Maclean

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Yuraygir National Park ... a great spot to enjoy a coastal walk Photo: G Turner; Destination NSW

Och aye the noo! There’s wee bit of Scoooorrrttttland right here in Australia. Och aye, laddies and lassies, the New South Wales town of Maclean is officially known as ‘the Scottish Town in Australia’ … and it takes its Celtic heritage seriously.

So much so that many of its street signs are written in Gaelic as well as English, and the famed century-old Maclean Highland Gathering draws visitors from around Australia – and beyond – each Easter.  This year’s event runs from March 29-30 and, as usual, will feature street concerts, dancers, pipers and singers, as well as traditional Scottish games including caber tossing and hammer throwing.

Maclean – situated just off the Pacific Highway between Coffs Harbour and the Gold Coast  – also hosts the headquarters for a large prawn trawling fleet, and is known as the gateway to Australia’s Sugar Country … but it’s Scotland that rules the roost here. Local hostelries serve haggis, the power poles are painted with tartan designs, and a large Scottish Cairn has been erected overlooking the Clarence River.

Grey nomads – whether of Scottish ancestry or not – will love visiting the Cairn, the Maclean Lookout, The Pinnacle rock formation, the Bicentennial Museum, and Australia’s oldest free Presbyterian church, which still holds services for the descendants of the early settlers

The scenic riverside town, which boasts a population of just over 3,000, is also a popular freezer-filling destination for fishermen and it offers great access to some magnificent coastal national parks.
Black Rocks campground at Bundjalung National Park to the north-west offers great camping for caravans behind the dunes and amongst tuckeroo and banksia trees. Not far away either is Yuraygir National Park which boasts the state’s longest stretch of undeveloped coastline.  In the park’s northern areas there are a couple of caravan friendly camping areas. The Lake Arragan and Red Cliff campgrounds offer excellent access to the park’s rocky headlands, isolated beaches, lakes, forests and wetlands.

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There are also a number of excellent caravan parks in the area, including the Maclean Riverside Caravan Park in the township itself.

The river is, of course a central and well-loved feature of Maclean but, as well as bringing joy, it can also threaten to bring heartache. When flooding hit Australia’s east coast earlier this year, the township was only just spared inundation when the river peaked at 3.1 metres … lower than expected and slightly below the 3.3-metre levy.

Forget the luck of the Irish … how about the luck of the Scottish!

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