Welcome to Australia, where there’s a whole heap of towns that are a little bit different, in their own special way. Many of these towns say no to conformity, hate to be what society expects them to be and enjoy living life a little more colourfully. If towns were school kids, these Australian hippie towns would be the kid who rocks up each day wearing the wrong colour tights and shoes that definitely are not in the uniform code.
These towns are awash with colour and are havens for art and music lovers. They’ve got a liberal attitude – in many of them it’s a-ok to walk around not wearing shoes – and they’re the kind of place where anybody is accepted. If you go with the right mindset, visiting these arty towns in Australia feels like you’re receiving a giant hug from each and every resident.
So be sure to visit some of these hippie towns while travelling or backpacking Australia. Some are easy to reach – like Byron Bay, which is a classic on the east coast backpacker route from Cairns to Sydney and some a little further out of the way. But, whichever you choose to visit, know that you’ll feel instantly enamoured with the way of life, the wonderful people, and the soul of the town.
Byron Bay – New South Wales
Many claim that Byron ‘isn’t what it used to be’, and I understand that the town is nowadays very touristy, which must be infuriating for locals.
But look a little deeper, and you’ll see that Byron Bay’s magic is very much alive. Check out the Arts Factory hostel – in particular the campground (I lived there for 5 months!) – to see the fire-spinning, hula hooping, busking spirit that is present in Byron. The Arts Factory campground is the kind of place that’s always colourful and there is a constant positive, energetic spirit – which is why I found it so hard to pull myself away!
Once you’ve basked in the best of the Arts Factory, take a walk down the high street with no shoes on, admire the artsy window displays and peruse some local art. Don’t forget to catch the nightly drum circle, at 6pm every evening by Main Beach. This is every day life in the bay.
Fremantle – Western Australia
Wonderful Fremantle is a haven for the weird and whacky, with eccentric shops and cafes, and art shops lining every street (artworks are sometimes encompassing the street itself!). It’s only half an hour from Perth, Western Australia’s capital (and is in some ways a suburb, although it definitely has character of its own!) but seems worlds away in atmosphere.
Fremantle is actually the most historic part of the Perth area, which is shown through its enthralling attractions such as the Fremantle jail and roundhouse. For those who want to get their hippy orn, there’s plenty of vintage stores and quirky cafes. Check out this list of Fremantle attractions to find out more.
Mullimbimby – New South Wales
Known by many to be ‘what Byron was like 30 years ago’, Mullimbimby is a town not affected by mass tourism and still able to hold onto its hippie roots (I personally think it’s very easy to still embrace your inner hippie in Byron though!). Mullimbimby is a peaceful town with a great climate, friendly locals and plenty of art galleries and eateries.
Known as ‘the biggest little town in Australia’, the counter culture of Mullimbimy has been less commercialised than other spots in the New South Wales Northern Rivers Region, meaning that this is a place where you can still experience some 70s magic. Head to Mullum to browse the alternative shops or take part in some yoga – there are six studios in the town! Or visit the Crystal Castle on the outskirts, to marvel at some truly magical gemstones.
Mullumbimby is just a short 20 minute drive from Byron Bay, so it can easily be included while visiting the town.
Kuranda – Queensland
Known as ‘the village in the rainforest’, Kuranda is located 25 kilometres north-west of Cairns. Arty types were drawn to Kuranda because of its spectacular natural beauty; which remains unspoilt today.
As well as walking trails in the rainforest, Kuranda is home to art galleries, plenty of shops and cafes, and its markets. The Original Markets vend beautiful local artworks and other products – it’s the place to shop if you’re looking for indigenous artwork, handmade jewellery, woodwork and gemstone.
Fancy a massage? You can get one at the original markets as well. The Heritage Markets sell souvenirs, food and drink and have live entertainment.
Sheffield – Tasmania
Quite possibly the hippiest town in Tasmania, Sheffield has an eccentric high street bursting with antique shops and alternative cafes, with friendly locals who always have a story or two to tell! But the main attraction of Sheffield is the street art in the town.
The main streets of Sheffield are adorned with murals depicting the history of the society, including an interesting tale about how the supermarket ‘Coles’ was born! Sheffield is close to Devonport, so is an ideal stop over if you’re getting the Spirit of Tasmania over to the state.
By Lyn and Steve from A Hole in My Shoe
Embrace your inner hippie and head three hours south of Perth to Margaret River for the perfect place to reflect and relax. The white beaches and pristine waters have been pulling hippies, surfers and bohos for years. But it’s not just beaches in this hippie haven, ‘Margs’ boasts rocky coastline, rolling hills and an abundance of unique flora and fauna. In this beautiful corner of the world, surrounded by the Indian Ocean you can chill watching whales migrate, hike through the wildflowers at Leeuwin Naturaliste’s’ National park or find your inner peace wandering through the stunning Boronup Forest.
