Before heading South, we discover there's a strange little village in New South Wales known as Australia's hippie capital city. We hit the road, and decide to make the short trip to Nimbin. Rainbows, psychedelic street art, peace & love signs, happy cakes, flower necklaces, reggae music and arts & crafts boutiques, this little town pulls out every clichés in the book, and then some!
Situated 70 km west of Byron Bay, Nimbin is seen as Australia's ultimate hippie heaven. Its population of 2,000 believes on an escapist sub-culture. If, as travelers, the first thing we saw in this little town is the drug influence, locals are also artists pro organic farming and sustainable development.
We stopped there out of curiosity during our road trip on the East Coast, for an unexpected, (very) weird trip...
Nimbin, the city of alternatives
Welcome to Australia's alternative-lifestyle capital! Set in a lovely valley, this little town is a heaven for hippies, potheads, organic farmers and artists folks.
A town with history: Welcome in nimbin... The Australian Woodstock!
Nimbin has a pretty fascinating history. In 1973, a group of students from Canberra organizes a back-to-earth movement and a counter-culture festival in Nimbin, celebrating an alternative lifestyle and marijuana : it's the Aquarius Festival. Young people and artists come from all over the country to enjoy the party. The Australian Hippie trend is born! After the festival, lots of them choose to stay in Nimbin.
Today, about forty communities live in the region, in quasi self-sufficiency -they build their houses themselves, create alternative schools and cultivate gardens together.
Rainbows, drugs & Happy cakes
Nimbin is a really small town, with one main street, Cullen St. It's very colorful, with plenty of art & crafts shops and rainbow painted walls. We can tell marijuana is a religion here -on the walls, we can spot a Hemp Embassy (an official center that aims to change the law and legalize cannabis), the High Society, the Chemist Bar and many other suggestive names!
It's not just a fun picture. It's still early morning when we visit Nimbin and pretty much everybody we cross on the streets offers us to buy either some weed, pills or mushrooms. If the decor and the ultra relaxed atmosphere can be amusing and the locals friendly, the physical conditions of some people leave a strange feeling. We talk with a local woman -or try to-, she's so high she can barely stand. She's 40, but she looks like she's 80. She's got that empty gaze...
Nimbin is a strange place indeed...
What to do in Nimbin?
Time has stopped a whiiile ago in this little town. It's out of nowhere!, we feel like walking in a movie set from the 70s! Although don't forget it's all REAL, so think twice before you take photos of people or some particular places...
- Explore and spot as many clichés as you can!
- Shop in the art & crafts boutiques -I have to admit, there's some art you can't understand (at all) unless you're high, but you can also find some beautiful creations!
- Visit Nimbin's Museum. It's full of bric-a-brac, signs, slogans, art work and stickers. As they say on the door, "$2 if you can, but go in anyway".
- Make you own candles in the town's candle factory.
- Come in May and go for Nimbin's big MARDI GRASS festival, a festival "where we can celebrate the herb without fear of prosecution and persecution" (or almost!)
After two hours wandering around, as the whole village is smoking, we start to feel high -it's time to leave before we get stoned!
Does it worth the stop?
I'd say YES IF... you have time and it's on your road. But bare in mind it's a very small town, and you'll pretty much see everything there is to see in an hour, so don't detour too much.
+ This town has a dark side, with dealers waiting all around to sell you drugs. Come during daytime. See it once, but you probably won't come back.
How to get to Nimbin?
We came from Byron Bay, through a gorgeous, scenic road. You can go with your own car but you can also go on a tour from Byron Bay -which makes it even more weird!.