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Shirley Rourke & Meg Boyd Vice President & Product Manager of South Pacific 3 months ago

Get in Touch with Australia’s Ancient and Modern Culture

  • People sitting fireside before Uluru

Thoughts of Australia conjure up many images ranging from iconic highlights such as views of the Sydney Opera House overlooking Sydney Harbour, sunrise over Uluru/Ayers Rock, Australia’s unique wildlife like kangaroos and koalas, and the coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef.

In addition to the diversity of amazing landscapes and wildlife, Australia also has a very rich culture for all travellers to experience. In fact, Australia is home to the world’s oldest living culture and rich in art, dance, history, spirituality, and ceremony—all stretching out over 50,000 years.

To quote Dr. Aden Ridgeway, a member of the Gumbaynggirr people, the only Aboriginal member of Parliament from 1999 to 2005, and the former chair of Indigenous Tourism Australia: “Aboriginal culture starts with its people. Aboriginal guides open a door into a world that many people don’t know still exists. A world where past, present and future meet. There’s nothing more exciting for a traveller than a totally new experience. That’s what memories are made of.” 

Aboriginal Australians draw their traditions from the Dreamtime and these traditions revolve around their respect for the land. You can learn about and experience this ancient culture in destinations across Australia.

Where can I get in touch with Indigenous Australia?

Arguably some of the best Indigenous experiences can be enjoyed in the Northern Territory.  One very special place is Davidson’s Arnhemland Safari Camp. A 3-day adventure through Arnhemland takes you to some of Indigenous Australia’s most sacred and remote sites. Start at Mt. Borradaile, a sacred site surrounded by caves that have been occupied for over 50,000 years. This area has been described as a “living museum” and it’s hard to disagree. The founder, Max Davidson, earned the trust of the Aboriginal owners of the land to open his camp in this very sacred area.

Rock art in Northern Territory

Australia’s Red Centre is also steeped in rich Indigenous culture that offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most visitors. At Uluru, you can spend a day with an Indigenous family. In Alice Springs you can see ancient rock art, learn about bush medicine, and taste bush tucker on a full day Aboriginal Cultural Full Day Tour or enjoy lunch or dinner with an Aboriginal chef. Alice Springs really is the centre of Australia and has a lot of history, in addition to the amazing Indigenous culture. While there, you can visit the Outback Telegraph Station Historical Reserve, which was built in the 1870s and was Australia’s first communication line. The School of the Air and Royal Flying Doctors Service are also located in Alice Springs and offer shining examples of the complexity of living in the Australian Outback.

Tropical North Queensland in another great please to immerse yourself in Indigenous Culture.  A must-do for every visitor to this region is a Dreamtime Walk: take a guided walk through the ancient rainforest visiting culturally significant sights. This walk starts with a traditional smoking ceremony welcome and ends with a traditional bush tea and damper. Or you can get your feet wet when you spend the day with the Kubirri Warra Brothers on the Daintree Dreaming, where you can learn to hunt for fish, mud crabs, and mussels, eat bush tucker, and visit secret swimming holes.

You don’t have to go bush either. In the centre of Sydney, overlooking Sydney Harbour, you can go walkabout with a local guide on the Rocks Dreaming Aboriginal Heritage Walking Tour, which showcases the city’s fascinating Aboriginal History.

What is there to do that’s quintessentially Australian?

Australia’s modern culture is also something to be experienced. Most everyone around the globe loves Aussies (and the famous Aussie accent); they’re amongst some of the friendliest people in the world and loving meeting international visitors. As well as some very cool wildlife, the country has lots of great characters to meet and culture to experience.

Camping in the Outback

For a true Aussie experience, spend some time camping in the Outback. Sleep in tents or in a swag outdoor set-up, sit around the campfire, listen to yarns and Aussie music, have some damper, and watch the stars in the clear desert sky. During the day, explore the highlights of the Red Centre, including Alice Springs, Uluru, and Kings Canyon.

For something a little different, explore the Queensland Outback on Goway's Outback, Wildlife & Lava Tube itinerary, a fun and authentic way to experience the highlights of the dramatic Outback. Sleep in converted railway carriages, wake up to wallabies and kangaroos in the campground, see wildlife at sunset, and explore the Undara Lava Tubes, created over 190,000 years ago when enough lava to fill Sydney Harbour three times overflowed from the erupting (but now extinct) Undara Volcano.

Perhaps you can also “live like a local” Downunder. Australia is known for its laid back outdoor lifestyle. Sit around the pool or BBQ your dinner by the beach, visit the pub for a “coldie,” grab a coffee, or eat fish and chips out of the paper in the park. Spend one to two weeks in a self-contained apartment near the beach and immerse yourself in the local community. For the ultimate escape, banish winter in North America and spend one to two months in Australia (or New Zealand) during the summer and be a Snowbird Downunder.

laneway in Melbourne

Food and wine also plays a big part of modern Australian culture. Melbourne is especially well known for its laneways and arcades, which feature local restaurants, a thriving bar scene, and a coffee culture akin to the best in Europe. Melbourne is also known as the sporting capital of Australia, where tennis, cricket, football (Aussie Rules), rugby, and soccer are all played and enjoyed. Goway can organize an Aussie Rules game with a local: eat a pie, have a beer, and learn the rules with a local Aussie fan. In Sydney, you can cruise like a local, enjoy fine Australia wines and beers, and a gourmet Aussie BBQ lunch and dessert while cruising around Sydney Harbour on a private yacht. In Adelaide, take a tour around the Central Market—Australia’s oldest and largest food market. You’ll meet the farmers and food producers, and get to enjoy samples.

Speaking of sport, Aussies really are sports mad, and surfing is top of the list for those living along the coastlines. It is a large part of the population and surfing really is a cult for many.  Learn to surf with a short lesson on Bondi Beach and you’ll be up before you know it. For a truly immersive experience you can spend five days at Surf Camp to really envelope yourself in the lifestyle and hone your skills.

27 Jul 2020, 8:38 p.m.

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