Heard the hype about Nimbin and wondering what are some things to do in this hippie town? Or wondering how easy it is to get to Nimbin and back from Byron Bay on a day trip? Or perhaps you’re even wondering if Nimbin is safe these days? You’ll find all the answers here!
THINGS TO DO IN NIMBIN – DAY TRIP FROM BYRON BAY
Where Is Nimbin?
So first – where is Nimbin? Nimbin is a village located in the Northern Rivers area of the state of New South Wales in Australia. Nimbin is 65 km inland (west) of Byron Bay in the hinterland, and 180km to the south of Brisbane.
Even though it looks super close to Byron Bay on the map, it is tucked away in the hills and the route is all on twisty country roads so it takes much longer than you think to get there – around 1 hour and 10 minutes to drive.
Why is Nimbin Famous?
Nimbin isn’t famous just because of it’s proximity to Byron Bay. It is famous because it is the hippie capital of Australia, as well as Australia’s alternative lifestyle capital. Nimbin is also the marijuana capital of Australia. It shot to fame in 1973 when a group of University Students from Sydney decided to host a festival here in Nimbin – for people who wanted to deviate away from the normal way of life.
This festival was known as the Aquarius Festival, and it was a counter-culture festival to celebrate marijuana and an alternative lifestyle. The Aquarius Festival brought a lot of hippies, visionaries, artists and students from all over Australia. Many of them stayed on after the festival and have never left to this day! New communities emerged, and many writers, musicians and environmentalists decided to live in Nimbin as it became a very accepting place.
Since the Aquarius Festival of 1973, every year Nimbin has attracted many tourists not only from Australia, but from all over the world to see this colourful hippie town, and also to buy marijuana. Nimbin was the only place in Australia where local growers of weed would actually sell it openly on the streets for people to buy and consume.
What Is Nimbin Like?
Nimbin has still retained this reputation as an absolute hippie haven in Australia, and is one of the most hippie towns in the world. It is a bizarre place and I think you either love it or hate it. Think peace and love signs, flower power, psychedelic street art, reggae music, Rastafarian colours, Bob Marley posters, and pictures of weed and rainbows everywhere. The place is definitely still trying to live in the ’70s.
Over recent years nearby Byron Bay has become home to the rich and famous and even though it is still a laid-back hippie tourist town it is now seen as one of the most exclusive, expensive and best places to live in Australia. Nimbin on the other hand is a contrast in the sense that there is nothing exclusive about it and it feels like you’re stuck in the 1970’s, but not in a good way.
Around 1,500 people live in Nimbin and the average age of residents here is 50 years. This goes to show many of the older people living here are the original hippie students from the 70’s and 80’s who came here. There is not a young population here like you’ll find at Byron Bay. People come to visit, but not many people come here to settle down at all.
Buying weed in Nimbin
Just for your information, I do not smoke weed. But I’m sure you will want to know this information.
- Just remember if you do decide to buy anything, you are still violating the law (despite the whole town being pro-marijuana) and the Police can stop and search you at any time, so exercise caution.
- If you buy any weed, remember the stuff here is very strong. Take it easy and don’t have too much in one go.
- If you’re travelling alone I really do not recommend to get high. Try to stick with people from your hostel or other backpackers you have met on your journey.
- Some of the cafes and bars will sell hash cookies – usually it’s around 4 cookies for $20. Hash cookies take a lot longer to hit you than smoking a joint, so do not eat too much in one go. Try half a cookie, wait half an hour and see how you feel. The effects on you can be a lot different when consuming edibles.
- If you want to buy hash cookies, it’s best to buy it from a cafe or bar and not from someone random on the streets as there are some dodgy people about.
- Even though Nimbin is liberal about marijuana, the rest of Australia isn’t. Don’t risk bringing any out of Nimbin as random Polie checks do happen.
Dugs in Nimbin
I had imagined Nimbin was still this happy hippie cannabis haven with lots of free-spirited people chilling out and the scent of marijuana drifting through the air. I saw none of this when I arrived. Although the local Police used to turn a blind eye to the marijuana dealing, over the past few years this all changed. In 2016 there were over 40 arrests made on the local cannabis dealers (known as the “Lane Boys”), with many of them serving jail time and suspended sentences, and even being banned from ever returning to Nimbin. The Police cracked down on the weed dealing and effectively put an end to it. Nimbin was no longer the weed capital of Australia.
