Nimbin is a colourful town with a small settlement and an alternative lifestyle. It is the self-proclaimed hippie capital of Australia and a delight for free-spirited explorers. Overseen by majestic rocks, it is situated on the legendary Pacific Coast of Australia. Although it has gained popularity and stardom by means of its heavy association with cannabis, Nimbin is much more than that.
Often mentioned as part of the Rainbow Region of New South Wales, it has enchanting waterfalls, verdant nature walks and breath-taking natural beauty. Take a walk around the strange town, and you’ll come across Bob Marley posters, Rastafarian colours, hemp bars, and love and peace slogans.
I was in Nimbin recently and would love to share my amazing experience with the world. Although there’s much not to see in this town, it ensures having all its visitors transported to the 70’s, even if that’s just for a day. So, are you ready?
Travelling to Nimbin: An Overview
Nimbin is a lovely travel destination for backpackers and other travelers even. The town gives you a glimpse into what could be termed carefree hippie culture.
Here are a few things you must know before you plan a visit.
New South Wales, Australia
Gold Coast Airport (55 kilometers)
From Brisbane: 180 kilometers
From Byron Bay: 75 kilometers
By flight, self-drive car, or a shuttle (from limited places – explained further in the article)
The currency accepted in Australia is the Australian Dollar (AUD). Conversion rates in terms of the AUD, American Dollar (USD) and Indian Rupee (INR) are as follows:
1 USD = 1.47 AUD; 1 AUD = 48.99 INR
Note that I’ve mentioned INR, because India is my home country. Also, these are the rates prevalent in September 2019, and are subject to change.
|Best time to visit
All year round
The hippie town in itself, Nimbin rocks, Hemp Embassy, Djanbung gardens, nature walks, waterfalls
Moderate to High
In a country that hasn’t legalized the recreational use of cannabis, Nimbin stands as a rebel. The story of this town is truly epic. Want to know more about it?
History of Nimbin: From a Dairy Town to A Hippie Capital
You’ll find it almost impossible to tell that Nimbin was once a dairy farming village. In 1973, when it played host to the Aquarius counter-cultural festival, the town emerged as a haven for those people wanting to deviate from the normal way of living life.
A group of Sydney University students discovered Nimbin as a perfect spot for the alternative lifestyle festival. After the festival, many people decided to stay back, and a few started moving to Nimbin. New communities emerged based on their ideas of freedom, acceptability and solidarity.
The alternative lifestyle opened doors for artists, musicians, writers, environmentalists, tourists and families escaping the city life and mainstream culture. Gradually, it came to be known as the ‘Hippie capital of Australia.’
Things to Do: It’s Not All About Cannabis
Nimbin is a small town with a one street market. A walk through Nimbin main street gives you a general idea of life here. Still, there are some exciting places to visit that you would not want to miss out on. As mentioned before, this laid-back town is much more than its cannabis culture. Sadly, a lot of travelers miss out on these gems. Don’t let that happen to you.
Nimbin rocks are the leftover volcanic extrusions formed as a result of the eruption of Mount Warning Tweed Volcano millions of years ago.
|Unfortunately, it is not a hiking spot and cannot be visited closely without approval from local indigenous people. You must view them from the road only.|
These rocks are an extremely significant cultural site for the local Bundjalung tribe of indigenous Australians. They believe that the rocks were home to the Nmbngee or the Clever Men.
Nimbin Farmers market
If you’d want to check out some fresh seasonal produce – fruits, vegetables, tofu, cheese, jams, and meat, these farmers markets in Nimbin are the place to go.
They are generally held on Wednesday afternoons from 3pm – 6pm in the Green Bank Carpark. Both locals and travelers can be found in large numbers here.
To all the shopping enthusiasts out there, a monthly event is held in Nimbin on every fourth and fifth Sunday of the month. The markets feature a variety of arts and craft stalls selling local and handmade jewelry, home-wares, clothing, food, etc. It takes place at the Nimbin Community Centre on Cullen street.
