9 awe-inspiring First Nations travel experiences

Unearthing Australia's Indigenous roots is not only awe-inspiring but makes for a great travel experience, too. Carolyn Tate uncovers some of the best.

By Carolyn Tate

We’re lucky in Australia, because we get to experience the one of the world’s oldest living cultures, right here at home. Our First Nations peoples are custodians of a world of history, culture, knowledge and stories, and there is an enormous range of Indigenous owned and operated tourism experiences you can enjoy around our country.  

Whether you want to learn about bush tucker, ecology, living off the land, or Dreamtime stories, there is an experience for you.  

Kuku Yalanji cultural tours, Port Douglas, Queensland

Cooya Beach is the traditional fishing grounds of the Kuku Yulanji people

Brothers Linc and Brandon Walker follow the traditions of their ancestors by educating visitors about their traditional country on the far north-east coast of Australia. This unique coastal place has three diverse ecosystems – beach, mangroves and coastal reef – that are connected to each other by the ever-changing mudflats and tidal lagoons.

Join them on one of their tours, and the brothers will teach you how to throw a spear, hunt while stalking and observing wildlife, and how to find plants used for food and medicine. They’ll also introduce you to some of their family members and share some of their extensive knowledge of this special area and how they care for their country.

Just a 15-minute drive north of Port Douglas, Cooya Beach (Kuyu Kuyu) is a special place: traditional fishing grounds of the Kuku Yalanji people and home to Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours.

More info: Mossman Gorge Cultural Centre

Visit Port Douglas and the Daintree

Flames of the Forest, Port Douglas, Queensland 

Originating from the Daintree Rainforest, the Kuku Yalanji people have been living in harmony with their rainforest and reef environment for over 50,000 years. Rainforest - or “bama” - is an integral part of the belief system of the Kuku Yalanji people, with a focus on nature and intimate knowledge of Mother Nature’s cycles.

Every Thursday night, guests can journey into Dreamtime legend and discover the magic of local Indigenous culture. The Flames of the Forest Cultural Experience sees two Kuku Yalanji brothers sharing their culture with you during the evening. The performance features a cultural background story, traditional Dreamtime storytelling, didgeridoo playing, and song - all set against the stunning rainforest backdrop.

More info: Flames of the Forest cultural experience

Dreamtime Walks, Mossman Gorge, Queensland

The Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks are known as a ‘must-do’ if you’re visiting Mossman Gorge in Far North Queensland (and stunning Mossman Gorge is a must-do if you’re visiting Far North Queensland!). Ngadiku (Nar-di-gul) means stories and legends from a long time ago in local Kuku Yalanji language. This Mossman Gorge tour takes you on a guided walk along private, gentle tracks, visiting special places and culturally significant sites, past traditional bark shelters and over meandering cool rainforest streams.

Your Dreamtime Walk begins with a traditional smoking ceremony to cleanse and ward off bad spirits. Next, your experienced Indigenous guide will lead you on a relaxed stroll through lush rainforest, observing traditional huts or humpies along the way. The guide will also demonstrate traditional plant use, show you how to identify bush food sources, and provide an enchanting narrative of the rainforest and the Kuku Yalanji people’s special relationship with this unique tropical environment. You’ll also discover traditions like making bush soaps and ochre painting. And at the end of the tour, enjoy traditional bush tea and damper.

More info: Mossman Gorge Dreamtime Walks

Jellurgal Walkabout, Gold Coast, Queensland

Immerse yourself in First Nations culture at the Dreaming mountain, Jellurgal. This magical walk will see you journey to a land where time stood still - where white fingers of sand stretched into the mangroves and the Dreamtime giant, Jabreen, stood guard over Burleigh. The Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre offers various tours, but we recommend the 2 hour Walkabout. You’ll hear the Dreaming stories associated with the creation of Jellurgal, discover facts about traditional life, bush tucker, fishing and hunting and learn about the important ecological practices and connection to the land displayed by the Yugambeh speaking people for thousands of years.

Bonus: bring your swimmers for a dip in the beautiful nearby Tallebudgera Creek after your tour.

More info: Jellurgal Walkabout

Currie Country Cultural Immersion Experience, Tweed Valley, New South Wales

Currie Country offers a range of cultural immersion experiences in education, environmental expertise, traditional food, and more. It’s run by women from one of the largest Traditional Owner families within the Aboriginal Yugambeh Bundjalung nations of the area.

