West of Byron Bay lies a small fascinating town with a unique character found nowhere else on earth. Nimbin is a place out of time, where the familiar sweet smells of incense and marijuana permeate the streets. Where aging hippies have created their own community surrounded by ancient rainforests on volcanic soil. Soil which is well suited to growing the most profitable of all crops in this part of the world, cannabis.
Like an Australian Haight Ashbury, Nimbin is replete with headshops, vegetarian food, street dealers, junkies (just a few mellow ones), classic rock music, everything a hippie needs to survive. On its psychedelically painted streets you'll find the type of characters you'd thought vanished long ago; Patchouli drenched girls with flowery flowing dresses and bangles, aging white haired cannabis activists and dreadlocked rastas driving colorful combi vans.
Nimbin's alternative vibe started in 1973 when it hosted the Aquarius Festival in Peace Park. Many hippies decided to stay on and live off the land. Communes were setup in the surrounding hills, and growing marijuana soon became the major part of the local economy.
Today Nimbin is a popular destination for international backpackers and the new generation of hippies. There's even a annual event, Mardigrass, when 10,000 or more open-minded people descend upon the town to protest Australia's repressive cannabis laws, and to sample the local produce.
The Hemp Bar is a great place to hangout, meet the locals and find out what's going on. They even have wireless internet access there for cyberhippies. During Mardigrass they made an attempt on the world record for most joints lit simultaneously. A few minutes later I think everyone there forgot what it was they were attempting… ;)
Attached to the Hemp Bar is the Nimbin Hemp Embassy where you can learn more about cannabis and pickup any paraphernalia you might need. Right across the street is the Bringabong headshop which also has a very good selection of paraphernalia, and other fine products. If you can't find what you're looking for there, just ask their helpful staff.
The Rainbow Café is Nimbin's famous place for vegetarian food. They have a nice outdoor patio in the back that's perfect for a meal and a smoke. There's also a Thai buffet restaurant, a few snack bars, a bakery and of course the local pub which serves up some pretty good grub.
The Nimbin Museum is a psychedelic trip into the past with lots of hippie memorabilia crammed into its small space.
Nimbin doesn't have a lot of hotels/motels, with the Nimbin Hotel (the local pub) being the largest. Instead most travelers settle into one of the local campgrounds or caravan parks. During Mardigrass these are packed with hundreds of tents and facilities can get overwhelmed.
On the streets of Nimbin you will likely be approached to purchase cannabis, or cannabis containing products like cookies, brownies, cakes (these are very potent, be careful not to eat too much). Remember that cannabis possession is illegal in Australia, and they are not as tolerant of it elsewhere around the country. However, possession of quantities under 15 grams (half an ounce) are usually just a fine for the first offense. Possession of drug taking paraphernalia (like a bong) or hashish is treated as a worse offense.
And yes there is hashish in Australia! It's usually bubble hash made using bags and ice water, or dry processed pollinator hash. Quality ranges from good to excellent. The Aussies like growing sativa strains as they don't tend to mold as easily in wet climates as indica. Sativa is more of a head rush than a body rush and won't lay you out or make you as tired or zombied as indica or hybrid varieties. You might even find some pure sativa grass or hashish here, something rare in other countries.
The area surrounding Nimbin is well worth exploring. Several National Parks contain beautiful rainforests, waterfalls, campgrounds and hiking trails, as well as a plethora of birds and other wildlife. We recommend Borderlands and Mt. Warning National Parks for a good escape back to nature.
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