15 things to do in Grafton (Australia)

Surrounded by a bend in the Clarence River, the city of Grafton is known for its historic buildings and stately avenues lined with mature trees.

In October, Grafton’s many jacarandas are in bloom, a mesmerizing sight celebrated with a week-long festival.

The city has many Victorian, Edwardian and interwar buildings.

Many of these monuments are open to the public as museums, regional art galleries, and huge movie theaters/theaters.

If you want to explore the breathtaking natural beauty of North East NSW, Grafton can also be your base, with its magnificent beaches, gorges and World Heritage rainforest.

1. Jacaranda Festival

blooming jacaranda tree

For a brief period of early summer, Grafton’s streets and parks are bathed in a magical purple glow, when the city’s hundreds of jacaranda trees bloom.

To pay tribute to this spectacle, Grafton hosts a week-long Jacaranda Festival, from the last weekend of October to the first weekend of November.

Throughout the festival, events take place across the city, from fun runs to open gardens, afternoon tea and the coronation of queens, princesses and drag queens.

It all culminated in Jacaranda on Thursday, when the CBD was completely occupied by touring performers and market stalls serving delicious food and crafts.

The second Saturday has a parade of floats, followed by a sunset concert, and a 10k river run on Sunday.

2. Grafton Heritage Trail

Victorian Court House, Grafton Heritage Trail

If there’s any city good for hiking, it’s Grafton, with its wide boulevards, stately mature trees and well-preserved Victorian and Edwardian buildings.

Call the Clarence Valley Information Centre for a flyer on the Heritage Trail, which shows you 25 historic sites around Grafton.

Many of these have been listed by the National Trust, and we’ll cover some of them in more detail later, but one attraction we won’t mention is Grafton Prison.

Opened in 1893, this is still a medium-security men’s and women’s correctional center, but you can check out the grand castle-like façade on Hoof Street.

There are many beautiful homes around the city, but probably the most beautiful is Arcola (1907) at 150 Victoria Street, a Queen Anne Revival house that is now a bed and breakfast.

3. Look at the park

see the park

One of the best places to see jacarandas in November is See Park, one of a series of green spaces in the heart of Grafton, on the route to Alumy Creek.

Since Grafton’s trees are a huge asset to the city, See Park is kept spotlessly clean, with gorgeous landscaping and a complex including a sheltered picnic and barbecue area, duck pond with fountain, shady playground , artificial waterfalls and public facilities. Toilet.

See Park has plenty of mature trees to give you respite from the sun, and you’ll be amazed at how vibrant the park is with many lizards scurrying around.

4. Clarence River Historical Society

Clarence River Historical Society

The headquarters of the area’s historical society is in the elegant Schaeffer House, a homestead built in the early 20th century by the sons of a pioneering German family.

It houses a museum and research room, and the Society is the oldest of its kind in NSW, founded in 1931. FWC Schaeffer was Grafton’s first architect, and when you visit, be sure to appreciate the exceptional quality of craftsmanship and fittings.

The interior is filled with paintings, black and white photography, glassware, ceramics, furniture, clothing, textiles and plenty of interesting handicrafts depicting the history of the Clarence River region.

5. Nymboida National Park

Nymboida National Park

Grafton is the starting point for some amazing natural spaces on the coast and on the Great Dividing Range.

Nymboida National Park lies to the west, in a setting of towering old-growth forests and rushing rivers.

The region’s steep slopes were formed by the age of ancient volcanoes and faults and uplifts, where rocks and distant valleys were cut by the Mann and Nymboida rivers.

A great way to traverse the park is by canoeing, battling rapids, and scouring the clear waters for the last breeding populations of water dragons, sea turtles, and the critically endangered eastern freshwater cod.

6. Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton

There has been a church on this spot on Duke Street since 1842, and the current building is of salmon pink brick, built in a decade between 1874 and 1884. Christ Church Cathedral is in the Gothic Revival style, lining the street between lawns and trees, and was designed by architect John Horbury Hunt (1838-1904). During this time he was responsible for compiling a catalogue of churches and other public buildings in NSW.

Today, the church is a Grafton icon, brimming with decorative brickwork and reflecting the transition between Early English and Decorative Gothic styles around 1300. Check out the majestic western arches, and Hunter’s clever use of wooden shutters instead of glass as a way to cool the interior.

7. Grafton Regional Gallery

art gallery

The largest art collection on the North Coast is at the Regional Gallery in Grafton, which hosts more than 40 exhibitions each year to showcase its inventory.

You can also watch performances by local and national artists, as well as major traveling exhibitions.

As you’d expect from Grafton, the gallery is located in Prentice House, a historic and strategic location, built in 1880 as both a residence and an operating theatre, and converted into a gallery in 1986. The institution has a prestigious biennial Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award in the art world to promote contemporary Australian painting, valued at over $30,000.