Outside dealers saw a vacant space – an opportunity, and moved in on the area. As they didn’t have ties with and respect for the locals, instead of the soft drug cannabis being sold on the streets, these outside dealers have been pushing hard drugs such as ice and heroin. These new dealers didn’t care about what effect this would have on the Nimbin community. These hard drugs have now almost replaced the cannabis in Nimbin, and the town has become ravaged, sliding down a path of hard drug use. People have even died out on the streets from overdosing on these hard drugs, and needles can sometimes be found lying on the pavement.
The locals are tying to get cannabis legalised in Nimbin, which would then stop this big problem, which explains why you’ll see lots of signs saying to legalise cannabis around Nimbin. By legalising and normalising cannabis again, it will stop driving people towards the dangerous black market of drugs.
This shift towards hard drugs has of cause caused tourism in Nimbin to suffer massively. Tourist numbers have declined rapidly. Also the big Police presence means tourists coming to Nimbin can often get stopped and searched, and questioned about why they are visiting Nimbin, which can certainly be an unpleasant experience and has deterred a lot of tourists from visiting. Many tourists will say that they were offered pills, mushrooms or cannabis to buy on the streets of Nimbin.
Is Nimbin Safe?
When you visit Nimbin you’ll notice there are lots of down and outs, mostly old white-bearded males hanging around in the park drinking and doing drugs. I even saw them doing it in the afternoon right in front of the playground where children were playing. I could just see signs of addiction almost everywhere I looked. The vibes in Nimbin in recent years have definitely changed for the worse. I couldn’t see another tourist in sight and I could just feel a sense of desperation in the air.
I can definitely see why people say Nimbin is no longer what it used to be. In the past it seemed like a happy carefree place, but now there seems some dark undertones, with many locals either desperate to get their hands on whatever drugs are available, or people are on the lookout trying to sell hard drugs to what little tourists there are wandering through these days.
As with Byron Bay, there is also a dark side to Nimbin, especially if you are a solo female travelling. Particularly if you are on your own, just visit Nimbin during the day, avoid any alleyways and make sure you are gone by night. I didn’t feel scared, but I did feel on edge and had a strange feeling I was being watched the whole time. By the end of the afternoon I felt happy to be leaving. It’s somewhere I’m glad to have seen, but I definitely won’t be going back in a hurry.
Whilst most websites will only mention the positives and put a silver lining on everything to encourage you to visit the destination, in my experience as a female solo traveller (a very experienced solo traveller too, having travelled alone to places such as Ciudad Juarez and Comuna 13 – two former murder capitals of the world), visiting Nimbin I just felt a little bit uneasy there and due to the hard drug problem it just didn’t captivate me as much as I had anticipated it would.
THINGS TO DO IN NIMBIN ON A DAY TRIP FROM BYRON BAY:
Nimbin is a very small town, and as there isn’t too much to see here – you can definitely explore everywhere within half a day. The Main Street in Nimbin (pretty much one of very few streets in Nimbin) is called Cullen Street. Cullen Street is very colourful – the shops and cafes are all painted in a myriad of colours. You’ll definitely feel like you’ve walked back into the 70’s.
Places to visit in Nimbin include:
Nimbin Hemp Embassy
The Nimbin Hemp Embassy is a non-profit organisation that aims to change the law and make cannabis legal. It is an interesting place to visit and is the best place in Nimbin to buy souvenirs. The Hemp Embassy produces many products that are made of hemp – which is highly durable and environmentally sustainable. Products such as hemp clothing, hemp oil, and cosmetics are available to buy.
Definitely worth a visit when the sign on the door says ‘$2 if you can, but go in anyway’. The museum is full of art, bric-a-brac, slogans and signs.
The Nimbin Market is held on the forth and fifth Sunday of the month. There is a good vibe at the markets and they always feature a musical act. There are many handmade local clothing and jewellery stalls, as well as arts and crafts stalls at the Nimbin Market, and you’ll also find vintage and up-cycled homewares and clothes, as well as local produce and great food stalls. The market takes place at the Nimbin Community Centre on Cullen Street.
