Have you ever stumbled upon hidden gems unexpectedly? That’s precisely what happened to me during a work trip to Grafton New South Wales. The serendipitous discoveries of Emerald Beach and Solitary Island left me utterly surprised and enchanted. Despite being located in the vicinity of Coffs Harbour, I chose to stay in Grafton during my visit and seized the opportunity to explore these two hidden and breathtaking destinations whenever my schedule allowed.
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Known for its pretty streets during the Jacaranda season, Grafton is a city located in the northern most part of New South Wales (NSW) state in Australia. Situated on the Clarence River, Grafton an idyllic riverside town. With rich cultural heritage such as historic buildings, museums, and heritage-listed sites reflecting its colonial history, Grafton is a blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and community events.
Jacarandas in Grafton
Renowned for its annual Jacaranda Festival, the town has more than 2000 Jacaranda trees. During the Jacaranda season, between the months of mid October to early November, the entire town turns purple.
If you are in Sydney, then there are a number of places where you can see Jacarandas too, read Best places to find Jacarandas in Sydney.
How to Get to Grafton?
The quickest way to reach Grafton is by taking a flight. Grafton has a small airport and the flights are operated by the regional provider Rex Airlines. As there are limited flights to the town, the tickets are expensive.
Grafton is closer to Brisbane than Sydney. From Brisbane, the distance to Grafton is around 315 kilometres and takes about 3 hours 40 minutes drive.
From Sydney, the distance to Grafton is around 620 kilometres and the journey takes 6 hours 40 minutes. I had driven to Grafton from Sydney and the drive is easy and relaxed. Even though the drive is pretty straightforward, I do suggest taking a break at a place on your drive. There are plenty of stop over points along the way.
By Public Transport
The other way to reach Grafton is by taking a regional train. There is a train of 10 hours from Sydney to Grafton that operates daily. For up to date information on timings, cost and route, refer the Transport for NSW website.
Where to Stay in Grafton?
When I was in Grafton, I stayed at an Airbnb listed property. The property is a 2 bedroom apartment with fabulous views of the ocean from the living and the bedroom. The cost was about AUD 215 per night. There are many birds, including magpies, lorikeets, crown doves and seagulls, that you can spot at the property.
Restaurants to Try in Grafton
Even though Grafton is a small town compared to others, there are still restaurants and cafes that cater for all kinds of cuisines. Some of the restaurants I tried are:
- One amazing restaurant I would like to recommend is a Mexican place called La Hacienda 101. Their chicken tacos and quesadillas were the best.
- There are also a Pizza and Pasta places that are really good and have delicious food.
Things To Do at Grafton
Even though Grafton does not have too many things to do, there are still a few things that you can do and have a relaxed weekend holiday.
- The streets of Grafton are absolutely spectacular and beautiful for viewing the Jacarandas during the Jacaranda season. The photographers rush to the town during the Jacarandas season.
- You can visit the Christ church cathedral and the regional gallery at the city centre.
Also Read – Floriade in Canberra.
- There are plenty of cafes and restaurants that have locals enjoy their morning coffees and breakfast. Definitely try these cafes and if possible talk to the locals.
- Meet the locals like the wallabies. Grafton is one of the places to see kangaroos in the wild in Australia. There are many of them near the beaches in Grafton that laze around the whole day. Do not feed them!
Grafton’s Hidden Spot 1: Emerald beach
Located approximately 70 kilometres from Grafton and 20 kilometers north of Coffs Harbour, Emerald Beach is a stunning and secluded destination that is truly worth exploring. Offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and is often considered a serene and isolated escape, Emerald beach is known for its pristine white sands, crystal-clear waters, and lush natural surroundings.
How to Get to Emerald beach?
- By Air – There are regional flights between Sydney and Coffs Harbour, and between Sydney and Grafton. As the regional flights are limited, they are usually very expensive so the best way to get to Coffs Harbour is to drive.
- By Road – The best and only way to reach Emerald beach is by driving. It is around 70 kilometres from Grafton and 20 kilometres from Coffs Harbour.
Grafton’s Hidden Spot 2: Solitary Island Coastal Walk
A delightfully simple yet scenic stroll awaits along the Solitary Island Coastal Walk. This walk is a must-do when in Grafton, Coffs Harbour or exploring Emerald Beach. With stunning vistas of the ocean and the opportunity to encounter numerous wallabies along the way, it easily secures a top spot on any to-do list.
How to Get to Hills beach from Emerald beach?
The Solitary Island Coastal Walk commences at Hills Beach, which is conveniently just a 30-minute drive from Emerald Beach, spanning a distance of approximately 19 kilometers.
Logistics of Solitary Islands Coastal Walk
- Starting point: Hills beach.
- Distance: Depends on your preference and interest. The walk goes up to 60 kilometres. I did only 5 kilometres as I was running low on time.
- Grade: Easy if you are doing only part of the walk.
- Time taken: Depends on the distance you are walking. I took approximately 1.5 hours (with lots of photography breaks).
- Cost: Free.
These destinations collectively create an incredible weekend getaway. I had the pleasure of discovering Emerald Beach, a hidden gem I hadn’t known about before. The Solitary Island Coastal Walk left me eager to return for an extended stroll. Additionally, I am intrigued by the fact that Solitary Island is renowned as one of Australia’s premier scuba diving locations, making it an enticing prospect for future exploration.
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