GRAFTON, on a bend of the wide Clarence River, is a genteel, old-fashioned place with wide, tree-lined avenues; Victoria and Fitzroy streets are lined with pretty, Federation-style houses. The Jacaranda Festival (late Oct– early Nov; www.jacarandafestival.org.au) celebrates the town's jacaranda and flame trees, which come ablaze with mauve, maroon and white blossoms in the spring. Out of festival time it's a tranquil place, where the main attraction is visiting some of the historic buildings. Schaeffer House (Tues– Thurs & Sun 1–4pm; $3), at 190 Fitzroy St, dating to 1900, has a collection of china, glassware and period furniture; on the same street at no. 158 is the Grafton Regional Gallery (Tues– Sun 10am–4pm), which has some fine temporary exhibitions and local artwork.
Countrylink train services along the north coast stop at Grafton Station, close to the river crossing in South Grafton, while long-distance buses stop near the visitor centre. Either way, it's a half-hour walk into the town proper. Grafton is on the main Sydney– Brisbane Greyhound and Premier Motor Service routes; Ryan's also run to Coffs Harbour, while Busways operate regular buses between the town and South Grafton.
As for accommodation, Roches Family Hotel (Tel:02/6642 2866, Web: www.roches.com.au ; Price: up to $60) at 85 Victoria St, and the Crown Hotel-Motel (Tel:02/6642 4000, Web: www.crownhotelmotel.com ; Price: hotel $75, Price: motel $100) at 1 Prince St. Both offer great-value rooms and even better-value pub grub (including $5.90 lunch specials at Roches) are good, though the location, overlooking the river, is more appealing at the latter. More in keeping with the town's style, Arcola B&B (Tel:02/6643 1760, Web: www.arcola.com.au ; Price: $131–200), at 150 Victoria St, is a gracious heritage house on the banks of the river, furnished with antiques, and serving scrumptious breakfasts.
A lovely place to eat is the award-winning Georgie's Café (Tues– Sun 9am–4pm, dinner from 6pm to late Wed– Sat; book for dinner Tel:02/6642 6996), at the Regional Art Gallery, which serves delicious light meals for lunch and slightly more sophisticated dishes for dinner, in a leafy courtyard or inside amongst the art.