Nimbin: Amsterdam’s less-legal Australian counterpart

Nimbin's Main Street (Photographer: Autumn Mooney; Flickr)

Nimbin’s Main Street (Photographer: Autumn Mooney; Flickr)

‘Nimbin’ is not a word you will hear put to you by your travel agent. You will not see it advertised in brochures between bungee jumping and surfing lessons. So what is it about Nimbin, a seemingly inconsequential village stuck between Lismore and Byron Bay in northern New South Wales that keeps it so hush-hush on the backpacker scene? The truth: thousands do flock to Nimbin each year. Budding musicians, painters, poets and many other artists journey to the village in order to gain inspiration: a particular, not-so-legal brand of inspiration. However, that is far from all Nimbin has to offer.

Labelled by some Australians as a ‘hippie landmark,’ the village has a history of run-ins with both the government and the police. If it helps, consider it like Amsterdam – just a little less legal. Upon visiting Nimbin, you’ll soon discover that, strangely, there is no police presence. Residents will welcome you in the streets with offers of hash cookies and home-grown hemp and what’s more, they will greet with genuine warmth. That warmth is far from artificial: Nimbin residents live simply and don’t aim to profit from their produce, they simply want to share it. Nimbin has a long and interesting history, one which has left the small village with a welcoming attitude to all views and beliefs, an enchanting art scene and an overwhelming community spirit.

You do not necessarily need to indulge in Nimbin’s most well-known export to appreciate what it has to offer. Nimbin is a spectacle to be observed by anyone journeying from nearby towns: it is as intriguing as it is colourful, and there really isn’t anywhere else like it. Simply walking through the village and wandering alongside the independent shops and cafes will allow you to appreciate Nimbin’s many murals and diverse street art. Stop by at the Nimbin Museum to see both the village and its history through the eyes of its residents: a very colourful walk through eight rooms, complete with controversial, politically-charged artwork and plenty of photo opportunities to commemorate your visit. An admission fee is not demanded, however donations are expected and help keep the attraction running. So donate, donate, donate!

Nimbin Museum (Photographer: Rebekah; Flickr)

Nimbin Museum (Photographer: Rebekah; Flickr)

If you are interested in paying a visit to this genuinely fascinating hidden pocket of New South Wales, Nimbin is not remote or hard to reach. If you are going by car, it is under an hour to reach from Lismore and once you arrive, parking is free and ample. If you are using public transport, there are daily bus routes running from Lismore and Byron Bay. If you are using the bus routes and want to make it a day trip, look out for roundtrip packages which conveniently arrange a pick-up and depart time for you to and from Nimbin. Prices for these journeys can range from $20 to $35, so I recommend you look around for the best price as private companies tend to up their prices, especially in the tourist season and during the annual Mardi Grass festival period from March through to May.