The counterculture capital of Australia
If Byron Bay is full of shiny, happy hippies then Nimbin is its more alternative cousin. Infamous for its seemingly laissez-fair attitude to cannabis, the Byron Shire hinterland town is not quite the egalitarian utopia it appears with its slightly seedy and gritty patina, but nevertheless tourists still flock to see the counterculture capital of Australia.
Located around 70 kilometres west of Byron Bay, a visit to Nimbin is usually pretty high on the to-do list for travellers to the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. Since the Aquarius Festival in 1973, the iconic town has been synonymous with an alternative lifestyle and a haven of tolerance for a counterculture community and communal living. People have flocked to the town seeking an escape from city life or looking for an artistic environment. While Nimbin is most known for its ‘hydroponics’, many people may not realise many environmental initiatives proliferate here too.
The main drag of Cullen Street is where you’ll find shops, cafes and a slew of colourful local characters. The Nimbin Museum offers a variety of local artefacts, art and alternative culture to browse through, while the Hemp Embassy sells a selection of cannabis-related items, minus the actual drug. Nimbin is also known for its annual MardiGrass festival, which has been held on the first weekend in May since 1993. The cannabis-themed event includes the Hemp Olympix as well as nightly rave parties. It’s worth noting that despite the cannabis culture of Nimbin, the same laws apply regarding the cultivation, possession or sale of cannabis, all of which is punishable by law in New South Wales.
There’s no shortage of organised tours and day trips that will bus you into town from Byron Bay, usually in a colourful day-glo vehicle to add to the experience. Otherwise, it’s a 65 minute drive via Bangalow and Nimbin Roads.