You’ll find rugged coastline, magnificent beaches and spectacular bays, towering karri forests, unique limestone caves and hillside wineries with symmetrical rows of vines where chickens freely graze. It is quintessential “Down South”, where you can leave work Friday afternoon, let your hair down and enjoy the laidback lifestyle in time for dinner. The restaurants and cafes are some of the town’s hippest places and known for the best coffee and whole, healthy foods. There are lots of Zen infused, vegan cafes where you can enjoy a healthy, organic meal.
After dinner totally immerse yourself and contemplate life in a secluded forest as you watch the warm glow of the afternoon’s sun drench the bushland. As the mood of the place slowly infuses your soul, the chorus of birds and the fresh scents of eucalyptus and peppermint trees fill the air. Then as dark falls a million stars appear. In early morning there is the visual splendour and solitude of secluded bays, dramatic cliffs or the rising mist on undulating hillsides. You may even come across Layla, the quirky bronze statue sitting on a rock breastfeeding a baby whale. Enjoy the wonderment of the natural beauty of the area with all the unique lookouts, walk trails and cycle paths along the fabulous coastline.
Daylesford and Hepburn Springs – Victoria
By Jean from Traveling Honey bird
The towns of Daylesford and the lesser known Hepburn Springs are two of Victoria’s most delightful hippie towns. Approximately an hour and a half hour drive from Melbourne, past the magnificent Macedon Ranges, this is one of the most beautiful spots in Victoria. There’s quite a few wineries along the way and a hidden waterfall too – all in all making it a rather pleasant drive
The best thing to do in this area is eat yourself silly, spoil yourself at a spa treatment and enjoy a walk around the wonderful historical gardens. The twin towns boast wonderful food, wine, coffee, as well as having one Australia’s best ciders at Daylesford Cider. The area is also brimming with local artists showcasing their work, historical buildings turned into galleries and antique stores galore. But if you think that these two towns can’t get any better, they’re incredibly LGTBQI friendly. Daylesford hosts a variety of LGTQBI events every year.
Emundi – Queensland
The small town of Emundi, located inland from the Sunshine Coast, is famous for its artisan markets which attract tourists and locals from the entire Sunshine Coast region and as far south as Brisbane.
It’s a beautiful area and has inspired many artists for decades. Emundi is quiet enough for most people; but if you really want to embrace some solitude, checking out Bellbunya is a must-do while you’re in town.
It’s a large community of conscious citizens, and visitors are welcome to browse how the community uses sustainable and biodiverse practices. If you’re seeking a hippy retreat near the Sunshine Coast, you can stay a while at Bellbunya, or even volunteer!
Nimbin – New South Wales
By Tom from Travel Tom Tom
Most famous for its liberal marijuana policy, this New South Wales town is a hippy haven full of art galleries, hippie souvenir shops and funny themed cafes. There is also an interesting Aboriginal cultural centre in town, where visitors can learn all about the Bundjalung people who have called the area around Nimbin and Byron Bay home for tens of thousands of years.
Weed is not legal in Nimbin, but it is tolerated a lot more than anywhere else in Australia! While many people do visit for that reason – and it’s certainly not hard to find on the streets – it’s a great spot to visit for plenty of other reasons as well. The art and music scene is vibrant, with hippy murals adorning the streets and festivals taking place every summer.
The drive inland from Byron Bay is spectacular as well; through sub-tropical rainforest and past gorgeous waterfalls; it’s easy to imagine how this landscape has inspired an arty subculture.
Bellingen – New South Wales
About 20 minute’s drive inland of Coffs Harbour, Bellingham is a lovely fusion of country town and hippy refuge.
The tiny high street is littered with bright signs promoting pacifism and love, and there are plenty of arty cafes to grab a coffee or a great feed – with lots of vegan options, of course.
Further inland from Bellingen is The Waterfall Way, a spectacular area of New South Wales with some of the best waterfalls in the country.
Apollo Bay – Victoria
By Katy from Untold Morsels
Take a drive down the Great Ocean Road and you will no doubt stop at beautiful Apollo Bay. This once sleepy fishing town is now a thriving hub of artists and food makers who are inspired by the natural beauty of the coastline and Otway ranges. Their passion for ecology and handmade goods means Apollo Bay is a true hippie haven.
Walking in the pristine rainforest wilderness and along coastal paths is a favourite activity in this town. You can even watch the Southern Ocean whale migration from May to September – a truly special sight. If you are staying over a weekend visit the Saturday foreshore market and pick up some locally produced ceramics and paintings before heading to the Great Ocean Road brewhouse to sample the craft beers.
In winter Apollo Bay comes alive with the Winter Wild festival – a free after dark arts festival that runs for six weeks. With fire twirlers, knitting by the ocean and music performances, the festival is a great way to connect with the town’s hippie roots.
Your Perfect Australian Hippie Town
There you have it – a selection of the best towns in Australia that embrace an alternative lifestyle, whether that be involvement in the arts and music scenes, or merely appreciation for the astounding natural beauty around them. Are you interested in visiting one of these towns that embraces counter culture? Would you add any more to the list? Let me know!
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it or follow me on Facebook!