Maruku Arts, Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory © Archie Sartracom, Tourism Australia
Art and museums
Explore ancient rock art sites, take part in contemporary artistic workshops and gain profound cultural insights, too.
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 Nations galleries at the Australian Museum – Waranara First Nations Tour 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 the country. Highlights include 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 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 Cultural Tour
The 90-minute Aboriginal Cultural Tour through Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden provides a unique opportunity to learn about the uses of native trees and plants by Australia’s First Nations People, whilst also learning about the diverse history and culture of the Cadigal people – the Traditional Custodians of the Sydney city area. Depending on what’s in season, you’ll also be able to forage and taste some Australian bush foods. Other programs include Aboriginal bush foods experiences where you will learn how to identify seasonal bush foods followed by a unique and modern dining experience utilising these ingredients.
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
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, a beautiful abode in an otherwise restricted area of northern Kakadu National Park, or Anbinik Kakadu Resort, architecturally designed accommodation in Jabiru township. Kakadu Cultural Tours take guests beyond the main ‘galleries’ (large conglomerations of outdoor rock art) to restricted-access billabongs, secret art sites and living floodplains.
Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Experience and Tours
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.
People often speak of undiscovered parts of the world. But Arnhem Land, a vast region in the north-west of the Northern Territory, is the real thing: 97,000 square kilometres (37,450 square miles) of barely touched wilderness, equal parts beautiful, daunting and mysterious. The Yolŋu people have been custodians of this land for millennia and, on a tour with Lirrwi Tourism, visitors are immersed in an authentic encounter with this ancient culture. Single and multi-day tours explore aspects of Yolŋu life, from song and dance to art and the yidaki (didgeridoo) – all against the backdrop of the wondrous parallel world that is East Arnhem Land. Here, the calendar is divided into six seasons, and songlines – or Dreaming tracks – run through the landscape.
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 cabins, through to the luxurious Cicada Lodge. 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.
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. SEIT’s powerful Patji tour 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 & 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.
Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, part of Kakadu Tourism
Immerse yourself in the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park with the proudly Indigenous-owned Kakadu Tourism. With a wide range of accommodation options and tour experiences including a Yellow Water cruise and a visit to Warradjan Culture Centre, there’s something for everyone. At Warradjan Cultural Centre discover the ways in which land means life for the Aboriginal traditional landowners of Kakadu in a fascinating exhibit that explains their cultures. The exhibit 'Our Land is Our Life' explains hunting techniques used in different seasons, the recent history of the park, blood lines and marriage rights, tribal Elder stories and the effects of white settlement in the Top End. The gallery 'Come Look and Feel Our Culture' helps you to gain an understanding of the Aboriginal traditional landowners (Bininj) and their country. After exploring the many facets of Bininj culture, browse through their gallery of arts and crafts on display and for sale.
Far North Queensland is a spectacular amalgam of rainforest, reef, beach and outback, and Culture Connect, a tour company based in Cairns, offers visitors wonderful ways to connect with ancient Indigenous culture in the region. At Normanby Station, a vast cattle property outside Cooktown, Traditional Owners the Harrigan brothers introduce guests to their way of life as cattlemen and as guardians of extraordinary galleries of Aboriginal rock art. Back on the coast, another pair of brothers, Linc and Brandon Walker, invite visitors to join them on Cooya Beach, traditional Kuku Yalanji fishing grounds, to learn everything from how to throw a spear to search for plants used to create medicine.
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.
Jarramali Rock Art Tours
When Kuku Yalanji man Johnny Murison stumbled across a gallery of Aboriginal rock art while four-wheel driving in outback Queensland a few years ago, his life changed forever. The former carpenter set up Jarramali Rock Art Tours in 2017 to show visitors the so-called “Magnificent Gallery,” part of the world-renowned Quinkan rock art outside the tiny town of Laura in far north Queensland. “I can show you the whole structure of our society by looking at that gallery,” says Murison, who is just as interesting as the 20,000-year-old rock art he loves showing off to the world. Guests travel to the Magnificent Gallery in his four-wheel drive, nicknamed The Beast, along one of the wildest roads in the country and, if they’re on the overnight tour, get to sit around the campfire listening to his yarns and the sounds of the didgeridoo echoing in the night.
