Explore ancient rock art sites, take part in contemporary artistic workshops and gain profound cultural insights, too.
Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris
Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris is located at Mount Borradaile (a 50-minute flight east of Darwin). This iconic eco-lodge, and its accompanying suite of activities are sanctioned by the area’s traditional owners, whose link to the area dates back 50,000 years. Tailored tours capitalise on the immense splendour and tranquillity of this pocket of Arnhem Land, especially its water-filled features such as the billabong beneath Mount Borradaile and nearby wetlands, alive with crocodiles and long-legged water birds. Your stay includes all meals, tours and activities, as well as permit fees (this land cannot be accessed publicly, so all visitors must have a permit). The lodge serves fine-dining fare in a relaxed communal space fringed by a serene pool.
Kakadu Cultural Tours
Kakadu Cultural Tours specialise in the broader Ubirr region, including one of the most sacred and stunning sites at Kakadu National Park, Ubirr itself. In the company of predominantly Aboriginal guides, guests can take a cultural cruise along Alligator River; embark on a one-day 4WD culture and heritage tour of Arnhem Land and Northern Kakadu; or take a two- or three-day stay at Hawk Dreaming Wilderness Lodge, paired with meals and two atmosphere-laden cruises through a landscape believed to have been ‘sung’ into existence by the rainbow serpent during the Dreamtime. This company offers guests the ability to travel beyond the main ‘galleries’ (large conglomerations of outdoor rock art) to restricted-access billabongs, secret art sites and living floodplains.
Brimming with thunderous waterfalls, verdant wetlands and ochre-toned escarpments, Kakadu is the world’s largest terrestrial national park, equal in size to the nation of Switzerland. Amplifying the power of Kakadu’s natural beauty are its Aboriginal culture and traditions, as nurtured by traditional owners. Kakadu Tourism, a collective of accommodation and tour offerings including two excellently positioned hotels and several tour options, offers guests the ability to tap into these twin features of the park. The signature experience is Kakadu’s must-do Yellow Waters Billabong cruise. Led by Bininj Aboriginal guides, this experience puts you face-to-face with the magnificent wetlands, home to 60 species of birds and a plethora of buffaloes and crocodiles.
Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Tour
The breathtaking Kings Canyon, located in Australia’s Red Centre provides the ultimate backdrop for the one-hour Aboriginal Cultural Tour, by Karrke. Learn about dot painting, tools, weapons, bush tucker and medicinal plants used by the Central Australia desert people during this hands-on experience; be introduced to native foods such as bush tomato, discover the significance of dot painting, and see how mulga wood is shaped into tools such as spears, hunting clubs and boomerangs. There is also opportunity to ask as many questions as you can about Luritja and Pertame (Southern Arrernte) language and culture, and how people have thrived in this extreme but often bountiful landscape for tens of thousands of years.
Lords Kakadu and Arnhemland Safaris
Swim in clear pools serenaded by waterfalls, trek through ancient rock art galleries, and uncover Aboriginal cultural stories of the Northern Territory’s Top End, alongside one of the state’s most lauded and experienced guides. Among many other sites, Lords Kakadu and Arnhemland Safaris takes in Arnhem Land, gems within Kakadu including the lesser-known Koolpin Gorge, and indulgent retreats such as Bamurru Plains, Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris’ eco lodge and the 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned and operated Cicada Lodge in Nitmiluk National Park. Lords also incorporates its own accommodation into trips with an exclusive ‘bush camp’ for 12 guests set within Kakadu. It’s furnished with comfortable beds and a fire pit for night-time meals and tale-telling.
Uluru-based art collective Maruku Arts runs gallery spaces and outdoor painting workshops in one of Australia’s most iconic landscapes. Participate in a dot-painting or punu-making workshop (punu is a woodcarving practice, involving decoration with lines created through a burn technique), during which you’ll discover a suite of art-making tools, learn a handful of words in the artist’s Aboriginal language and be invited to represent something of personal significance within your own artwork. Classes are run by established, knowledgeable and warm Aboriginal artists, with the aide of an interpreter. Alternatively, view the organisation’s impressive array of art and wooden sculpture in the nearby Maruku Arts Gallery. The organisation also performs ‘inma’ – meaning ceremonial dance and song.
Three hours south-east of Darwin lies a network of 13 towering gorges, through which snakes the Katherine River. This is Nitmiluk National Park: home to the Jawoyn people and a riot of rugged beauty. Nitmiluk Tours, a 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned company, lets you enjoy the best of Jawoyn country and culture via its smorgasbord of cruises, hikes, cave tours, swims, canoeing trips and scenic helicopter flights – not to mention its accommodation offerings, which include everything from a camping ground and chalets, through to luxury lodge Cicada. Be sure to walk to the first gorge lookout point for sunset or sunrise – or, if you find yourself closer to Katherine, join one of Nitmiluk Tours’ guided walks through the fascinating Cutta Cutta Caves.
Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours
Focused entirely on introducing you to the traditional Aboriginal way of life, Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours’ signature two-hour immersion journey offers intimate lessons in local bush tucker and medicine, making baskets and bags, throwing spears and playing instruments such as the clap sticks and didgeridoo, a short drive from Darwin. The family-run business enjoys strong ancestral ties to the area. Afterwards, relax and chat over shared damper (traditional bush bread, cooked on an open fire) and a cup of tea. Further deepen your experience with a trip to the Northern Coastal Wetlands, where you’ll learn about the family’s connection to the water and its animal inhabitants, while also absorbing the scenic, fertile surrounds.
SeaLink NT, Tiwi Islands
Explore the extraordinary tropical Tiwi Islands on tour with Sealink NT’s Tiwi Island experiences. Located near Darwin in the Northern Territory, the islands are home to a unique, Polynesian-influenced Aboriginal people, whose traditional artwork is internationally sought-after for its distinctive style. Meet artists, be welcomed to country with a smoking ceremony, make your own screen-printed textile, visit a museum and a church with a difference and experience the remarkably laidback way of life during the course of your visit; you may also have the chance to purchase artworks on site.
SEIT Outback Australia
Uluru’s traditional owners, the Aboriginal Anangu, have called the park home for 60,000 years. SEIT – which stands for Spirit, Emotion, Intellect and Task – serves to share this heritage with visitors via small group tours and off-the-beaten-path experiences. In particular, SEIT’s Cave Hill day tour, led by an Aboriginal guide, shines a spotlight on the Songlines (stories) of creation ancestors, as well as the cave paintings that bring them to life. Equally powerful is the Patji tour, which takes you beyond the main park’s boundaries to the homelands of Uluru’s traditional family. Over afternoon tea, sit with Aboriginal people to hear stories of their epic fight for land rights in Central Australia, plus other intimate accounts of Aboriginal life in the region.
Top Didj Cultural Experience and Art Gallery
Take in the plentiful art, didgeridoos, artefacts, gifts and books in the Top Didj art gallery, before joining a morning or afternoon Aboriginal artist-led cultural experience. Located in the town of Katherine, three hours south of Darwin, the organisation runs the popular Top Didj cultural experience, a two-and-a-half hour session led by charismatic Aboriginal artist, Manuel Pamkal. Enrich your practical understanding of local customs, hunting practices and art-making over the course of this uplifting morning or afternoon – and return home having painted your own work of art. Alternatively, browse the outstanding array of Jawoyn and Dagoman work, as well as that from Arnhem Land, the Kimberley and the Central Western Desert.
Venture North Safaris
Design a private trip, or join a four- or five-day safari in luxury 4WD vehicles: Venture North offers multi-award-winning luxury 4WD safaris, which travel to Arnhem Land, Kakadu and Garig Gunak Barlu National Park from Darwin. Take in a visit to the art-mad Aboriginal community of Gunbalanya, where you’ll embark on a moving rock art tour with an Aboriginal guide, traverse the stone country and wetlands of Kakadu, and stay at Venture North’s exclusive bush bungalow campsite, which features views across the clear waters of Cobourg Marine Park, plus rustic, comfortable rooms dotted among native foliage.
Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia – Ayers Rock Resort
In the sand dunes beside Uluṟu, rests Ayers Rock Resort, an accommodation and cultural experience collective comprising five different stays and more than 65 tours. The resort offers a restful base from which to explore the awe-inspiring Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and its famous monoliths (both 860-metre high Uluru and the lofty domes of Kata Tjuta), as well as to connect you more fervently with the rich Aboriginal culture and landscape of the Red Centre. Take a camel ride into the sunset; meander through the lush greenery at Uluru’s base – viewing rock art illustrating the site’s creation stories as you walk; or dine under a canopy of stars at a Sounds of Silence dinner, an atmosphere-laden evening of food, culture and astronomy, held amid sand dunes and silent surrounds.
Aboriginal-owned Janbal in the Cairns region is a gallery first and foremost, but offers so much more than the chance to gaze at paintings on a wall. Guests are encouraged to ask questions about the artists – owner Brian ‘Binna’ Swindley, an applauded artist himself, is passionate about sharing his story and highlighting how important art is to sustaining local culture. You’ll also be encouraged to get your hands dirty at Binna’s creative workshops. Book an art class and you’ll not only learn about the dot techniques utilised in this part of Queensland, you’ll also create your own painting to take home. The gallery is also a showcase for important Aboriginal artefacts, including didgeridoos and jewellery handmade by artisans from across Far North Queensland.