Nimbin Farmer’s Market
The Nimbin Farmer’s Market is held every Wednesday afternoon (3-6pm) in the Green Bank car park. You’ll find a fantastic range of fresh locally grown seasonal produce at this popular market, such as cheese, jams, meat, fruits and vegetables.
Arts & Crafts Boutiques and Cafes
Nimbin has lots of quirky cafes, shops and boutiques and their exteriors are so quirky and colourful! My favourite had to be the Apothecary – it is like a real old Apothercary inside so be sure to wander in!
You’ll also see lots of arts and crafts boutiques on Cullen Street that are reasonably priced. They stock everything from paintings to pottery, local organic t-shirts and handmade jewellery, and you can find some great local gifts here to bring back from your trip. I’ll be honest, walking around some of these boutique stores I had no idea what some of the other things were (I guess you’d have to be high to understand them), but I tried to appreciate them none the less!
The cafes and restaurants at Nimbin use mostly organic and locally grown and sourced produce and naturally you’ll find lots of vegan options. The Phoenix Rising Cafe and the Nimbin Bakery offer some great food, but if you only stop in one cafe, make sure it is the popular Nimbin HEMP Bar – it is quite an experience!
The Nimbin Rocks are volcanic extrusions left over from the Mount Warning Tweed Volcano, which erupted roughly 20 million years ago. The Nimbin Rocks can only be viewed from the road (2km from Nimbin village) as they are extremely sacred and significant to the local indigenous people known as the Bundjalung people. If you want to visit them more closely, you must get approval from the Bundjalung people.
Other places to visit include The Nimbin Herbs Learning Centre, the Visitor Information Centre, Nimbin Artists Gallery (to see the work of local artists’ painting, photography and woodwork) and the Candle Factory where you can buy and help make organic chemical-free candles.
Please remember to be discrete if you are taking photos. Especially people who are on drugs, they might not appreciate you taking photos of them. It might feel like you have been transported onto a movie set from back in the day, but just remember to respect the locals – this is their life here.
Festivals In Nimbin:
Due to the laidback hippie culture in Nimbin, it’s not surprising many festivals are held here that celebrate culture, music and art. The most popular ones are:
Mardi Grass Festival
On the first weekend in May each year, Nimbin holds the annual Mardi Grass Festival. The 3 day Mardi Grass Festival is an annual rally and celebration which aims to educate and celebrate using cannabis, as well as to celebrate the Nimbin culture. The Mardi Grass Festival started in 1993 as a silent protest to challenge the drug laws (‘end the war on cannabis’) and educate people of the various uses of marijuana (eg: medicinal purposes, spiritual, recreational and industrial).
The Mardi Grass Festival aims to bring about change, in a fun way. Although it is called a protest, there is singing, dancing, a parade, lots of speakers, lots of celebrating and lots of games (such as the Hemp Olympix and the Nimbin Cannabis Cup). There are many interesting and unique colourful people here and it is a really cultural and spiritual experience if you are able to visit during this time.
Make sure you have a designated driver who will definitely not be consuming any cannabis in the festival, as Police checks are a lot more prevalent during this time. The Police do saliva testing on drivers to check for any traces of THC. Even a tiny amount in your system can get you in trouble.
The Mardi Grass Pass includes day entry to the 3 day Festival, as well as 3 nights camping at The Showgrounds (33 Cecil Street) costs $150, so it is a very reasonably priced festival. If you just want the day tickets without the camping, it costs $55 for the 3 days altogether.
Nimbin Roots Festival
The Nimbin Roots Festival is a 3 day festival spread out around Nimbin that celebrates roots music such as Old Blues, Reggae, alternative folk and country music. A lot of hippies come to the roots festival that is held on the third week in September, and the number of people attending increases every year. A 3 day pass is $105, or you can buy a one or 2 day pass ($50 or $90). Definitely worth visiting if you’ll be around at this time of year!
How To Get To Nimbin From Byron Bay
The easiest way to get to Nimbin from Byron Bay is to drive. There are a few car rental companies in Byron Bay, however car rental is a lot cheaper in the nearby Gold Coast if you’ll be up that way prior to coming to Byron Bay. Discover Cars located in The Gold Coast offers some really great affordable car rentals.
Driving from Byron Bay to Nimbin should take one hour and 10 minutes. As the road is very winding you won’t be able to drive that fast, unless you want to be hitting your foot on the brakes every 20 seconds.
