A place where tie-dye is a legitimate fashion choice
Nimbin has suffered a bit of a PR problem over the past few decades. Ten years ago, people living in the northern rivers region of NSW were warning visitors off the quirky township, claiming it was heroin-saturated and really not nice for tourists, and had "come down" from its hippie heydays in the 1970s. But 10 years can see a lot of change, and it just so happens that Nimbin is an incredible place to visit these days – full of life, charm and colour.
With schoolies taking over nearby townships like Byron Bay, it makes sense to find somewhere a little less touristy and teenagey in the northern rivers region, and driving into Nimbin doesn't disappoint. Even the trip in is marvellous – green, rich and sumptuous – and a foresty, inland change of pace from the coastline that's become so popular.
Nimbin and its surrounding townships are part of what is known as the "rainbow region" and it's very important to Indigenous people, the Bundjalung. In 1973, the Aquarius Festival attracted scores of free-loving hippies to the township and the region was taken over by environmentalists, musicians, writers, artists - you name it. Communes started springing up all over the place. Nowadays, Nimbin is all about the counter-culture – marijuana legalisation, New Age thinking and left-wing lifestyles.
The streets of Nimbin are jam-packed full of talented buskers.
A few decades ago, drug dealing became saturated in the streets, leaving visitors feeling a little unsafe. However, these days CCTV has made the main street of Nimbin a lot friendlier for tourists, who flock to the area to enjoy street tarot readers like Jazmine, New Age and hemp stores, the alternative haven of the Hemp Embassy, bong shops, didgeridoo players, street stall jewellery vendors, and of course the annual Mardi Grass Festival. Nimbin has an awesome apothecary that sells $2 over-the-counter herbal elixir shots. It also has some of the best organic food shops and milkshake cafes this side of Heaven.
It's not unusual to see octogenarian hippies wearing only their budgie-smugglers walking down Nimbin's often roasting hot summer streets. The people here are pierced, tattooed and wear their alternative hearts permanently etched to their sleeves. It's not for the faint-hearted, but if you're an alternative person who loves other counter-culture cities like Amsterdam, you're going to adore Nimbin.
The Hemp Embassy: for all your hemp-related queries.
Perhaps one of the best things about Nimbin is how unbelievably tight-knit the community is. With a permanent population of about 400, everyone knows each other and attends regular community forums at the beloved local pub, the Nimbin Hotel (which by the way, has the most incredible beer garden sitting amongst the tree tops).