YOU'D be forgiven for thinking Nimbin was the place time forgot. Located in the foothills of an extinct volcano, this sub-tropical village is a piece of hippie heritage left over from the 1973 Age of Aquarius festival.

While the Age of Aquarius has physically gone, its spirit remains alive and well, attracting thousands of tourists who want to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and sink into the blissful peace and tranquility that Nimbin offers.

But for one weekend in May, Nimbin transforms into a colourful and crowded metropolis, as people arrive to take part in the annual MardiGrass Festival.

What's MardiGrass about?

MardiGrass is basically a peaceful rally for cannabis law reform. Supporters for the legalisation of cannabis are fighting for it to be recognised as a substance that can be used medicinally, as a food source, an environmentally-friendly fibre or as a potential fuel source.

When is the MardiGrass Festival on?

The festival starts on Friday, May 1, 2009. This is the day to get to the Nimbin Town Hall to purchase your pass and establish your camping digs for the weekend (or other accommodation).

The main festivities start at 4.20am on the Saturday morning and continue through until Sunday, May 3 at around 11pm-midnight.

Is it a child-friendly event?

While the township itself is kid friendly, it's advised not to take children. Yes, there are the local children around, but as there will be activities like the passing of the giant joint and the Hemp Olympix; it's probably best to leave the kids at home. This festival is really more for people aged 18 years and over.

What's on?

Whether you're participating in MardiGrass or simply seeing what the fuss is about; MardiGrass has something for most tastes, with live music, poetry readings, information sessions and street entertainment.

There's a host of feature events which include:
  • The Kombi Konvoy - a parade of the VW hippie mobiles winds its way into Nimbin after travelling from Byron Bay via Lismore. Definitely worth a look, even if you aren't a car buff.
  •  The Hemp Olympix - who would have thought bong throwing or joint rolling was considered a sport?
  • The Harvest Ball in Peace Park.

The official Nimbin MardiGrass website has an in-depth list of all the events that are happening over the two days, and is definitely worth looking at before you go.

How much will it be?

Up until recently, MardiGrass was a free event. However, like many events, it now comes at a price.

For $50, you can get a full MardiGrass pass for one person. This includes two nights at the A&I Showground campsite (tents not included).

Should you come to the campsite earlier than the pass allows, additional nights can be purchased for $10 per night.

Full weekend passes to MardiGrass without camping are $30 per person.

Saturday-only passes are $20 and Sunday-only passes are $10. These passes allow you to everything except the Cannabis Cup.

Groovy. I'm keen to go, but I don't know where Nimbin is.

View Nimbin, NSW in a larger map

From Brisbane, Nimbin is around 180km to the south. The closest town centres are Lismore and Mullumbimby, with Byron Bay a little further out.

How do I get to Nimbin?

No matter if you're driving from the north or south, there are a few ways to get to Nimbin. However, the easiest (and least confusing) is to follow the highway and the signs to Lismore. When you reach Lismore's town centre, find your way to Woodlark Street (it'll be the one with the massive Christmas tree on the roundabout), head over Fawcett's Bridge and keep following the signs to Nimbin.

If you don't have a car, there are plenty of bus services that will get you to Lismore. Your best bets are Premier Motor Service or Greyhound Coaches.

From Lismore, Waller's Bus Company is the only one with a service. Just note that MardiGrass doesn't fall within school holiday time. As a result - you will be travelling on a bus full of children from ages 5 through to 18.

For more information, their timetable can be found here. You can also contact them on (02) 6622 6266 or on mobile - 0428 255 284.

For those living in Brisbane, a company called Green Triangle operate a service that runs to Nimbin. However - its transportation times are limited, so you'll have to check online or give them a call on 1800 503 475.

What accommodation is available in Nimbin?

Depending on your budget, there is everything from farm stays, bed and breakfasts, hostels and small hotels to camping.

The MardiGrass $50 pass entitles you to two nights camping at the A&I Showgrounds in Nimbin, but there are other options.

The best way to find them is to hop onto and check out what deals are available. Alternatively, you can also check out the official Nimbin MardiGrass website which offers some accommodation ideas for all tastes.

Be quick to book though, as places will sell out fast.

So, is it legal to carry/consume marijuana or other drugs while I'm there?

The short answer? No. Granted there is a giant joint passed around during the procession, be aware that police still monitor the crowds during MardiGrass, and if you're caught - you're liable to end up in jail or charged with a drug offence.

Nimbin locals are also not pro-hard drugs (ecstasy, heroin and other chemical substances), so both the police and the locals will look down on anybody seen with these items. The police will also arrest and charge you with drug use should you be found with any illegal substances.

Also be aware that police keep a sharp eye on all roads leading to and from Nimbin, so if you're heading to or coming from that direction - be ready to have your car and your body searched, as well as having to undergo possible drug and alcohol checks.

While this may be a rally for cannabis law reform, you must remember that drugs are still very much illegal - so to the MardiGrass participant who is thinking they want to have a good time - beware!

Final bits and pieces...

Apart from packing the tent, a sleeping bag, clothes and food - you should get yourself ready for an experience you'll never forget.

On a normal day, Nimbin is an unusual place to visit because it feels like you're still in the 1970s; yet while it's laidback, the village is also home to a vibrant artistic community and one that's close to nature.

The MardiGrass Festival adds that little bit of eccentricity to the village, and has raised its profile.

Apart from the festival, there's amazing scenery around Nimbin, with the Nightcap National Park only minutes away (and well worth a day of exploration). There are also other villages well worth a look and the scenic drives are breathtaking.

So why ponder any longer? Start making plans and putting in your holidays for the Nimbin MardiGrass and experience it yourself.

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