, when Caledonians started coming here, attracted by Australia’s gold rush and the prospect of avoiding famine back in their homeland. Today, the town in the Clarence Valley on the North Coast of NSW is self-proclaimed as ‘The Scottish Town of Australia’, its bucolic Clarence River perch enveloped by fields of sugarcane and farmland. Spend your days drifting around in houseboats, eating fresh prawns and hiking through rainforest.
A slice of Scotland
Maclean has hosted a Highland Gathering for the more than 115 years, the Easter festival consuming the town with parades and fanfare. The bagpipe-playing competitions draw musicians from across the country, while crowds gather to watch caber tossing and Highland dancing, before enjoying traditional Scottish food.
But the tartan is not packed away when the event ends – around town you’ll discover power poles painted in all the colours of a kilt. The first were decorated for the Olympic Torch arrival in 2000; today, you can find more than 200, alongside street signs carrying Gaelic translations. Still want more? Delve deeper into the town’s Scottish (and otherwise) history at the Maclean Bicentennial Museum.
Explore the town
You could while away a day exploring Maclean’s charm-filled streets, browsing exhibitions and picking up arts and crafts in the Ferry Park Gallery, or participating in a creative workshop hosted by local talent at the Kingstudio Gallery (which also boasts on-site accommodation). Time your visit right to meet the makers at Plunge, a month-long festival every April that celebrates the Clarence Valley’s cultural scene through film, visual arts, creative writing, music, dance and more.
When it comes time to refuel, grab a great brew at coffee roastery Botero, or snack on fresh cookies and cake while exploring the stalls at the Maclean Monthly Community Markets, held on the second Saturday of the month.
For unrivalled views over the Clarence Valley and beyond, wander two kilometres from the centre of town up to the Maclean Lookout – from here, the countryside unfolds in swathes of rolling farmland and hinterland. Continue on to the Pinnacle, a balancing rock formation and important Aboriginal cultural heritage site, surrounded by subtropical rainforest.
Fishing & boating
Given its prime position on the Clarence River, Maclean makes the ideal base for fishing and boating expeditions. Ask the locals where the fish are biting, and they might reveal their secret spots (if you’re lucky). Non-anglers can still enjoy the seafood bounty at restaurants around town, with juicy estuary prawns a highlight on any menu.
Getting there & where to stay
Maclean is a seven-hour drive north from Sydney or three hours’ south from Brisbane. You can also fly into the Clarence Valley Regional Airport on the outskirts of Grafton and hire a car for the 40min drive north. You’ll find plenty of riverside accommodation options in Maclean. Or, sleep on the water in a houseboat, available for rent at Grafton 2 Yamba Houseboat Hire.