Australia, both a country and a continent, has been inhabited longer than anywhere else on earth. Because of its isolation the people, animals, and wildlife have flourished uniquely and adapted to the land. While visiting Australia, dive deep into the culture for an unforgettable experience.
Whether you’re traveling solo, with friends, for romance, or an exceptional family gathering, you are welcomed into the world of Aboriginal life, art, stories, and beliefs. Here are twelve places to put on your Australia bucket list.
The Red Centre
Located in the Northern Territory, this is the red heart of Australia. It is made of eerie mountain ranges, gorges, and plains of red sand. And it is home to some of Aboriginal Australia’s most sacred areas. This is the land of Alice Springs, the World Heritage Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and Kings Canyon. Go here and you can find an outback waterhole and take a float; listen to stories and the didgeridoo at the base of Uluru; dine on local food under a sky blanketed with stars, and watch the desert turn shades of pink, orange, and deep red as the dawn arrives.
Distinctive local painting consists of painting with dots. Maruku Arts has 900 Aboriginal artists, belonging to 20 rural communities in the red desert area, that are represented in this collective. Take a dot-painting workshop here and create your personal story to bring home. You’ll learn about the culture of the Anangu people during this experience. Maruku’s goal is to keep their culture alive by passing along the wisdom and know-how of their arts and crafts.
Take a Guided Seed & Medicine Walk
Numerous communities offer authentic Aboriginal experiences during a walk-and-talk. Learn about seasonal bush tucker food; Aboriginal crafts made with local wood; edible tree and grass seeds; hidden sites; and bush medicines used for both spiritual and physical healing. Although found throughout Australia, many are given by the Southern Aranda people. Note: Do not eat these seeds without a guide—it’s not a good idea to eat these on your own!
Walk on the Wild Side in the Daintree Forest
Aboriginal people are closely tied to their land, spiritually and physically; it is central to their sense of well-being. Consider exploring the world’s oldest living rain forest, the Daintree. This rainforest is two hours north of Cairns and it is home of the Kuku Yalanji, known as “the true rainforest people.” This stunning forest is their canopy for food, sacred stories, and traditional medicines.
You can also take a Dreamtime Walk in the rich Daintree environment. The ceremony begins with sacred smoking, as with Native people in the USA. You’ll then explore the First Nations’ environment, learn how they forage for food, and discover some of their ancient traditions. Depending on your local guide, this will most likely include painting with ochre.
Rock Art in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
Come and explore a geographic landscape that is 600 million years old! All rock art is ancient, but the petroglyphs in Australia are the oldest on earth. Interestingly, they have some of the same symbols seen on cliffs and buttes in the American Southwest, particularly in Utah and Colorado—but the USA’s rock art is thousands upon thousands of years younger.
South Australia’s Ikara-Flinders National Park is the center for many Aboriginal cultural sites. Here you’ll see the Sacred Canyon, home of the Adnyamathanha “rock” people. Along with sacred sites, the Outback’s Flinders Ranges are majestic, dramatic, evocative, beautiful, and home to wildlife. You can head into the wilds for trails, scenery, or perhaps rent a 4WD.
The Great Barrier Reef
Most vacations to Australia include a visit to the Great Barrier Reef. When you head to this bucket list destination, consider a local guide for a truly memorable experience. An Indigenous guide can be your ranger as you dive and snorkel Milln, Flynn, Saxon, Norman, or Thetford Reef. After your ocean experience, you’ll be fully immersed in local culture with live traditional dances and a didgeridoo serenade. Then it’s time to pay your respects to the people of the Islander cultures, past and present.
Crocodiles in Kakadu National Park
This is an experience like no other, and it takes place in the World Heritage Site of Kakadu National Park. This is the country’s largest national park, complete with a vital rainforest and rugged, remote land. Rock art, of at least 20,000 years in age, abounds here.
Traditional Bininj/Mungguy people welcome you to their home; you’ll hear stories of roaring waterfalls and see thousands of birds migrating in the wetlands. This area is also the home of saltwater crocodiles. Take a sunset cruise and you’ll catch glimpses of wild birds, crocodiles, and grazing buffaloes.
Wilpena Pound with a Yura Guide
Back in the Ikara Flinders Ranges, learn the true stories of river red gums, the natural world, and the magic of biodiversity from the vantage point of the Adnyamathanha people. They have lived in the Flinders Ranges for thousands of years. Wilpena Pound, or Ikara, means “the meeting place.” It has deep meaning for the local people. You’ll be welcomed in the Yura Ngawarla language, interpreted in English, and then you’ll hear their stories of the Yura Muda—Dreamtime.
Old Wilpena Station and 100’s of Million Years of History
Walk with a Yura guide to Old Wilpena Station, one of Southern Australia’s best preserved settlements. After strolling along the creek, you’ll adventure into the gorges. Your Yura guide will tell you stories of hundreds of millions of years of geological history—prepare to be amazed by views of Bunyeroo Valley. Stop here and see the oldest fossils on earth. And watch for wallabies along the way!
A Rottnest Island Paradise
Relax, renew, and recharge just 12 miles off the coast of Perth. Rotto, as it’s called by those who live there, is a nature preserve. Wadjemup, the Aboriginal name for Rottnest Island, is best explored with a local Noongar guide. This paradise of white-sand beaches, pristine waters made for snorkeling, and gorgeous plant life has a heartbeat as old as time.
Your local guide will begin your walk with a traditional sand ceremony, and you’ll be privy to stories and songs in the Noongar language. Keep your eye out for the quokka, an adorable animal unique to the area!
It’s Written in the Stars
Also on Rottnest, you can experience Djindoon Djenung: “Look to the Stars.” A Noongar guide takes you on an ancient Dreamtime path, originating in the night skies. On the beautiful beach at night, you’ll begin with a ceremony of smoke and a traditional sand ritual. Listen to the Dreamtime songs as they open up new meanings in the stars for you.
Aboriginal Culture is shared with visitors in many ways: Storytelling, language, foraging, dance, performance, art, music, songs, exploring natural wonders, and hospitality. Australia is the ideal destination to become immersed in a culture that is ancient, respectful, thriving in the present, and looking forward to the future.
When you visit Australia, you’ll want to experience Aboriginal culture. You can do this within a rainforest, on the ocean, in the outback, or on a dormant volcano. Ask your Destination Expert about including local cultural experiences in your itinerary.