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.
Wilpena Pound Resort
If you want to visit one of the oldest landscapes on Earth, a good place to start is Wilpena Pound Resort in South Australia’s dramatic Flinders Ranges, the only accommodation within the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. The Resort, owned and operated by the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners, offers a range of guided Aboriginal cultural tours that include 4WD tours to visit 550-million-year-old fossil sites and ancient rock engravings, walking tours to Old Wilpena Station and scenic flights over extraordinary Wilpena Pound, an 800-million-year-old natural amphitheatre. Located 430 kilometres (267 miles) north of Adelaide, the Resort provides a range of accommodation options from motel rooms and safari-style 'glamping' tents, as well as powered and unpowered bush campsites.
Dale Tilbrook Experiences
With Dale Tilbrook, a Wardandi Bibbulmun woman, enjoy a captivating dive into Aboriginal food, medicine, culture and art with an emphasis on bush tucker as a food and medicine. During Dale’s two signature bush food experiences enjoy tasting a huge range of bush tucker like quandongs, Kakadu plum, native finger limes, muntries, salty grapes, native spinach, saltbush and other herbs and spices. Bush herbs are added to kangaroo and emu to provide extra flavour. In the ‘Aboriginal Art and Dreamtime Stories’ experience, the history of Aboriginal art and dot painting is explored, and participants create their own piece to take home. Dale’s storytelling skills come to the fore when she delves into ‘Local History and Culture’. Meet in the Swan Valley at Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery or Dale can meet you at your location. Bush Tucker Talk and Tasting is also available at Mandoon Estate Winery.
No-one knows Western Australia’s ruggedly beautiful Kimberley region quite like its Traditional Custodians. Kingfisher Tours only uses local Aboriginal guides to lead its single and multi-day explorations of this extraordinary wilderness area in the state’s north-west. This allows you to gain a deeper understanding of its key places, from the World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park with its beehive-shaped Bungle Bungle Range, to the jaw-dropping four-tiered Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls), and the lonely islands scattered along the wild Kalumburu Coast. Tours typically depart from Broome, Kununurra or Darwin and most begin with a scenic flight over the spectacular Kimberley landscape, followed by a traditional Welcome to Country ceremony. The greeting sets the tone for meaningful hikes to rock art, 4WD adventures to a remote Aboriginal community, and forging unforgettable connections around the campfire. These all-inclusive, small group experiences run from April to September.
Ngurrangga Tours’ Clinton Walker is a descendant of the Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi people, Traditional Owners of the West Pilbara in the north of Western Australia. And there’s no better tour guide to this vast swathe of red dirt than Walker, who holds deep knowledge of his country – ngurra – passed down from Elders and is passionate about bringing visitors to the Pilbara in general, but to the Birrup Peninsula in particular. The peninsula is virtually unknown yet is home to an estimated million Aboriginal rock carvings, some dating back as far as 40,000 years. He’s also armed with lightning-quick humour: on Ngurrangga’s Instagram feed, he describes a goanna scurrying away from the sound of his boots as “fast food”.
So many of Australia’s absorbing Indigenous experiences happen against a backdrop of red dirt or blue ocean, but our Aboriginal history is just as compelling in the cities as it is in the outback. And the Koorie Heritage Trust in Melbourne is one of the best places to immerse yourself in that urban Aboriginal culture. With the motto “Gnokan Danna Murra Kor-ki” – which translates as “Give me your hand my friend” – the trust’s mission is to give visitors a deeper understanding of both the past and present. Wander the museum-style collections of art, photography, oral history and objects at its headquarters in Federation Square. Alternatively, take a walking tour with an Indigenous guide, who will share some of their own story as they help you discover some of the city’s most important traditional landmarks.