If you’re not up for doing much, you can simply take a lazy stroll in the botanical Djanbung Gardens, situated in the heart of Nimbin.
|Note that these gardens are shut on Mondays and Tuesdays. Timings on the rest of the days are 10AM to 4PM.|
Famous for offering training in permaculture and holistic living, these gardens attract environment fanatics. Here, one can also participate in a range of workshops.
Do visit the craft gallery for its display of beautiful paintings, pottery, handcrafted jewelry and local range of organic cotton t-shirts. It sure is a feast to eyes and not too heavy on one’s pockets, if you do wish to buy anything.
This is also a great place for one to take back goodies and gifts for near and dear ones.
Nimbin Artists Gallery
This gallery is an NGO, entirely run by volunteers. You can see local artists display their work including painting, etching, photography, sculpting, woodwork, etc.
A trip to Nimbin is incomplete without a visit to the Candle Factory. Staff at the Candle Factory takes the tourists for an informative tour, which is a blissful experience of color and fragrance. Candles of all shapes and sizes are on display and for sale.
A stopover at the Hemp Embassy is a must if you want to buy souvenirs and gifts.
|This Nimbin embassy’s goal is to produce environmentally sustainable products using hemp – a highly durable textile.|
You will find a range of hemp oil, hemp ropes, hemp clothing, fashion and cosmetics to choose from.
Festivals in Nimbin
I believe that by now, you have a fair idea of the kind of vibe and atmosphere that prevails in Nimbin. It is not too surprising that a number of festivals and events celebrating art, music, and culture have sprung up over here. Some of the most popular ones are as follows:
Nimbin Mardigrass: Of Protests and Rallies
As the hippie culture flourished in Nimbin, the economy started to stabilize. On the other hand, it also came to be known as the drug capital of Australia as Cannabis was openly bought, sold and consumed. Drugs are illegal in Australia and so, police intervention led to arrests and violence in Nimbin.
Considering it a threat to the peace of its village, people came to the streets with silent protests in 1993. Hence, began the annual rally and celebration Mardigrass – to protest the drug laws and educate people on various medicinal uses of cannabis. The rally is held on the first weekend of May every year.
3-day pass: 55 AUD
3-day pass with camping: 150 AUD
Protest rallies and parades
Hemp Olympix, Joint Rolling, Bong Throw and Yell and Growers Iron-person events.
Nimbin Cannabis Cup, Harvest Ball & Picker’s Ball.
Dancing Ganja Faeries.
In the year 2016, a law was passed to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in Australia. This was a big feat for the organizers and attendees of Madrigrass.
Nimbin Roots Festival: For Music Freaks
For music lovers, Nimbin is a paradise of counter-culture festivals. People and tourists in Nimbin enjoy three days of roots music, peace, love and art every year at the annual Roots Festival. Every year, the number of people attending the festival is on a rise – including, of course, a lot of hippies.
So, if you wish to immerse yourself in some great roots music while in Australia, visit Nimbin in the third week of September.
You can choose to buy per-day tickets, 2-day passes, or 3-day passes. Prices will vary accordingly (Roughly 50/90/105 AUD respectively)
Showcasing original music from artists
Genres: Old blues, Bluegrass, Old Time, Reggae, Alt Country, folk, world and Australiana.
The Nimbin Roots festival does not have one venue. The festival is spread throughout the town and a ticket and wristband will give you unlimited access to all of the venues.
Other Notable Festivals and Events in Nimbin
Apart from the Roots Festival and Mardigrass, there are several other festivals celebrated in this town.
The Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup
This annual event is community-sponsored and held in the month of August or September. The weekend-long event showcases poets and performers from around Australia. So, if you are a fan of poetry you must attend this event.
The Nimbin Show
The show has been held in September every year since 1919. It is a traditional style agricultural show, that showcases the very best horses, cattle, crafts, food, arts, crafts, and more from the region.
Most of these Nimbin festival tickets can be looked up and bought online.
