Grafton is the Northern Rivers hub for a host of great tar and dirt riding options. Base yourself here for adventures in every direction as the city sits at the crux of the Gwydir and Pacific highways, Summerland Way and Grafton-Armidale Rd.
It may be in NSW, but it falls into Queensland’s weather pattern of dry and mild winters with maximums in the low 20s and crisp, but not frosty mornings, and hot and wet summers, sometimes with the fat and wide Clarance River breaking its banks and flooding low-lying areas.
To the north you can explore the fishing villages of Maclean and Ulmarra and sit out the back of the Commercial Hotel sipping beers and shelling prawns from the fishermen’s co-op as the river creeps by. You have to take the free ferry ride across Clarence from Lawrence to Maclean. It’s fun, but be careful when it’s wet as the metal ramps can be slippery.
Head south along Armidale Rd and you can follow the churning Nymboida River to Russell Crowe’s Museum of Interesting Things which includes his movie props and costumes, plus motorcycles and other “interesting things”. They also have a tavern, the Coaching Station Inn, with a good lunch menu and clean, affordable accommodation. Keep following the twisties south through the forests to Ebor where you can grab a great coffee at Fusspots.
To the west the road bikes can climb the precipitous Gwydir Highway hairpins toward Glenn Innes, but be careful of damp, moss and leaf litter on the sides of the road and even ice in the shaded areas.
On a Harley Softail launch several years ago, one scribe ground the engine casings of a Custom until it bled on this wicked wiggly stretch.
Adventure riders can alternatively take the Old Grafton Rd with its Dalmorton Tunnel blown out of the rock walls, or the 30km of smooth gravel up the Gorge Rd to the stunning headwaters of the Clarence. there are also plenty of forest trails on both sides of the Grafton-Armidale Rd. Ask for details at the Coaching Station Inn and the locals will reveal some great tracks.
I always grab a room at the Crown Hotel, Prince St, on the banks of the mighty Clarence River for as little as $30, or you can treat yourself to more luxurious rooms at the Inn, some even with a spa bath!