Before we came to Australia, whenever I pictured it in my head it would always be either golden beaches or the dusty red centre, I never really thought of winding mountain roads, or waterfalls crashing down through rainforests stretching as far as you can see.
After soaking up the sun, sea and surf at Byron Bay, we decided to get off to coast road and head to the hills to explore another side of Australia.
A little town called Nimbin
From Byron Bay, we wanted to drive slightly inland then continue on southwards towards Port Macquarie, following the mountain roads. After packing up our van in the morning, we drove an hour or so into the Byron Bay Hinterlands and stopped off at Nimbin for lunch and a look around.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of Nimbin or not… it’s an odd little place. Celebrated (by some) as Australia’s weed capital, it’s a relaxed hippie town in the mountains where natives and tourists alike can go to soak up the alternative lifestyle. Weed is illegal in Australia, which is what makes this town so bizarre.
On the plus side, it’s a colourful, happy place where freedom of expression is encouraged, and art is welcome in all it’s forms… but our impression of Nimbin was of a town well past it’s heyday – stuck in the flower child era of the 70s with a population of aging hippies and vegan backpackers in tie-dye.
Cannabis is promoted everywhere and isn’t exactly subtle. T-shirts with cannabis leaves printed on them, bongs, grinders, papers all for sale in most of the shops along with ‘herbal’ teas with god knows what in them. The hemp embassy on the main street is hard to miss, and ‘free the weed’ signs pretty much everywhere you look. They even have a local newspaper promoting their Mardi Grass festival and filled with articles on how smoking is good for you and recipe tips. It’s more overt than Amsterdam and far less legal.
I’m all for a smoke now and again if that’s what you’re into, but in Nimbin the whole town seems to revolve around it to a crazy degree. Although apparently in recent years the local police have been really cracking down on growing and dealing in Nimbin, so I wonder if this little town will slowly fade from the backpacker route and become a hazy smoke-filled memory.
Ebor Falls and the Waterfall Way
After a lunch break and a quick look around Nimbin, we continued on our journey into the mountains and set our sights on Ebor – a little village near Guy Fawkes River National Park, where we’d planned to stay for the night.
I love travelling in the quieter seasons, where you don’t need to book ages ahead for somewhere to stay. We just called Ebor Hotel/Motel on the way and they confirmed we had a spot for our van that night. It’s so nice to just decide on a place to stay the night as we’re driving, it gives us more freedom to explore.
Ebor Falls is just one of many stops on the Waterfall Way, a road taking you past some amazing scenery – plenty of waterfalls of course, along with miles and miles of rainforest. You could easily spend a few days exploring the region, doing the hiking trails and stopping at every national park for a peek.
We rolled into Ebor early evening and it didn’t take us long to find where we needed to be – it’s the definition of a one-horse town. The hotel pub served dinner so we settled in for a steak and a few beers while the locals propped up the bar in their jeans and cowboy hats, talking shit about another local farmer. We were properly in the sticks, I could only understand one word in ten, and that was always c***.
In the morning we walked over to the Ebor Falls walking trail, which was the reason we’d chosen to stay there in the first place. The track itself was in a spooky lichen-covered forest. It was deserted when we got there, misty and quiet. It looked like something out of a horror movie, I expected zombies to come stumbling out of the mists at any minute trying to eat our brains.
I didn’t really know what to expect, but Ebor Falls is bloody impressive. It’s a huge tiered waterfall on the Guy Fawkes river, well worth a visit. If Ebor Falls was in Europe, it would be constantly busy, the town would be booming, there’d be icecream vans in the car park and people taking selfies left, right and centre. In a huge place like Australia, it’s just another tiny dot on the map.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see as much of the Waterfall Way as we would have liked as we needed to get down to Port Macquarie that night, so we only got to stop at Ebor and Wollomombi before finishing the trail at Armidale. It’s a shame because there was so much to see. That’s the thing with a place as huge as Australia… there’s always more to see. On the plus side, we saw our first kangaroos… Now we’re really in Australia!