Have you had enough of Byron Bay? That’s hard to believe. But I understand you could be keen to explore somewhere new and different. Here’s an itinerary that will take you to Byron Bay hinterland. And you’ll be back on time on the coast for the Sunday morning surfing session.
Nimbin: an Australian village with character
Nimbin is known for being Australia’s capital of cannabis.
I’m not a smoker, so Nimbin has never made it to the top of the places I wanted to visit in the region. Still, it sounded like an original destination with a hippie lifestyle that aroused my curiosity so I kept it on the list. And I’m glad I did.
Although I wouldn’t drive 1.5 hours from Byron Bay just to check out Nimbin, it was worth a short detour from our more nature-oriented visits in Byron Bay hinterland.
I often complain that all Australia towns look too similar: the main road with the same kinds of buildings on each side. Nimbin definitely has its own style. You still have the main road, but in Nimbin, the buildings are a lot more colourful and unique. And they carry messages: marijuana leaves and rainbows are painted almost everywhere.
But when you make some research, you quickly find out there’s a lot more in Nimbin than cannabis.
Cannabis is what brings most tourists there, but not what makes locals stay. The community is highly focused on sustainable living and alternative solutions. In the 70s, Nimbin was a dairy town left almost deserted after an economic crisis. Some hippies purchased cheap large lands and created from scratch communities around their ideals of freedom and sustainability. Decades later, these communities are still around.
I realise it wouldn’t attract crowds like cannabis does, but I wish a part of tourism was focused on this interesting history of Nimbin. I found the information online, not in town. You can visit Djanbung Permaculture Gardens nearby and the HEMP Embassy shop promotes sustainable products from seeds, but that’s about it. It would make the visit a lot more interesting if the shops and the town centre shared the sustainable living lifestyle.
We only had a short visit of the main street and I was disappointed not to feel the local way of life. In the cafes where we stopped for food, the focus on sustainability wasn’t there. Smoothies even came in single-use cups with a plastic lid and a straw…!
On your way to Nimbin, keep your eyes opened for the Nimbin Rocks.
These funny-looking rocks are volcanic extrusions from the leftovers of Mount Warning volcano. You can stop on the side of the road for a photo, and that’s as far as your visit will go. I was surprised there was no sign to explain the history of the rocks.
Like most natural landmarks in Australia, they have a significant cultural site for Aboriginals. Note the access is prohibited, you won’t be able to see them closer without a special authorisation.
Waterfalls in Byron Bay Hinterland
Protesters Falls is a short detour from the road that connects Nimbin to the coast, but it’s worth the drive. The 15-minute walk is lovely and the falls looked fantastic. Read more about Protesters Falls here.
There are other walks to do in the Nightcap National Park if you want to spend more time there. Click here for more ideas.
Minyon Falls are the most famous falls in the region. The lookout is less than one-hour away from Byron Bay. From there, you’ll see the start of the falls that plunge in a gorge more than 100 meters below. The first time we visited, there was no water flowing. Still, the view of the beautiful cliffs was worth it.
It’s quite an effort to reach the bottom of Minyon Falls (4km one-way). But there a nice rock pool down there where you can cool down when you arrive. And the shapes of the rocks, like pipe organs, make it worth the effort.
A bit further on the road, at Minyon Grass picnic area, you can reach another lookout to view the falls from a different angle.
Spot a platypus in Byron Bay Hinterland
Platypus are hard to spot in the wild but there are places where you’ll have greater chances than others. Rocky Dam Creek has a platypus viewing platform so it is promising. Never get your expectations too high when you go for platypus spotting. Patience is part of the game.
But this stop was an epic fail for us. We woke up before sunrise to reach a closed gate. They closed the access to the creek because of construction work. We’ll be back after March 2018 to try our luck again. We still had a quick look at the creek – not from the platform but much further down from the dam – with no luck.
Tours to see platypus in the wild run from Byron Bay. Click here for more information*.
If you want to spot a platypus, you’ll need to get up early or stay until the night. They are easier to spot at dusk and dawn. We decided to sleep in the area and stayed at the campground in The Channon (booking recommended: it was full both nights). The place was great and I particularly appreciated their efforts for recycling and reusing items. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a koala.
Markets in Byron Bay Hinterland
If you’re travelling to the Byron Hinterland on the right day, you may want to visit one of the famous markets in the region for some local entertainment, arts, crafts and fresh produce:
- The Channon Craft Market, on the 2nd Sunday of every month
- Bangalow Market, on the 4th Sunday each month
- Nimbin Market, every fourth and fifth Sunday of the month
Have you visited Byron Bay Hinterland? What did you like there? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where are these places in Byron Bay Hinterland
It takes 1.5 hours to drive from Byron Bay to Nimbin.
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