If Scotland had more sunshine and sugar cane, it might look just like Maclean in the Clarence Valley region of the NSW North Coast. This charming riverside town is the place for outdoor adventures, eating prawns fresh from the water, sleeping on a houseboat and embracing your Gaelic heritage.
A slice of Scotland
Dubbed ‘The Scottish Town Of Australia’, Maclean has hosted the Highland Gathering each Easter for the past 110 years. The festival celebrates the town’s Scottish roots, complete with a parade, bagpipe competitions, caber tossing, traditional Scottish food and dancing in kilts.
Look out for the power poles around town painted in Scottish tartan. The first were decorated for the Olympic Torch arrival in 2000 and there are now more than 200. That’s not where bonnie Scotland ends either – many street signs carry Gaelic translations. Explore the history of town at the Maclean Bicentennial Museum.
Things to do
Built on the banks of the Clarence River, Maclean is surrounded entirely by cane fields, farmland and water. In its quaint town centre, you can check out boutique stores and spend time at the many cafes and restaurants which serve up local produce, like cafe and coffee roastery Botero.
For the best panoramic views of the Clarence Valley and beyond, check out the Maclean Lookout, 2km from the town centre. Walk from the lookout to the Pinnacle, a balancing rock formation surrounded by subtropical rainforest. It’s also an important Aboriginal cultural heritage site.
The Clarence River Arts Festival is held every July, with everything from fine art to quilting. Visit the Ferry Park Gallery and shop for local arts and crafts, while Kingstudio Gallery offers painting workshops along with accommodation. There are great markets, too – the Maclean Community Markets is held on the second Saturday of the month.
Fishing and boating
Fishing and boating are very popular here. Ask the locals where the fish are biting and they might reveal their secret spots (if you’re lucky!). Enjoy fresh-caught seafood, including Maclean’s famous juicy estuary prawns, from various locations in town. Or take a picnic to the banks of the Clarence with Valley Pop-up Picnics.
Getting there and where to stay
Maclean is a seven-hour drive north of Sydney or three hours’ south of Brisbane. You can also fly into Clarence Valley Regional Airport near Grafton, a 45min drive to the southwest. You’ll find plenty of riverside accommodation options in Maclean. Or sleep on the river itself in a houseboat, available for rent at Grafton 2 Yamba Houseboat Hire.