Maclean's Highland Gathering has been part of its identity and is still going strong more than a century later.
Maclean's Highland Gathering has been part of its identity and is still going strong more than a century later. Adam Hourigan

Five things Maclean got right

Here's the good news Maclean. The things deemed 'right' in the picturesque river town:

1. Absence of chain stores

Bar a couple of franchises, the main street of Maclean is a refreshing example of community-based retail, each shopfront with its own identity and owners to match gives the township a boutique feel. It's home to SPAR one of the country's friendliest supermarkets with the awards to back up that claim while up the hill you feel like you've ducked into Melbourne thanks to coffee haven Botero.

Maclean main street is an attractive shopping precinct with preserved facades and more examples of complementary signage. It's parallel parking system is also better for pedestrians' lungs but trickier to manoeuvre if you panic about holding up traffic. Then it's just a matter of heading around to the rear CBD carpark. If Maclean's shops extended their weekend trading hours the town could head down the same path as tourist hotspots Bangalow and Bellingen some day.

2. Capitalising on its Scottish heritage

Having quirky additions like the tartan poles and the annual gathering, street names, the Cairn, a cute souvenir shop, the Scottish Town in Australia is keeping its historical story alive and well in the 21st century (and don't the grey nomads love it). While haggis isn't everyone's idea of a meal made in heaven, a Scottish themed restaurant could be an interesting addition - but not that one with the golden arches.

3. The panoramic lookout

The expansive views of the Clarence Coast from the Maclean Lookout is one of the town's best assets.
The expansive views of the Clarence Coast from the Maclean Lookout is one of the town's best assets. Kelly O'shea

Developing that as a viewing platform was genius and provides a rare opportunity in the flat ol' Clarence to soak up breathtaking broad expanse of the Lower River out to the coast. Spotting landmarks and villages is what lookouts are all about and Maclean's vantage point gives you plenty of scope to spot numerous villages, infrastructure and coastal hubs. Maybe more signage and promotion of that viewing platform along with the indigenous site and impressive balancing rocks The Pinnacles would see more tourists coming off the highway for a sticky.

4. Wherrett Park sporting fields

 

The expansive Wherrett Park sporting fields are a hive of activity most weekends.
The expansive Wherrett Park sporting fields are a hive of activity most weekends. Debrah Novak

This expansive green space is a boon for a town of Maclean's size ensuring its children (and grown ups) are given every opportunity to get away from those screens and burn some energy outdoors. The park's nearby indoor sports complex, hard courts, skatepark and other infrastructure turns the area into quite the sports hub.

5. Close proximity to highway bypass

 

Access to Maclean from the new highway bypass will be a lot friendlier than it is at Grafton.
Access to Maclean from the new highway bypass will be a lot friendlier than it is at Grafton. Adam Hourigan

Unlike G-town down the road which will be 13kms away from the action, Maclean is barely arm's length from the highway upgrade so the prospect of pulling traffic into the township is very attractive. Ferry Park Gallery has been chugging away doing this for years already but there might need to be a few more thoughtful additions to capture the town's charm and creative spirit on the outskirts to entice travellers past those fast food supa centres.



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