You can join a cultural cruise along the Tweed River - a time to connect and reflect, eat delicious food made with fresh local native ingredients, and followed by riverbank moon ceremony at Fingal Head Boat Jetty.

Or join a native food foraging and farm tour, where you’ll be treated to a day of exploration, demonstration and tastings. A must for any foodie!

More info: Currie Country

Budj Bim, Victoria

Budj Bim is home to one of the oldest aquaculture systems in the world. Aquaculture is the farming and breeding of water creatures including fish, eels, shellfish and plants for food and other human use.

Experience World-Heritage-listed Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in south-west Victoria, a permanent place of human society with a thriving aquaculture history over the past 30,000 years. The Gunditjmara people share their culture and landscape with visitors at their aquaculture centre and cafe, and with a variety of tours:

  • Tae Rak Guided Cultural Walk (2 hours) - A guided tour of the Tae Rak (Lake Condah) wetlands provides an overview of the Gunditjmara creation story, the life cylce of Kooyang (eels) and the lake's extensive marine and birdlife, and continues on to see the network of aquaculture systems designed to trap and harvest kooyang (eel) for food and trade.
  • Tungatt Mirring (half day) - This tour takes visitors through the history of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape. The tour covers Budj Bim National Park and Lake Surprise, and Kurtonitj IPA where guides show you the living Indigenous culture and the landscape through Gunditjmara eyes.
  • Kooyang Yana (full day) - This tour takes visitors through the history of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape from creation and ancient aquaculture systems, to present day. The tour covers Budj Bim National Park, Kurtonitj IPA, and a guided walk of the Tae Rak (Lake Condah) wetlands.

More info: Budj Bim

WAITOC Bushfood and Cultural Experiences, various sites, Western Australia

Enjoy a range of First Nations tourism experiences scattered across Western Australia, including:

  • Ardi’ol Art and Culture (Dampier Peninsula) - A cultural tour of Ardyaloon where you’ll learn about the Bardi Jawi people, places and culture. Sharing history, language, sites of significance, traditional fish traps, spear making, seasonal bush tucker, and a mangrove or reef walk tour. If you’re lucky you might even get to see some dinosaur footprints.
  • Brian LeeTagalong Tours (Kimberley) - Follow Brian to the banks of Hunter’s Creek, hear stories of the colourful characters who started white settlement on the peninsula. Taste seasonal bush fruit and hear the ancient stories of a people who once walked this timeless landscape. You’ll learn about traditional fishing methods, and then the tour concludes at a beautiful creek, where you can cook up your catch.
  • Goldfields Honey Ant Tours (Kalgoorlie) - An authentic family-run bush food foraging tour in the heart of Australia's Golden Outback. You’ll gather, prepare and taste the traditional bush foods and medicine plants that have sustained the Tjupan people in this harsh desert environment for millennia - including witchetty grubs and the sweetest of bush foods, the prized honeypot ant.

More info: WAITOC

Karrke, Petermann, Northern Territory

Kar­rke Abo­rig­i­nal Cul­tur­al Expe­ri­ence and Tours is a one-of-a-kind authen­tic Abo­rig­i­nal cul­tur­al expe­ri­ence. Your one-hour tour is a short walk and talk on areas of impor­tance in local cul­tur­al knowl­edge on bush tuck­er and bush med­i­cines used for spir­i­tu­al and heal­ing and a lot more, as used by the Lurit­ja and Per­tame (South­ern Aran­da) people.

You’ll learn about:

  • Sea­son­al bush tuck­er food, includ­ing the witch­et­ty grub
  • Mai (mean­ing food in the Lurit­ja lan­guage) edi­ble tree seeds and grass seeds and the impor­tant grind­ing stones
  • Abo­rig­i­nal dot paint­ing
  • Locally made wooden Abo­rig­i­nal artefacts
  • Bush med­i­cine plants and their uses.

More info: Karrke

Wukalina Walk, Bay of Fires, Tasmania

For the more intrepid, take a 4 day/3 night walk with Palawa-owend and operated experience in north-east Lutruwita (Tasmania). Guides share their knowledge and perspectives along the way of this award-winning walk as they lead you through beautiful bushland and along the coastline of Wukalina (Mt William National Park) and Larapuna (Bay of Fires). Your small group, of up to 10 people will be led on foot by First Nations guides to learn about land and sea country.

More info: Wukalina Walk

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