Another idea for a spare day, is to travel 16kms along the Pacific highway to the 19th century river-port village of Ulmarra. The entire village is classified by the National Trust.
You can either pick up a heritage walk brochure or download one from the listed web-site. Not everything is old though! I found the Wood shop which had lovely items made out of wood for sale, not cheap though!
You can return to Grafton by catching the Free Ferry across the River and follow the scenic route to Grafton.
This is a pretty Tourist Drive we have done many times before. If you have some time to spare, then why not go for this 66kms drive. You can make a day of it, fuel is available along the way, and food is available at Maclean and Lawrence.
It was a pity we struck smoke from nearby bushfires, this was especially bad in spots near Grafton.
The drive took us through farmland where cows were grazing contently, past lagoons where waterbirds and even some Black Swans were on the water. A little further on, the mighty Clarence River appeared on the right hand side. We arrived at Lawrence, at town in a lovely location.
Here we had to make a decision. We could cross the River by FREE FERRY at Lawrence or continue on further, and take the FREE Bluff Point Ferry - this is what we did. They are both on route 22, it is for you to choose which way to go!
We were heading towards Maclean, and I knew we were getting close, as I started to see tartan painted power poles along the roadside. These denote the clan tartans of various Scottish families in MACLEAN. This is where we stopped and returned to Grafton.
You may want to follow the Clarence River, which is now on the left hand side, to where it enters the Ocean in the sea-side town of Yamba. Jacarandas and Flame trees line this part of the drive.
YAMBA is the end of the scenic route, one that you can make smaller or longer if you so wish.
Remember to look for the brown tourist sign with "22" on it. The route is well signposted.
This beautiful scenic drive of 66 k along the banks of the mighty Clarence River is very nostalgic for me for this is where I was born but only have faint childhood memories as I did not return here for many years.
You can begin the drive in the historic tree lined city of Grafton and head for Yamba or vice versa or you can 'join in' along the way at maybe Maclean or even Ulmarra. There are two car ferries depending on where you join the drive to add to the excitement and nostalgia.....one at Ulmarra and the other at Lawrence
If you begin at the seaside town of Yamba do keep me in mind...I still have a memory of being fished out of an ocean wave....guess I was not in any real danger but I still recall the feeling.
It is a good idea to download the directions for this drive from the website or else call in at an information centre.
After leaving Yamba you cross over Palmer's Island heading for the Scottish town of Maclean where I was born "Maclean on the Clarence" is how I always describe my birthplace. In Maclean do stop and explore the beautifully restored boulevard area. From here the way is to cross by ferry to Lawrence....Next you can cross the river back again by ferry to visit Ulmarra or continue on to Grafton coming in the back way . It is possible to head for Grafton from Ulmarra on the Pacific Highway via South Grafton and cross by bridge to Grafton CBD.
The Nymboida River is known as one of Australia's wild rivers. White water rafting, canoeing and fishing are common activities on its surface but, just after it reaches its confluence with the Clarence it becomes temporarily impassable due to a sheer drop called simply "The Gorge" or "Clarence Gorge".
This place is where those wishing to escape the city and spend time bushwalking, fishing or canoeing will find happiness.
You can camp beside the river and listen to the soft rush of the waters as the moon rises over the glorious valley.
You can also overnight in "The Shack" where you'll need to bring your own linen. It sleeps up to 12 at a pinch and has bathroom and laundry facilites as well as a kitchen.
Access is via tar then dirt road and you need to allow about an hour from Grafton and it's not advisable while it's raining or immediately after rain. Otherwise it's not too bad by Australian standards.
There are properties either side of the gorge where you can stay. I've only been on the south side and that's home to Neil and Sue Winters.
I walked from their house all the way to the gorge and a little beyond. It's a pleasant flat walk and, it the river has some fresh in it, the falls can be spectacular.
Neil also does boat trips that take you right up to the falls except if there's a lot of water coming d own and then it's too dangerous. He also has hire boats for fishing.
The property is over 8,300 acres and has over 10 kilometres of river frontage.
Yuraygir is touted thus, "..provides excellent fishing and surfing opportunities and is said to contain some of the best beaches in the country." Personally, I think that's a bit over the top. There are definitely some areas on the north coast that are certainly its equal or better.
Having said that, the northern end probably has the better of it. Wooli and Minnie Waters offer some great fishing, especially if you have a boat, and Sandon Point is a noted surf spot while at the very north, Angourie is world renowned for its epic waves.
On my last visit I pushed the boundaries a little further and took the walk to Freshwater Beach, the next one up from Pebbly. (pic 4)
Since I didn't have my shoes there were some sharp moments and I managed to get a couple of small cuts in my feet, notably on the headland at Pebbly where the geology means that the striations are near vertical which has made for some nasty edges where the soft rock has left sharp ridges exposed. (pic 3)
At one stage I came across a lovely small branch that had yellow on it and some silver grey. Might get a close up of that I thought. Then it moved. Snakes do that. Lucky it was in an away direction!
On the return journey I saw 17, though none of them turned out to be snakes. It's amazing how much more aware you become after a close encounter.
