Small in population but big in personality, Ulmarra delivers country swagger and quirky cool in equal measure. On the banks of the Clarence River in Northern NSW, the former port town boasts a particularly well-preserved collection of heritage-listed buildings, many of which now house stores and galleries. The rivers, beaches and rainforest of the Clarence Valley surround, although you’ll find plenty of nature in town itself – time your visit to coincide with spring’s jacaranda bloom.
Art & culture
This part of the Clarence Valley hosts a particularly creative community, as you’ll fast discover exploring the Coldstream Gallery. Pieces on display here range from paintings to sculptures and jewellery, with most works available for purchase should you wish to take home a reminder of your stay. Nearby, Fibre Delights is a craft cooperative of 15 artisans showcasing their sewing, quilting and handicraft skills.
Artist Peter J Hill may be in his 80s, but he’s only semi-retired. You’ll find him painting and mingling with locals at his jam-packed PJ Art Gallery. Additional fine art prints are on display at Ulmarra Collective, alongside fragrant French soaps and handmade homewares imported from Morocco, Mexico and Turkey. Or order bespoke furniture that double as works of art, made from Australian native timber at The Wood Shop.
Antiques & shopping
Few Aussie country towns lack an antiques store; Ulmarra is no exception. Contrary’s on Clarence is chock-a-block with vintage furniture and covetable objects, while Big River Trading Co is a co-op that unites a diverse range of local merchants, who come here to sell handmade hats, leather goods, textiles and up-cycled furniture and homewares.
Eat & drink
The grande dame of town is the Ulmarra Hotel, the glorious Federation building serving as a meeting place for locals since it opened in 1906. Order a drink and pub-style fare to enjoy in the beer garden under the shade of an enormous jacaranda tree, or pop into its Cafe Clarence for a heart-starting Toby’s Estate coffee.
Nearby, the Ulmarra Food Co serves standout hot drinks, as well as daily baked pies and pastries and piles of regional produce, from jams to seasonal fruit and veggies. The Little Local Cafe is, as its name suggests, rather petite – just a couple of outdoor tables offering a front-row seat to the river.
Getting there & where to stay
Ulmarra is a 6.5hr drive north from Sydney and 3.5hr south from Brisbane. It’s just 15min from the regional centre of Grafton, which you can reach by car, train and bus. You can also fly into the Clarence Valley Regional Airport and hire a car to explore the region. A handful of accommodation options are available in town, including the historic Ulmarra Hotel, B&Bs and self-contained apartments.