Day Trip To Nimbin From Byron Bay
If you don’t have your own vehicle you can still do a day trip to Nimbin from Byron Bay. The Nimbin Grasshoppers Express shuttle bus takes 90 minutes hours and costs just $20 one way. Departures from Byron Bay are only on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The bus only has one departure in the day – at 11am in Byron Bay, and then leaving Nimbin at 3pm.
You can do a Nimbin day tour with Happy Coach. Travel to Nimbin in their epic psychedelic hippie coach, stopping off at some epic destinations on the way including the Nimbin Rocks and Killen Falls. The tour guides will share lots of knowledge with you and lunch is included!
Accommodation in Nimbin
You can definitely see everything Nimbin has to offer in less than a day, so it isn’t necessary to stay overnight. For this reason, there are limited accommodation options available here as most people just visit on a day trip from Byron Bay.
Nevertheless, if you do fancy staying overnight in Nimbin and soaking up the vibes even more, there are some unique accommodation options here – for example staying in a teepee! You can find the teepees at Nimbin Rox YHA Hostel.
Other accommodation in Nimbin includes the Grey Gum Lodge – a guest house at the end of Cullen Street that features a beautiful terrace with mountain views. All rooms are en-suite and a shuttle service can be arranged for guests.
Or alternatively the Nimbin Waterfall Retreat, located 4km from Nimbin, is a great place to stay. Guests have access to a sauna and BBQ, plus all bedrooms have a private bathroom, and some even have a kitchenette. There are some lovely hikes nearby to the nearby waterfall.
Is It Worth It To Visit Nimbin?
If you’re in the Byron Bay area and have time to spare then definitely head across to Nimbin as part of a day trip and see for yourself what this village is like. If however you’re only in Byron Bay for 2 days for example, I wouldn’t recommend the detour to Nimbin as Byron has so much to offer itself. Nimbin is a long detour and within a couple of hours here you’ll have probably seen everything.
Nimbin used to be a great place, but it’s definitely not what it used to be anymore. It’s certainly unique, but there are a lot more beautiful places to experience around Byron Bay. If however, you’re so intrigued about Nimbin – the hippie capital of Australia, that you’ve got your heart set on visiting it and want to be momentarily transported back to the 1970’s, then definitely visit – it’s certainly a one-of-a-kind experience you won’t forget!
If you’re driving from Byron Bay and have a few hours to spare, why not stop off at Mount Warning where you can see stunning waterfalls and cute mountain villages. Once you have hiked to the top of the mountain you’ll be rewarded with stunningly breathtaking views of the valleys below.
Alternative Day Trips From Byron Bay
If you are looking for other day trip ideas from Byron Bay check out:
One of my favourite places in and around Byron Bay is Crystal Castle in nearby Mullumbimby. There are so many things to do at Crystal Castle, but the highlight is the twin amethyst crystals. These crystals are the largest and most beautiful crystals in the world, from the amethyst fields in Uruguay, standing at a breathtaking 5.5 metres tall.
Crystal Castle is an incredible place – it is so peaceful and the energy here is so nice. It is located 20km west of Byron Bay, into the hinterland and it will take you about 30 minutes to get here by car. If you don’t have a car you can book on this amazing half-day trip to Crystal Castle from Byron Bay. The day trip includes pick up and drop off in Byron Bay, entrance fee and free meditations and workshops!
Minyon Falls is a stunning 300ft (100 metre) high waterfall in a sub-tropical rainforest in Nightcap National Park that actually lies on the edge on an old volcano! It is located 33km west of Byron Bay, therefore a visit to Minyon Falls makes for a really popular day trip for those visiting from Byron Bay. Here you’ll find a great guided day trip to Minyon Falls where you’ll be guided on the bush walk through the ancient rainforests and swim in the fresh water pools beneath the falls as well as enjoying an BBQ style lunch – heaven!
Yamba is another popular day trip location from Byron Bay. Located 130km south of Byron Bay, Yamba is actually dubbed the new Byron Bay – like how Byron was 30 years ago without all the crowds and insane prices. It takes around 1 hour 40 minutes to drive from Byron Bay to Yamba.
You can also hop across to Queensland and visit the iconic Gold Coast – the drive should take around 1 hour 15 minutes.