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Australia's Aboriginal Tourism Experiences

September 13, 2018

Connecting with authentic local cultures is one of the real joys of travel. Tapping into the spirit of a place through its history can be revealing and immensely rewarding.

 (Indigenous experiences, Western Australia. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia)

(Indigenous experiences, Western Australia. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia)

As Australians, we sometimes look to other places and envy the richness of their indigenous cultures. There's something really exotic about tribal cultures of Africa, for example. You might look at the Americas and feel the draw of Mayan, Incan or Aztec heritage. Likewise, the ancient cultures of Asia and Indochina, even the Pacific.

But what about closer to home? What about the most ancient of cultures that's right under our noses? Does it have the same tourism appeal?
 (Indigenous experiences, Western Australia. Image credit James Fisher/Tourism Australia Copyright)

(Indigenous experiences, Western Australia. Image credit James Fisher/Tourism Australia Copyright)

But for many, the excitement of an overseas trip is irresistible. There's something magic about travelling with that tiny blue (or black) book and hearing the 'whump!' of an arrival stamp on a page cluttered with those from earlier adventures. That unique overseas combination of foreign language, new food and ways of life is what travel is all about.

"I don't think enough Australians quite appreciate the astonishing travel experiences available to them in 'Aboriginal' Australia", says Lisa Pagotto of ATAS accredited global tour operator Crooked Compass.

(Indigenous experiences, Queensland. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia)(Indigenous experiences, Queensland. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia)

"I suspect some think it’s all a bit inaccessible, or not as interesting as cultures elsewhere. But Australia's indigenous travel experiences are as rich and unique as anything on the planet", continues Lisa.
 
"I'd love more Australians venture out and explore the country's red heart, learn about bush tucker and medicines, art, customs and connections to country, Aboriginal creation stories and the Dreamtime, or - my favourite - venture deep into Arnhem Land and connect with ancient Songlines, local kinship, traditional lore and language. Experiences like these in some astonishingly beautiful locations are at the core of what makes Australia such a brilliant place to explore", says Lisa.
 (Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival, Birdsville QLD. Image credit: Photography by Cathy Finch)

(Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival, Birdsville QLD. Image credit: Photography by Cathy Finch)

Australia is home to the oldest living culture on Earth, and just about every corner of this land has unique Aboriginal stories woven into its fabric. Exploring it, and tapping into 80,000 years of local knowledge can be a deeply transformative experience.
 

(Indigenous experiences, Queensland. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia)

(Indigenous experiences, Queensland. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia)

Your favourite ATAS accredited travel agent can help you plan the perfect journey through Australia's significant Aboriginal places and experiences.

Here are just a few such experiences waiting for you across this fabulous, sunburnt country of ours.

TASTE IT

It's very likely that indigenous foods and medicinal plants first eased their way into the general awareness of most Australians - those of a certain age, anyway - in the late 1980s when the ABC TV series, The Bush Tucker Man, first hit our screens. The bush food journeys of retired Australian Army soldier and war veteran, Les Hiddens with his distinctive hat, made for compelling viewing.

Since that time, an array of ingredients has found their way onto restaurant menus, supermarket shelves and cocktail lists. Nowhere more so, perhaps, than at Ayers Rock Resort.
 
The resort runs a Bush Tucker Journeys program that brings the ingredients of the outback to contemporary dining. There's also a daily Bush Food Experience, and foraging garden walks that showcase the native herbs, spices, fruits, seeds, insects and wildlife that have sustained people here for tens of thousands of years.

 (Foraging for Bush Tucker. Image credit: Tourism Australia)(Foraging for Bush Tucker. Image credit: Tourism Australia)

WALK IT

Walking holidays are more popular than they've ever been, and Australia is home to some particularly fine walks.

Mossman Gorge Dreamtime walk

Easily accessible from Cairns and the beaches north to Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge sits in the World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park.

On a Dreamtime Walk led by an Aboriginal guide, you'll experience a traditional smoking ceremony that cleanses and wards off bad spirits, seek out bush food and medicines, make soap from rainforest plants, learn about local Kuku Yalanji culture and visit sacred local sites.

 Smoking ceremony, Mossman Gorge - Daintree National Park QLD. Image credit: Tourism Australia)(Smoking ceremony, Mossman Gorge - Daintree National Park QLD. Image credit: Tourism Australia)

Dreamtime Walks run for about 90-minutes, making them a terrific introduction to local culture for day-trippers or guests at nearby Silky Oaks Lodge.

Tasmania's Bay of Fires

The Wukalina Walk is a four-day wander through the breath-taking landscape of the larapuna (Bay of Fires) and wukalina (Mt William) areas of North East Tasmania - the cultural homeland of the palawa people.

