The area is part of what is known as the 'Rainbow Region' and is culturally important to the Bundjalung Aboriginal Australians and has become a haven for Australia's counterculture in recent decades.
Nimbin was a sleepy dairy town until 1973, when the Aquarius Festival, a large gathering of university students, practitioners of alternative lifestyles, 'hippies' and party people, was held in the town. After the festival many participants and festival goers remained in Nimbin to form communes and other multiple occupancy communities. Since the Aquarius Festival, the region has attracted many writers, artists, musicians, actors, environmentalists and permaculture enthusiasts. The most prominent recreational substance of choice in Nimbin is cannabis. Writer Austin Pick described his initial impressions of the town this way: "It is as if a smoky avenue of Amsterdam has been placed in the middle of the mountains behind frontier-style building facades. ... Nimbin is a strange place indeed."