RIGHT: The appealing Clarence Valley coastline.
RIGHT: The appealing Clarence Valley coastline.

Valley has beauty at every turn

The July Racing Carnival is one of the biggest events on the Clarence Valley calendar attracting visitors from far and wide every winter.

While it's obvious most visitors are here for one thing, outside of the act of horses running around the track there is plenty of downtime in amongst the five race meetings of the carnival.

Given its exquistive natural beauty, the Clarence Valley -- where the hills roll down to the floodplains and stretch out to kiss the coast -- it is well worth venturing out into and exploring while you are here.

To make the most of your precious spare-time following is a handy guide to some of the amazing things you can see and do around the Clarence to enhance your racing carnival experience. You might even find some divine inspiration to help with your punting, like the Yamba pelican who might peck you a winner if you entice him with a couple of the local prawns.

Take a drive into the hills

Since you've made it to Grafton, it would be rude not to take a peek out west at the stunning river country of the Upper Clarence hinterland. Within minutes of driving west of Grafton the road rises up off the floodplain and into the bush. Little rivers snake and weave through this rugged, rolling country, joining bigger rivers and towering ranges. It's here the Clarence is reborn and replenished every day.

Seafood and shopping in Yamba

Forty-five minutes north-east of Grafton is the bustling seaside town of Yamba. Voted the best town in Australia, Yamba is a beach lovers paradise - even in winter - with six beautiful beaches to enjoy.

It has a vibrant mix of award-winning restaurants, cafes and boutique shopping. The farmer's market every Wednesday morning is a great place to soak up the coastal vibe and rub shoulders with the locals. A few more must-dos when you're in town (there are too many to list) include catching the ferry across the mouth of the Clarence River to Iluka, lunching at the pub while watching the whales migrate north, and of course, you can't leave Yamba without a selfie peeling a few Yamba prawns down at the marina.

Cattle and cane drive

If you've got a few hours up your sleeve, head off the beaten track and prepare to fall in love with the picturesque landscapes and riverside villages downstream. The two-hour scenic Cattle and Cane Drive will take you from Grafton, through rolling cattle country to Lawrence, across the free car ferry to Maclean, north to the historic village of Ulmarra and back to Grafton. You'll experience more Australiana than you can poke a stick at.

Exploring Grafton

As you drive through the Jacaranda-lined streets of Grafton you can imagine how magnificent it must be in October when the trees are in full bloom. But it's July so you get to enjoy all of the other treasures Grafton has to offer.

Grafton is a city divided by the Clarence River, but joined by a bendy bridge built in 1932. Built on a floodplain, Grafton is flat and easy to explore on foot or by bike, including a trip across the Grafton Bridge via the footpath on the lower level, below the traffic.

If you enjoy a trip down memory lane, Schaeffer House is the museum for you. Cafés and restaurants of ridiculously good quality are scattered across Grafton, along with a heritage trail that takes in a visit to the Christ Church Cathedral built in 1884. And you haven't truly explored Grafton until you've visited South Grafton. The CBD is an eclectic mix of colorful murals, cafes, shops and old buildings reflecting architectural styles from around the turn of the century.

Walk this way

If you're up for a walk, big or small, try the Yuraygir Coastal Walk, a 65km multi-day walk that hugs the coastline from Angourie to Red Rock. The great thing about this track is you don't have to do the entire walk and you certainly don't need to pack dehydrated lasagna. You can jump on the track at any coastal village along the way and walk as far as you fancy in either direction. Whether you're a serious hiker or a leisurely stroller, it's a wonderful way to take in the coastline. Visit www.myclarencevalley.com to find a map of the walk.

  • There is so much more out there to do and explore so visit www.myclarencevalley.com and see what's on your door step.