8. Yuraygir National Park

Urigil National Park

The remote and protected north coast of NSW is a cozy drive east of Grafton, frequented by generations of Aboriginal people of the Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr groups.

Yuraygir is extremely rich in biodiversity, consisting of vast beaches, dunes, lakes, ancient coastal landforms, wetlands, coastal rainforests, clay badlands and eucalyptus forests.

It protects 65km of coast with 48 beaches and is the largest national park on the NSW coast.

There is a coastal walk along the entire length, which takes a full four days to complete.

This is one of dozens of hikes on offer that you can combine with bird watching, whale watching (winter), surfing and swimming in the ocean.

The landscape is also intertwined with waterways and lakes, perfect for paddling if you have a boat, canoe, kayak or paddleboard.

9. Salaton Theatre

Salaton Theatre

A notable attraction on Princes Street is the heritage-listed Salaton Theatre, Australia’s largest cinema complex and performing arts theatre.

The exterior dates back to 1926, but the interior and popular Art Deco style originates from a 1940-ready luxury makeover. The 950-seat Main Auditorium is a luxurious venue for watching a new Hollywood movie or a classical concert, live performance, theatre, dance or comedy.

Saraton is also used for conferences and community performances, and the complex has two new cinemas, each with stadium seating for 150 people.

10. Washpool National Park

Washpool National Park

This adventure takes you inland, right on the edge of the Great Cliff, into the UNESCO World Heritage Rainforest, with its deep canyons and clear, babbling streams.

Washpool National Park is located within the Gondwana Rainforest in the Australian World Heritage Area.

This includes the largest subtropical rainforest area on Earth, as well as most of the world’s surviving beech cold rainforest and large swaths of warm rainforest.

Here you will encounter an extraordinary trekking environment, among the ancient and primitive plant and animal species from which life on Earth evolved.

Explore this pristine world on a half-day Washpool walk, or lace up your boots for the 45km World Heritage walk that connects the park with the Gibraltar Mountains to the south.

11. Cold Creek Gallery

Cold Creek Gallery

A short walk along the Clarence River will take you to the historic port of Ulmara, which was frozen at the turn of the century and still operates a cable car on the river.

The elegant Sydney department store is one of the few evocative buildings.

Dating from 1907, it is covered with weatherboards, geometric tiles on the frieze and a beautifully carved balcony on the street.

Since 1975, the building has been home to the Coldstream Gallery, specializing in locally produced paintings and a variety of works in bronze, wood, glass, and more.

You can stop to appreciate the history and buy original souvenirs, while the gallery also hosts creative classes and workshop programs, and rents accommodation in this delightful location.

12. Clarence Gorge


This excursion takes a 90-minute drive into the mountains northwest of Grafton, where the Clarence River cuts through rock faces and rushes over a series of waterfalls.

Unlike the other natural attractions posted above, Clarence Gorge is actually on private land and visiting requires some planning.

What you can do is book a farm stay with the landowner, who in 2019 took over 8,000+ acres and about 10km of river frontage. Living in this exhilarating place, you can walk through the jungle, observe canyons and waterfalls up close, take a canoe to challenge yourself in the rapids, or try catching and releasing fish.

13. Grafton Bridge

Grafton Bridge

A word about a pair of crossings on the Clarence River in Grafton.

After 17 years of planning, a new road bridge opened in December 2019, with a pedestrian and cycle path set slightly down from the road.

From there you can see the old Grafton ‘Bendy’ Bridge which is still in use and well worth a visit.

Completed in 1932 after a decade of construction, this heritage-listed building is almost unique in NSW for a few reasons.

One is a double-deck road/railway form, and the other is an open-close type whose active span has been sealed closed.

You can see this mechanism on the South Bank, where the span was last raised in 1969 when water mains were added at the intersection.

14. Grafton District Golf Club


This 18-hole course just outside South Grafton welcomes non-members.

It’s in a lovely setting, on the slopes of native jungle.

The sloping terrain allows for tricky testing for elevated tee and longtime golfers, but will be forgiving for those still learning the ropes.

Don’t be surprised if kangaroos join you in the rough, as the bushes around the course are inhabited by around 100 thugs.

After the round, take in the views from the clubhouse’s scenic balcony and refuel at Birdies on Bent, Grafton’s social hub for satisfying meals and snacks.

15. Clarence Valley Information Center

Visitor Information

Grafton is the largest settlement in the Clarence Valley region, occupying much of north-eastern New South Wales and containing about 60 towns and villages.

The Visitor Information Centre is stocked with plenty of local and regional maps, brochures and leaflets to stay on top of all possibilities.

You can find out about upcoming events in the area, book accommodation and get in-depth advice on routes to the many national parks near Grafton.

If you’re just here after a long trip, you can have a drink, relax in the gallery courtyard and use the free Wi-Fi.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Grafton, Australia
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