For a family foodie trip that’ll tick everyone’s boxes, head straight for the Northern Rivers.
From seaside Yamba to riverside Grafton, the Clarence Valley food scene is positively booming, with its regional dishes making the best of not only farm-to-table dining but sea-to-plate as well. And if you’re planning a NSW North Coast family trip with everyone from the littlies to the grandparents, you’ll be making a mistake if you don’t stop for a nibble or three at its all-ages eateries.
Intrigued? We’ve lined up the best fine-dining restaurants, kid-friendly pubs, cafes, craft breweries and cocktail bars to add to your Clarence Valley must-visit list.
Marvel at the views while tasting the best of Clarence Valley. (Image: My Clarence Valley)
If you find yourself drawn back to the Clarence Valley after some time away, you’ll be excited to hear that new restaurants have been popping up all over the shop.
One of the newer ones to watch? Yamba’s El Ocaso. Created by the minds behind the popular Barbarasco in Angourie (unfortunately now closed), El Ocaso serves up Mediterranean-style tapas that capitalise on local produce. Think romantic dates out on its deck, feasting on Yamba whiting croquettes with lemon zest and chilli aioli, or eye fillet carpaccio with truffle aioli, parmesan and mushrooms, finishing off with a dark chocolate and hazelnut tiramisu.
Get romantic at El Ocaso.
Searching for a laidback atmosphere with a cocktail in hand? Sunset and Wine in Iluka is the place to go. Perched on the edge of the Clarence River, this chilled-out spot serves nibbles and is the perfect venue for watching the sun sink over the water while enjoying champagne or cocktails with oysters.
Stop in Iluka for a cocktail at Sunset and Wine.
Food tours and trails
Take your own crafty Yamba drinks tour to discover the local drops, starting in the industrial end of town at Yamba Distilling Co. This friendly distillery-meets-bar is a revamped space for the former Clarence Distillery, where you’ll find tipples such as lemon myrtle vodka, rosella gin and jacaranda-inspired liquor.
Take a seat in the shaded garden at Yamba Distilling.
Arrive for a cocktail or two in the shaded garden with nibbles from their ‘serve yourself’ cheese and olive fridge, or enjoy a gin flight.
Taste lemon myrtle vodka, then take it home with you.
Next, make your way to Wobbly Chook Brewing Company, Yamba’s first craft brewery, in the centre of town. It has an extensive food menu that stretches from breakfast to dinner, with larger options like seafood baskets and schnitzel burgers, and bites that include crispy cauliflower and duck spring rolls.
Order a few plates to share with some pale ales, lagers and hoppy beers for the group. Want to make a night of it? The Wobbly Chook also has queen and family-sized rooms.
Treat yourself to Yamba’s first craft brewery.
For breakfast, it’s hard to go past the Clarence Kitchen Collective in South Grafton. This community space is a wholesome pitstop on your way up or down the Pacific Highway. As well as a yoga studio, workshop space and bulk food store, there’s an attached wholefoods cafe.
Snag a table before the morning rush and replenish yourself with freshly made granola, vegan treats, fruit and that well-earned cup of coffee. Make sure to keep an eye out for any talks and workshops held here, so you can refresh your mind as well as your body.
Join a yoga class then refuel at Clarence valley Kitchen Collective.
Craving some of that famous Clarence Valley seafood? Sandbar Yamba is one of the best places to go, with al fresco dining to boot.
Open from breakfast to dinner, this French-inspired beachside restaurant is nothing if not inventive. Favourites include a seaside twist on a classic eggs benedict, with prawns, salmon roe, hollandaise and poached eggs, as well as spanner crab spaghetti with champagne beurre blanc, and miso-glazed seared scallops.
Sit down to famous Clarence Valley seafood at Sandbar.
Take our advice: dive in for a beach swim beforehand to work up an appetite. You’ll need it to get through as many of these dishes as you can!
Places for a tipple
All this exploring can be thirsty work, and if you want to stop by one of the area’s most famous pubs, the Ulmarra Hotel is ready and waiting.
Its restaurant overlooks the Clarence River and serves up pub favourites like Cooper beer-battered fish and chips, chargrilled steaks, chicken parmis and a kids’ menu. There’s also a variety of pizzas, with toppings ranging from Yamba prawns to vegan cheese.
Stop by Ulmarra Hotel for beer-battered fish and chips.
Afterwards, take a walk in the hotel’s garden or admire the vintage decor (the building itself dates back to 1912). This pretty pub also has three-star accommodation, with 10 bedrooms available.
With your nominated designated driver at the wheel, drive out towards Townsend to find Sanctus Brewing Company. As well as tours and beers, including pilsners, IPAs, lagers and alcoholic ginger beers, this craft brewery also serves up some Aussie-infused spirits like finger lime gin.
Expect a brewery-meets-distillery that’s ideal for all age groups, with indoor and outdoor seating, easy street food options (like tacos and pizzas), and plenty of outside space for the kids to enjoy.
Take a tour then enjoy the pizza at Sanctus Brewing Company.
If romance is on the cards – or you simply want a special place to experience Yamba’s fine dining with the family – make a booking at Karrikin.
Take a seat in the tropical-style garden and wait on tenterhooks for their evolving and regional four-course set menu to arrive; inclusions are as wide-ranging as fresh tomato and prawn salad, rare spiced venison and Davidson plum black forest tart. Pair the courses with their range of natural wines and cocktails made from local spirits and you’ve got yourselves a gorgeous evening ahead.
Take dining to the next level at Karrikin.