Ulmarra Books and Collectables is surely a pilgrimage that any book lover or writer has to take in their lifetime. This little corner store is packed from floor to ceiling with second-hand books and publications of all shapes and sizes.
It has the air of an Aladdin's cave as you enter. Your eyes will need to adjust to the narrow spaces and tall bookshelves and you'll struggle to know where to start browsing. The owner, Russell Brownlee, is on hand to offer advice and guidance to any section you're looking for. There are quite a few sections (including detailed reference and textbook sections) but once you find the one you're looking for you'll be in heaven.
We always come away with at least a dozen books and it's always an eclectic selection. You'll find genre classics and old and new prints. You'll find the old favourite you couldn't find anywhere else and pick up a bunch of others you've heard about but never looked for.
There's a jumbled up kid's corner and many of the books look like they've come straight from your childhood bookshelf.
Books can have a presence. They carry a sense of history as they are passed from person to person and from bookshelf to bookshelf. Lots of the books we've brought home bear the original note to the receiver of the gift they were once intended as. It's this sense of history in the books and the sense of wonder at the sheer number of them that makes Ulmarra Books special.
The tiny village of Ulmarra on the Clarence River was, until recently, besieged by the Pacific Highway running right through the town. Nowadays, the Pacific Motorway (as it is now known) bypasses Grafton and Ulmarra far to the east and the old highway has been renamed Big River Way. I think this is a good thing for peaceful little villages like Ulmarra. Having said that, it was the highway signs that finally convinced me to stop and visit.
The shop also has an interesting display of decorative PNG masks, just for something different I suppose. There's also a few interesting little op-shops and galleries to check out along Coldstream Street while you're nearby. The pub has an excellent cafe overlooking the river if you're ready to eat and drink.