Spending a Night in the Hippie Town
To be honest, you do not need more than a day trip to comfortably explore Nimbin. This is also one of the reasons why Nimbin does not have a lot of options to stay. Most people visit here for a day, and head back to Byron Bay or wherever they came from on the same day.
However, if you’re still keen on spending a night here just for the experience, you certainly can. Depending on your budget you can book a room for a night from anywhere between 28 AUD to 185 AUD.
Here are a few budget accommodation options –
|Nimbin Rox YHA Hostel (30 AUD per bed per night)
Here, you can find dorms, bedrooms, as well as tents for stay. However, dorms tend to be the cheapest.
|Mount Warning Forest Hideaway (85 AUD for a bedroom per night)
Here, you won’t find dormitories, and it’s not as cheap if you’re travelling alone.
As you can see, accommodation in Nimbin is on the pricey side. The hostel culture isn’t as developed yet. So, if you’re travelling on a budget, my suggestion would be for you to do a day trip to Nimbin.
During festivals such as the Mardigrass and Roots festivals, you can also choose to stay in tents. These are available starting 10 AUD.
Where to Eat and What to Eat
Nimbin has a host of great restaurants, bars and eateries you can dine at. Most of the ingredients are sourced and grown locally, using organic or bio-dynamic methods of farming. You’re going to love eating out in Nimbin.
Here are my favourite Nimbin food shops, along with a few dish recommendations:
|Nimbin Pizza & Trattoria
Try out Pizza Plazza or the Four Sisters – 22 AUD & Spaghetti Bolognese – 13 AUD
|Phoenix Rising Café
Do try the Latte or Mocha Coffee – 4 AUD with BLT Sandwich, or try the special salad of the day (by chef’s choice) – 16.50 AUD
Spinach roll with cheese, crème buns, steak and mushroom pie are not to be missed delicacies – 3 AUD to 16 AUD (depending on what you pick)
|The Oasis Nimbin Café
Must Try Mango and Banana Smoothie – $7 AUD
|Nimbin HEMP Bar
Visiting this bar is an experience you cannot miss out on. It is here that the Cannabis law reform activists from all over the world gather, discuss and converse.
It is definitely one of the most popular eateries in Nimbin, and that’s for a reason.
Everything, including the food in Nimbin is alternative. Here, you’ll find the most innovative organic, vegan, and healthy creations that there could be.
The Getting High Scene
When you visit Nimbin, it’s going to seem like the entire town is sleepy, or rather…stoned. A walk through Nimbin main street (Cullen St) is going to give you the impression that grass overrides everything here. Which is, kind of true.
If you do plan on getting high, here are a few things you must keep in mind at all points:
- What you’re going to be smoking (or eating) here is strong. So, draw a line. Do not consume too much in a go especially if you’re travelling solo.
- Despite the fact that locals and residents of Nimbin are pro-cannabis, you’d still be violating the law by engaging in its consumption. Since 2016, police presence in the town has increased massively. So, always exercise caution. Random checks and tests are highly possible.
- A number of cafes, bars, and vendors on the streets will sell you hash Generally, you’d get 4 cookies for about 20 AUD. Remember that edibles are not the same as smoking hashish or cannabis in terms of their effects. They are supposed to take longer to hit, and you do not eat too much in a go just because “you don’t feel it.”
Is Nimbin Safe: Safety Tips for Backpackers
Nimbin has lived up to its image of the flagship town for alternative culture. It is also a very good spot to get an insight into paradigms of new living, thus attracting a lot of backpackers every year. However, is Nimbin safe? Although it is generally considered to be reasonably safe, it isn’t as innocent as its other counterparts in New South Wales.
Enlisted are a few things to be careful of when travelling alone –
When purchasing any eatable, cookies or drinks, do not resort to any random vendor on the street. There are a few dodgy people in the little alleyways and you might could up in trouble. Always try to get a tip on a reliable source by talking to the locals.
Do not wander alone into little alleyways or secluded places after sundown.
If you are backpacking, tag along with other people from your hostel, especially, if you are planning on getting high.
