Photo by Jackie Davies / Adobe Stock Photo
A few miles away from iconic surfer’s paradise Byron Bay, in the northern region of New South Wales lies Nimbin, a town made famous by the hippies that moved there in the ’70s and made it their own.
This is Australia’s stoner haven, where weed and hemp products line the shelves of souvenir parlors, reggae vibes fill the air, and tie-dye never went out of fashion.
Weed is absolutely illegal in the State of New South Wales, but law enforcement has frequently turned a blind eye to what goes down in this quaint little town. Cannabis, in all its shapes, is openly bought, sold, and smoked in Nimbin, and the community is proud to keep it that way.
So, if you’re in the area and looking for a place to get high, surrounded by gentle souls and comforting natural beauty, let us suggest Nimbin as a destination.
The name ‘Nimbin’ comes from the aboriginal Bundjalung people, whose Dreamtime (describes aboriginal religious cosmology) spoke about the spirit Nimbinjee, who protected the area colloquially known as the “Rainbow Region.”
The region’s inhabitants made their living off logging and dairy farming until a fateful day in 1973 when Nimbin hosted the Aquarius Festival: a large countercultural gathering of students, hippies, and practitioners of alternative lifestyles. This festival stood out as the first event in Australian history that requested permission to use the land from the traditional owners, the aboriginal people.
The Aquarius Festival came and went, but many attendees refused to let go of the freedoms they enjoyed during their stay in Nimbin and settled permanently, forming communes that set an important legal precedent in Australia: the first-ever application of group title ownership of land.
These seventies settlers planted the seeds of the thriving cannabis culture of Nimbin and eventually built a town in their own colorful image.
Nimbin is a small town. Just by walking down its main street, you’ll be able to take in the height of the hippie lifestyle. The colorful buildings, all decorated with murals allusive to weed, reggae, and the 60s, epitomize the age of Aquarius.
If you’re looking to score some flower, this will probably be your first stop. Ask around. The population is friendly and welcoming to everyone. They will point you in the right direction. Being a community of weed connoisseurs, you will surely be able to find the high you’re looking for. There are also plenty of edibles for sale, including delicious chocolate cake, brownies, and of course, cookies.
Stop by the Nimbin Hemp Embassy if you need additional guidance, they don’t sell weed there, but they have become a de facto tourist office, a meeting point for travelers and locals. What they do sell are souvenirs, paraphernalia, and hemp products, among other assorted goods.
They are also staunch defenders of legalization, and any dollars you put into their shop funds their continuous protest towards cannabis laws.
After your weed business is sorted, we recommend you hike to one of the many nearby natural landmarks to take it all in.
The Nimbin Rocks could be the first stop on your journey. These jagged rocks rise far above the canopy, just 3 kilometers (1.8 m) away from Nimbin. They are the remnants of the explosion of Mount Warning Tweed Volcano, which erupted around 20 million years ago. The place acquired significance to the local Bundjalung tribe as the home of the Nmbngee (The Clever Men) and as a proving ground for youngsters undergoing rites of passage.
If you’re looking for something more extreme, perhaps you could visit Mount Warning volcano itself. It is further away, about 50 kilometers (31 m) away from Nimbin, but the trip could be worth it, particularly at sunrise. The summit of Mount Warning is the first part of mainland Australia struck by sunlight every day, and it is accessible via a 9 kilometer (5.6 m) hike up the forested slope.
For a more mellow experience, you might want to visit the Djanbung gardens, just 700 meters away from Nimbin main street. The place is a botanist’s dream, a permaculture of edible plants from around the world, available all year round. It is adorned with sightly ponds and streams, hosts plenty of local wildlife, and features cozy sustainable constructions. The local restaurant is also a highlight, using food grown in the surrounding area to make tasty vegan and vegetarian meals made by chef Melian Fertl.
If landscapes charm you, ask for the routes to the surrounding waterfalls and watering holes. The ambiance there is totally chill and offers the perfect setting for a day of fun in the sun.
Every year since 1993, during the first weekend of May, the Nimbin community organizes MardiGrass: an annual rally and celebration of all that makes the town special.
The festival is organized first and foremost to protest the Australian cannabis laws. Still, it has grown to be an educational event on the uses of cannabis and a celebration of all things weed.
MardiGrass was born out of the Nimbin community’s indignation as they got raided by the police and had many of their members arrested, frequently through forceful and arbitrary street searches. Since then, the organizing committee has vowed to keep it going every year until prohibition ends.
Events start with the protest rally on the first weekend of May and continue throughout the weekend. The Hemp Olympics are a mainstay of MardiGrass, featuring competitive joint-rolling, bong-throwing, and the Grower’s Iron Person event, which has competitors running up and down hills with 40lb bags of fertilizer, buckets of water, and a burden of crops to honor the labor of the growers in the hills.
There’s really no shortage of activities, and there’s something for every type of stoner out there. There are conferences and symposiums on cannabis and cannabis laws, plenty of parties, balls, and raves, live music, stand-up comedy, and of course, the World Stoned Chess Championship, which is as impressive as you’d expect.
Be it MardiGrass or not, a stoner traveling through Australia has got to have Nimbin in mind as a welcoming and liberating destination, but also as a show of support to those leading the fight for cannabis legalization countrywide.
That fly you just swatted was actually RuPaul, "you better buzz b*tch."
Take a seat, grab a cannabis-infused drink, and stay awhile.
After one hour you will be in the 'Clear Zone' for up to 5 hours.