(Bay of Fires, Tasmania. Image credit: Tourism Australia)(Bay of Fires, Tasmania. Image credit: Tourism Australia)

Aboriginal-owned and operated, the walk is known for deepening understandings of local Aboriginal culture and community. It is also a complete immersion in the rugged beauty of the Bay of Fires.
 Great Walks of Australia, Bay of Fires Lodge Walk. Image credit: Bay of Fires)

(Great Walks of Australia, Bay of Fires Lodge Walk. Image credit: Bay of Fires)

Walk with local palawa guides in the footsteps of their ancestors, hear their creation stories and take part in cultural customs passed down through millennia. This really is one of Tasmania's great walks, with two nights spent in total comfort in palawa-inspired huts, and one night in the gorgeous Lighthouse Keepers Cottage at larapuna/Bay of Fires.

SEEK IT

Australia has some 100,000 known rock art sites. And whilst some of our most famous examples are in remote regions, there are good examples worth seeking out much closer to home than you might think. For example, just an hour north of Sydney, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is home to numerous engraving sites.
Likewise, just three hours from Melbourne in the Grampians National Park, you'll find 250 rock art locations spread across five spectacular sandstone ridges. Aboriginal rangers from Brambuk Cultural Centre can guide you to the finest examples.
 (Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre, Halls Gap VIC. Image credit: Tourism Victoria)

(Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre, Halls Gap VIC. Image credit: Tourism Victoria)

Some of the most remarkable rock art on Earth is found in the Northern Territory's Aboriginal Arnhem Land. Tour operators here offer a range of wildlife wetland cruises and fishing trips, as well as access to the rock art galleries.
 (Touring, Mt Borradaile Arnhemland – NT. Image credit: Tourism Australia)

(Touring, Mt Borradaile Arnhemland – NT. Image credit: Tourism Australia)

About three hours from Darwin, and home to around 5000 rock art sites - some dating back 20,000 years - the escarpments and gorges of Kakadu National Park are considered to be Australia's epicentre of Aboriginal rock art.

 Mt Borradaile, Arnhemland – NT. Image credit: Tourism Australia)(Mt Borradaile, Arnhemland – NT. Image credit: Tourism Australia)

Explore the region and you might see astonishing traditional depictions of the Lightning Man Creation Ancestor, figures in large headdresses carrying spears and boomerangs, a two-masted sailing ship, early Europeans smoking pipes and, astonishingly, a painting of a Tasmanian tiger, extinct on the mainland for some 3000 years.

DIVE INTO IT

For a totally immersive experience, travel deep into traditional lands and make meaningful, lasting connections with thriving Aboriginal communities in some of the country's most beautiful places.

 (Indigenous experiences, Western Australia. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia)(Indigenous experiences, Western Australia. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia)

Explore Arnhem Land

East Arnhem Land is a stunning, untouched corner of Australia, remote and rich with Aboriginal culture and tradition. This is Yolnu country, and tours here typically include numerous activities like traditional weaving and fishing, foraging for bush foods and medicine, dance and storytelling, even learning how to make and play the Didgeridoo.
 
Visits here are characterised by local customs and traditions like authentic welcomes to country, smoking ceremonies, kinship, local lore and language - both written and signed. Yolnu life is deeply connected to the environment, wildlife and climate. Be prepared to leave your devices and expectations behind and go with local flow.

Direct daily flights link Cairns and Darwin with Gove (Nhulunbuy).

Explore Uluru and sacred sites

Uluru and Kata Tjuta rise over the red centre, the physical and spiritual heart of Australia. This is a truly significant place culturally, with numerous Aboriginal Songlines intersecting here.
 

(Kata Tjuta. Image credit: Tourism Australia)(Kata Tjuta. Image credit: Tourism Australia)

The Rock is an enormous sandstone monolith whose markings tell the creation story of the Anangu, the traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Local tour operators here offer a range of Aboriginal experiences including 4WD journeys deep into Pitjantjatjara Lands to visit Cave Hill, possibly the most significant art site in Central Australia.
 

(Aboriginal Tours, Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park NT. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia(Aboriginal Tours, Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park NT. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia)


There are numerous excellent accommodation options around Uluru, and with major domestic airlines servicing Ayers Rock Airport daily, Uluru is one of Australia's most accessible Aboriginal tourism hot spots.

Head west to Broome and Australia’s final wild frontier

The pearling town of Broome sits on the Indian Ocean coastline of Western Australia's Kimberley region. Perhaps most famous for the stunning white sands of Cable Beach, Broome is the leaping off point for some wonderful Aboriginal tourism experiences.

(BBQ Dinner, Dampier Peninsula – WA. Image credit: Tourism Australia)(BBQ Dinner, Dampier Peninsula – WA. Image credit: Tourism Australia)


You'll find Kooljaman at Cape Leveque on the stunning Dampier Peninsula, three hours from Broome.
 (Indigenous experiences, Western Australia. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia)

(Indigenous experiences, Western Australia. Image credit: James Fisher/Tourism Australia)

This coastal camp is run by local Bardi Jawi Communities who welcome visitors to share the Aboriginal history and the dreaming stories of this pristine wilderness by the sparkling turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.

Talk to your ATAS accredited travel agent to plan your perfect exploration of Australia's finest Aboriginal tourism experiences.

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