When going for nature walks or camping, try going in a group with familiar people. Do not forget to carry mosquito repellent sprays or creams.
What to Avoid
Although Nimbin is pretty liberal about drugs (cannabis, hash, mushrooms), the rest of Australia isn’t. As a tourist, do not risk carrying any drug with you when driving in and out of Nimbin. There have been instances of cops conducting random spot checks.
A majority of locals and travelers visiting Nimbin indulge in the consumption of cannabis. However, always know that you can be tested for the same. This needs to be kept in mind especially if you’re planning on driving. Furthermore, police checks and security is much more prevalent during the Mardi Grass festival.
Getting to Nimbin
Since Nimbin is a little town tucked away in the hills, you’re going to have to get there by road. A road trip to Nimbin is one of the best things you could do in New South Wales. The drive to the land of hippies is spectacular, and attracts more visitors than every other place in the region.
It’s a long drive from Sydney but closer to Brisbane. From nearing towns, Nimbin is a half an hour drive from Lismore and an hour and a half’s drive from Byron Bay.
The car rental culture in Australia is quite big. Roads are great, traffic is minimum, and rental fares are low. Moreover, travelers enjoy the independence and flexibility they get with having a car to their discretion.
|The cost of renting out a car in Australia would depend on a number of factors like the season you’re visiting in, the car you opt for, and where you rent from. However, on an average, expect to pay about 20 AUD a day for a decent car. With this price, of course, do not expect luxury.|
Note: Please carry an International Driving Permit if you have plans of driving.
For a number of reasons, you might not want to rent out a car to get to Nimbin. Although there exist buses and shuttles that can take you to Nimbin at a small cost, options are limited. Here are a few you could choose from:
|Shuttle from Byron Bay to Nimbin (75 kilometers, 2 hours)|
|Bus from Lismore to Nimbin (30 kilometers, 45-60 minutes)|
|Bus from Murwillumbah to Nimbin (50 kilometers, 1 hour)|
However, do check up on the timings in advance. The frequency isn’t too good especially when it comes to Lismore and Murwillumbah.
Worthy Pit-Stops to Make on The Way
You might be aware of how beautiful New South Wales is. If you’re driving to Nimbin yourself, there’s a number of pit-stops you can make on the way. Here’s a few that I certainly vouch for:
The Protesters Falls
A short yet beautiful hike through lush-green rain forests will take you to the base of these waterfalls. They’re nestled in the ranges of Nightcap National Park and are a World Heritage site. There’s no entrance fee, and these falls welcome locals and foreigners with open arms. All you need is the will to hike, bottle water to keep hydrated, and comfortable shoes.
Of cosy mountain villages, towering waterfalls, and lush green trees, the hike to Mount Warning makes for a great way to spend a few hours close to nature. Once you reach the top, you’ll be treated to a 360-degree view of the beautiful hills, plains and valleys. It’s truly breath-taking.
It’s really a shame that most travelers visiting the region limit themselves to Byron Bay and Nimbin. Sometimes, it’s great to go off-route and explore these underrated wonders.
It doesn’t just stop at the Protesters falls and Mount Warning. There’s a whole world waiting to be explored. Simply keep your eyes open as you cruise through the winding roads of New South Wales.
It is said that 1960s was an era that saw a lot of free spirits and drifters roaming the world in search of places that would welcome their alternative lifestyle. In the times of limited access to technology, the drifters kept meeting on their way and a group of people was formed. This marked the revolution and birth of a new culture, now popularly known as the hippie culture. Someone who walks the world without any worldly attachment is a hippie at heart. Thus, many places around the globe opened doors for these wanderers of peace and were transformed into yet another world filled with free souls that co-existed in peace.
In Australia, the hippies were successful in finding the ultimate peace and serenity in Nimbin. According to a recent survey of ‘Hippie Destinations around the World’ Nimbin hits the chart at number 4. Since the Aquarius Festival, it has evolved to become a paradise for hippies from all around the globe.