I've had some experiences here, none better than the last two. On the Tuesday the weather was filthy and I had my work clothes on. I got through the knee deep water at low tide with only having to take my shoes off but when I finally got to the other side it started to rain and I ended up wet all over, despite sheltering beneath the sparse tree cover.
The next day I arrived shortly before midday. This time it was high tide. In between taking photos and frustrating attempts to broach Station Creek it took me about half an hour before, naked from the waist down, I made it over (or through) the flowing water. I had left my shoes behind this day, ultimately not a good decision, but convenient for the crossing. It left room to stash my trousers in the backpack.
When I returned I had a thought as to how good it would be if a vehicle came to this lonely part of the world. This before I stripped, naked to the waist again. Just as I was stacking my gear in the bag, along came a 4WD. How embarrassing. Since I desperately wanted a picture of someone crossing I grabbed my camera and turned the top half of my body to get a shot or two. (see pics 2-5)
That worked fine until Bob the concreter, on his way for an afternoon's fishing, stalled just 5 metres before getting clear of the water. I then had to redress, went down for a chat before Bob decided to go and get help from the 4WD at Pebbly Beach.
This allowed me to strip again and make the crossing back to Station Creek Beach.
There are signs warning people about the varying depths and you are advised to ford at low tide.
Somedays you just happen to get a special shot with your camera. Sometimes others don't rate the shot as you do. It's all a matter of where you're approaching the shot from.
Personally, I just love the opening shot. It clicks for me.
I would have probably felt the same about the second one because it's so hard to get bees in the right position in a flower.
The third is of a banksia flower, named after the slightly lesser known man from Cook's famous voyage who left us with a fabulous treasure trove of botanical knowledge whilst the fourth shows the melaleuca forest after rain. These trees are apparently something of a pest in Florida when they've gone totally feral to the detriment of natives. Here they are completely natural.
The final snap shows a pied oyster catcher wandering the dunes adjacent to the creek crossing.
There's an opportunity for those with a camera to capture some lovely seascapes. I arrived on an afternoon where the ocean was akin to a washing machine and strong onshore winds drove frequent showers across the sky. That's how I arrived at the wierd sky in the opening shot. It's one of those odd shots that keeps making me look at it for reasons I can't quite fathom. That's of Station Creek Beach. The next shot was about 15 minutes later at Pebbly Beach when the pastel tones of the sunset were reflected in the backwash.
The following day was all sunshine, the five day low finally driven away by an incoming high and shots 3 and 4 show you where the sea enters the lagoon. It was slightly downstream where I had to cross on day two.
Yuraygir, a national park situated on the coast where the Pacific Highway diverts inland just north of Red Rock and heads towards Grafton. When the highway returns to near the coast it's at Maclean. In between these two points is where you'll find Yuraygir.
I've been three times in from the south. This is the story of those trips.
The road in is 14 kilometres of one way. In times of rain there may be places where water breaches the road (see pic 5). This leads to an intersection where you can turn right if you have a four wheel drive which, strange to say, will eventually take you left. What happens is you reach the beach down this route and then hang a left along the sand until you reach the end and have to ford the creek that feeds the lagoon.
Should you go straight ahead, if you have an ordinary car or such, you reach a carpark soon after where there are barbecues, tables and toilets. This is a vast improvement on when I first went there.
To attain your next objective you walk along an easy trail (pic 4) for over a kilometre across vegetated sand dunes and arrive at Station Creek Beach.
On your left is the creek that you must ford for your next objective which is Pebbly Beach (pic 1). If you walk out to the headland on the right day you might see Sometime Falls in action (pic 2). This cascade is dependent upon tides and swell for it to work. A little further around there's an outcrop of rock with distinctly marble tones that makes for a colourful interlude (pic 3).
The real reason I went to the river was to shoot the sunset. It didn't happen and didn't look like happening so I packed up and drove further along the road to Glen Innes.
Suddenly the cloud formations looked promising again so I unloaded my camera and went off into a field. It didn't happen again so I returned to the car and stopped just to take a couple of shots looking south.
When I'd finished I turned around and suddenly it all happened. Off back through the barbed wire fence (not easy when you're in a hurry!) and over to the dead trees. Bingo, I got lucky. Then again, as has been said many times, sometimes you make your own luck.
I hope you enjoy.
There's several places along the river where you can get good photos but the problem is they're mainly on private land and you're not always welcome on some properties, even if it is just to take photos. You have to respect that.
Still, there are many spots where you can access the river and, if you have a boat, there's no limits to where you might end up.
Walking along the banks, seeking the water shots I had stopped to take, I noticed other things that had their own beauty. There were small daisies, fresh leaf growth and fungi, especially the fungi. Close up they can be delightful. The colours, the patterns, the location; all blend in to make them something special.
I was fascinated by the red one as grass had actually grown through the "leaf" where it lay on the ground and I first had to remove it to make the growth able to be photographed.
On the way west there is a significant body of water. Actually, it's not so much a significant body of water as a significant gorge that it has carved over eons of time.
Located on the Gwydir Highway there's a big bridge across the river but the water is often serene and allows you to get shots like the one shown here.
I wouldn't recommend breaking the law to end up here. It doesn't look like a very friendly place at all.
Grafton is home to a high security jail and it was interesting to see an exercise area set aside for prisoners.