Coast, river, and countryside all lie within easy reach of this horticultural city.
On the banks of the Clarence River, Grafton is famous for its thousands of purple-flowering jacaranda trees, the subject of Australia’s oldest floral festival. Check out the blooms as you stroll around town, then head out to one of several national parks within day-trip distance of the city, where you can hike through the rainforest, explore beaches and dunes, or enjoy water sports along the rivers. Camping is equally varied—check into a caravan by the riverside or pitch your tent at backcountry bush campsites.
Rocky gorges and pockets of rainforest line the banks of the Clarence River, which curls its way from the Dividing Range through Grafton to the North Coast. Head west to canoe through the rapids at the Clarence Gorge, hire a houseboat, or pitch your tent at riverside camping grounds. To the east, the lagoons, islands, and beaches around Yamba and Iluka provide ample opportunities for fishing and water sports, as well as surfing along the coast.
NSW North Coast
Less than an hour’s drive east of Grafton, the North Coast is home to golden beaches, lush rainforest, and coastal estuaries. Hike along the coast and camp by the beachside in Yuraygir National Park, then hop between beaches such as Woolgoolga, Red Rock, and Sapphire Beach. To the south, Coffs Harbour has surf breaks, seafood restaurants, and the popular Big Banana Fun Park.
New England Tablelands
West of Grafton, wild rivers tumble through gorges, and swaths of World Heritage-listed rainforest blanket the tablelands. There are six national parks to choose from where you camp in the bush, hike through the jungle, or venture off-road along rugged 4WD trails. Highlights include white water rafting in Nymboida National Park, rainforest walks in Washpool National Park, and canoeing through Guy Fawkes River National Park.
Grafton blushes with purple flowers in spring (September through November) when the city’s iconic jacaranda trees bloom. Time your visit for the biggest event of the year—the week-long jacaranda Festival at the end of October—when thousands of visitors flock to the town. Grafton has four distinct seasons, but it rarely gets too hot or cold for camping and outdoor activities.