Top 12 Indigenous experiences in north Queensland

The oldest living cultures in the world. The biggest coral reef system in the world. The oldest rainforest in the world. The largest salt pans in Australia. The grandeur of far north Queensland is steeped in millennia of storytelling, tradition and community.

From Mossman Gorge in the Daintree, to the blues of the Barrier Reef, Queensland offers natural wonders aplenty. Credit: Shutterstock

We know the best kind of travel memories happen when you meet people and share a little bit of their culture. From a smoking ceremony welcome to the Kuku Yalanji country of Mossman Gorge, to hearing the stories of traditional custodians while snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, insight into the diverse First Nations cultures of far north Queensland will make your family experience the region anew.

Explore event listings, art workshops, guided tours and more in northern Queensland. Credit: Cairns Indigenous Art Fair

As part of Queensland’s Year of Indigenous Tourism, Tourism Tropical North Queensland have picked out some of the best family-friendly Indigenous-led experiences. These events, workshops and tours are awesome for kids and grown-ups alike. Be sure to stay respectful and mindful that you are on what has always been Aboriginal land.

Upcoming events in 2020

Cooktown Expo 2020 – July 17th to August 4th 2020

Keep your eyes peeled and locked on Cooktown in July, because there’s lots of fun to be had! Key events on the line-up include the Reconciliation Rock Music Festival, Cooktown Discovery Festival and Endeavour Festival. There is a special emphasis on reconciliation at this year’s event, which marks 250 years since the landing of James Cook.

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair – July 10th to 12th 2020

The beachy north Queensland centre of Cairns will play host to more than 600 Indigenous visual and performance artists this July. Throughout the fair weekend, your family can explore the ethical art marketplace, watch the fashion show and share in the live performances, as well as tag along to free family activities. Watch this space – the programme will be announced in May 2020.

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair is guaranteed to be bright and colourful. Credit: CIAF

Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival – July 3rd to 5th 2020

More than twenty communities gather for this internationally-recognised biannual celebration. It is held near the UNESCO-listed rock art sites of Laura, on the Cape York Peninsula, and attracts thousands of visitors.

Awesome Experiences

Mossman Gorge Centre

Your entry point to the world’s oldest rainforest, Mossman Gorge Centre welcomes visitors to Kuku Yalanji country. Partake in a smoking ceremony, or venture on a Dreamtime walk led by a traditional custodian to learn more about the area.

Meet Kuku Yalanji Elders at the Mossman Gorge Centre. Credit: TTNQ

Janbal Gallery Painting Workshop

Got an artist’s eye? Try your hand at traditional techniques. Then, see how the experts do it. Check out the works of Brian ‘Binna’ Swindley and his mum Shirley, which depict Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime stories and custom. You’ll love their paintings of the animal residents of the Great Barrier Reef and wet tropics rainforests!

Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park

Encounter Djabugay culture at Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park. Visitors can get involved through performances of Djabugay creation stories, interactive hunting and bush food demonstrations and an awesome fire ceremony after dark.

Djabugay man, artist and senior cultural presenter Weika specialises in rainforest-inspired designs. Credit: TTNQ

Indigenous Art Centres

Lucky for us, there is an Indigenous Art Centre Alliance (IACA) in northern Queensland which connects art centres in remote communities. Make pit stops on your road trip through Gulf of Carpentaria, Cape York and the Torrest Strait to explore regional art and art-making practice. For starters, check out the ghost net weavings from Pormpuraaw, or the camp dog carvings of Aurukun’s Wik and Kugu peoples.

Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience

Set in the Rainforestation Nature Park, the Pamagirri Experience is one-of-a-kind. Watch ceremonial dance, learn how to use traditional methods for gathering and hunting food and embark on a Dreamtime Walk following the Rainbow Serpent Boardwalk.

Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience unfolds under the ancient rainforest canopy. Credit: TTNQ

Adventure North Australia

Can you spot traditional soap? Perhaps you are hungry for some bush food? Delve into the lush tropical rainforest of Mossman Gorge, accompanied by a knowledgeable guide from Adventure North. Test out the traditional fishing and gathering techniques of the Kubirri Warra clan on an interactive and immersive walking tour.

Mud crabs, anyone? Adventure North offers interactive tours in the Daintree and beyond. Credit: Tourism Australia

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel

Even an average day trip to Queensland’s glittering coastal gem is worth a fuss. But Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel is the Great Barrier Reef with a difference. Indigenous Sea Rangers will show you two special locations on the reef, sharing the stories of traditional custodians of the region.

Look at the Great Barrier Reef through a different lens with Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel. Credit: Tourism Australia

Yagurli Tours

Take your pick from a super-cool selection of Yagurli tours, introducing you to local Dreamtime stories and natural wonders. Maybe you’ll find yourselves watching the sun set on an outback river cruise among the wildlife of the Gulf Savannah. Or maybe you’ll listen to Gangalidda-Garawa stories under the stars on Australia’s largest salt pans. You might even go fishing!

Jarramali Rock Art Tours

Laura in Cape York boasts the UNESCO-listed Quinkan Rock Art site – and this four-wheel drive camping tour highlights its magic! The tour is low-key and intimate, led by traditional owners. Sample bush tucker, gain bush medicine tips, hear Kuku Yalanji stories and learn about land rejuvenation. The camping tour is a unique adventure that can be tailored to your family. There are also day tours and tag-along options if you have your own 4WD.

The rock art near Laura is more than 20,000 years old. Credit: TTNQ

READ MORE:

Beyond the Barrier Reef – ultimate guide to north Queensland

Australia’s best family road trips from beginner to hardcore

WATCH MORE:

From Brisbane to Magnetic Island, watch our families explore the best of Queensland.

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