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America has 8 states, europe has Amsterdam and Australia has Nimbin!! Although anyone caught cultivating, possesing or consuming cannabis in New South Wales must be punished by law, the second you step foot into Nimbin all that is forgotten. Nimbin was once described by writer Austin Pick as “a smokey street of Amsterdam”, I couldn’t agree more! Although Nimbin is definitely the cannabis capital of Australia, there is more, much more. So here’s my reasons to visit Nimbin.
The MardiGrass festival
Firstly let’s look at how the MardiGrass came about. During the early 20th century Nimbin was mainly farmland, laid to banana trees and dairy farms. Sadly, in the early 60’s due to recession, the dairy industry colapsed and economically Nimbin suffered. Then in 1973 Nimbin was host to the aquarious festival which saw overwhelming numbers of “hippies”, students and, well anyone up for a party decended into the area. After the festival was over many of the like minded revelers stayed behind to form communes and to hazard a guess, lived off the land and well grew cannabis! Nimbin was reborn!!
Ever since 1973 there has been a big drug culture in Nimbin with cannabis being openly bought and used in and around the town. This is where the Mardi Grass festival comes in. Since ’93, as a peaceful way to protest for an end to the prohibition of cannabis, every year on the first weekend in May thousands of Australians, travellers and backpackers decend on Nimbin for many cannabis derived activities and fun.
Over the festival there are many fun things to get involved in;
- The Hemp Olympics: Consits of “joint rolling” competitions, “bong throw and yell” and the “growers iron man event” – Contestants must carry a 20kg bag of fertilizer, a bucket of water and finally the “crop” through an assault course. The event is a representation of what the growers had to go through to grow their crop and avoid arrest “back in the day”.
- A prohibition protest with the “Ganja Faeries”.
- Some poetry and jazz in the local cafes.
- Crazy rave doof parties: Out in the bush, big sound system and lots of beer… Massive outdoor rave sounds good to me.
The Mardi Grass isn’t just a load of hippys sat under a shaded tree, bong in one hand, pie in the other, trying not to fall asleep. Odds are you will see some people consuming cannabis but most people are there just to experience this amazing festival. Remember it is still illegal. There is so much going on, there really is something for everyone.
There are lots of options for accomodation over the weekend but the cheapest is probably getting a 3 day pass from Nimbin showgrounds campsite. The pass enables you entry to all the weekends festivities and 3 nights camping on the campsite, all for $150.
Natural beauty and location
Head 43 miles inland from Byron Bay and nestled away, high in the hills of the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales You’ll find Nimbin. Nimbin and its surrounding areas are jaw droppingly beautiful. From twisting country roads that cut their way through sub-tropical rainforest laden mountains to world heritage listed reserves and stunningly beautiful national parks.
Head into The Broader ranges National Park and explore this untouched rainforest, you’ll find an abundance of wildlife and fauna that have deep links all the way back to the super continent of Gondwana. There’s plenty of opportunity to get that camera out, especially if you hike all the way up to the pinnacle lookout, from which you can see Mount-Warning with the Tweed Valley 100m below. Also the park is full of hiking trails, water ways and waterfalls. There’s also plenty of picnic areas to get some rest and take in all the surroundings.
There are so many beautiful places throughout Australia and so much to try to see. I must admit that the Nimbin/Lismore area is definitely up there with the best if you ask me. To be fair, most backpackers will spend some considersble time up and down the east coast, be it looking for work or just exploring. Byron Bay is one of the most popular place that tourists are likely visit, 43 miles inland is just too close not to check it out.
Just the Nimbin vibe…
When not in full swing of the Mardi Grass festival, Nimbin is a peaceful sleepy town of just shy of 400 residents. These being the true decendants of the “hippies/people looking for an alternative lifestyle” of the 70’s. For the last 50 or so years Nimbin has been at the centre of Australian permaculture and alternative living, you won’t find any high flying business people in a rush to the office here.
Since the 1970’s Nimbin has attracted many permaculture enthusiasts, artists, musicians and actors. Evidence of this is abundant, all you have to do is look at the awnings above the shops to see artistic paintings and murals. The “smiths street band” musician Lee Hartney was born in a barn on the outskirts of Nimbin.
In many ways Nimbin is a fully functioning commune where the residents all pull together and live a way from the rules, in some ways laws and social pressures of mainstream living, its just a laid back and relaxing place to spend a few days. It really is like stepping back in time to what I imagine the hippie era to be like, time has stood still in Nimbin.
The “main drag” in Nimbin can’t be longer than 150 yards. Regardless of it’s short length, you’ll be astonished of the amount of times you’ll be propositioned for “hydro, shrooms and coookkkiiieeesss!” Many people come here as drug tourists, and to be honest I can see why. I was in Nimbin with two other people, of which none of us bother with drugs but that did not stop the harrasment. Especially me having a darker complection than the two others I was traveling with meant they could get by without too much harrasment but for me it was literally every 10 steps.
Some people would be in heaven with this set up but if you don’t smoke it wears thin pretty quick.
The nimbin bakery – The best pies in the world! Promise I wasn’t on the munchies!!
Right, I’m just going to throw it out there… Nimbin Bakery home to the best pies in Australia!? Even the world!?
Now that’s a big claim! Have I been in Australia too long? Away from the famous Hollands meat and potato?
I’m certainly not alone on this, check out these Nimbin bakery reviews from tripadvisor…
Still not covinced!? Only one way to settle it, you’re gonna have to visit Nimbin, head to 52 Cullen st between 6am and 4.30pm and give me your verdict in the comments box below.
So to roll it, sorry! I mean wrap it up 😉
All in all, Nimbin is a totally unique place in Australia, unlike any other town. With an abundance of culture, history and unparalelled scenery, for anyone travelling up the east coast through Byron Bay it would be rude not to take an hours detour and visit Nimbin. Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t drive across the continent to visit Nimbin but if you’re close it’s definitely worth a day of any explorer’s time.