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
One of the largest employers of Aboriginal Australians in the country, Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park offers an expansive showcase of Aboriginal culture and community through song, dance and theatre. Their facilities near the tropical city of Cairns are expansive: in addition to the main high-tech theatre and museum, there’s a movie theatre, dance space and gallery, as well as a restaurant with an emphasis on native foods, and a cultural village where you can learn to throw a boomerang, play the didgeridoo and sample bush tucker. The park’s commitment to telling Aboriginal stories across 40,000 years of history offers a powerful insight into Australian culture, through song, dance and native bush foods.
Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia – Mossman Gorge Centre
Aboriginal-owned Mossman Gorge Centre is located 20 minutes’ drive north of Port Douglas in the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, where the Kuku Yalanji people have lived for centuries. It is also the starting point for their multi-award-winning signature experience, the Ngadiku Indigenous Guided Dreamtime Walks. Ngadiku means ‘stories and legends from long ago’ in local Kuku Yalanji language, and that’s exactly what you can expect on this memorable rainforest exploration. Learn about bush foods and bush medicine, pick up skills such as how to make ‘bush soap’, and experience a traditional smoking ceremony. The guided experience ends with bush tea and damper.
Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery
In the Swan Valley, half an hour from the centre of Perth, Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery offers an easily accessible and fascinating introduction to Aboriginal art, food and culture. The gallery is a specialist space dedicated to works by Noongar artists of the south-west, including works painted in the world-famous Carrolup style. Cultural activities include a Bush Tucker Talk and Tasting; an Ochre Hand Prints experience, in which guests learn about contemporary and traditional Aboriginal art and create their own artwork; and an experience called Local History and Culture, which introduces visitors to everything from kinship systems and marriage laws to the best way to cook a goanna (an Australian lizard). A bush tucker-inspired range of native foods is also for sale.
Poornarti Aboriginal Tours
Run by Noongar Elder Joey Williams, Poornarti Aboriginal Tours brings the country of the Noongar people around the town of Denmark to life through deeply immersive, intimate and interactive experiences. Fascinating full-day tours and overnight camping tours involve hearing Dreamtime stories, stepping upon the earth and dance, embracing the elements, sharing yarns by the fire, tasting bush tucker, experiencing traditional ceremony, and learning about Noongar ways of life, spirit and art. Poornarti also offers a range of shorter tours including a 90-minute Vibrational Healing Tour – which includes a traditional smoking ceremony, water nurture and vibrational healing at a significant water location – as well as half-day tours learning about the Noongar culture and history of the area.
New South Wales
Australian Museum – Indigenous Tour
Learn about the beliefs and lifestyles of the world’s oldest living culture, in the country’s oldest museum, with a personalised guided tour of the First Australians galleries at the Australian Museum in the heart of Sydney. In one of the finest collections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artefacts, the museum houses more than 40,000 Indigenous Australian weapons, body ornaments, tools, bark paintings, toys and contemporary art and sculpture from across all the country. Highlights include ancient grindstones more than 32,000 years old, ancient bark drawings, modern dot paintings and carved emu eggs, as well as crocodile masks made from turtle shells, feathered headdresses and pearl-shell ornaments that are still worn for rituals and ceremonial dances in the Torres Strait Islands. There are also intricately woven baskets, art made from ghost fishing nets, exquisite shell jewellery, drums, canoes and ingenious tools for hunting and fishing.
The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney – Aboriginal Heritage Tour
The 90-minute Aboriginal Heritage Tour through Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden is located just behind the Sydney Opera House. It explores the garden’s rich Aboriginal heritage through the many uses of the plants that grow here. Forage for and taste Australian bush foods as you walk and talk, and identify plants used for medicines and shelter. Collect seasonal fruits, berries and seeds in a traditional coolamon (a shallow dish made of bark), learn traditional methods of cooking and how to incorporate the bush foods into your own meals at home, as well as tasting some recipes inspired by bush foods. The Royal Botanic Garden also holds Aboriginal art classes where you can discover how to use the plants and other elements of the garden – sticks, ochre, grasses and bark, as well as paints and natural brushes – to create the ultimate souvenir, a unique piece of art to take home with you.
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre – Melbourne Museum
The Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre contains one of the most significant Aboriginal cultural collections in the world. Meaning ‘the place of Bunjil’ (the ancestral wedge-tailed eagle, a creator spirit), the museum was designed in collaboration with Aboriginal people including Melbourne’s traditional owners, the Boon wurrung and the Woi wurrung. Part of the Melbourne Museum in Melbourne, it offers an intensive, interactive and often moving immersion in Aboriginal culture, featuring art, storytelling, and powerful multimedia experiences