Aboriginal Tours in Sydney for Everyone
By joining one of these Aboriginal tours in Sydney, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the rich culture of the First Australians. Many people consider Australia to have a very short history; however, Aboriginal Australian’s have occupied this land for over 60,000 years. Their history is rich with art and stories that are inspiring and interesting.
At the time of European settlement, Aboriginal people had been living in the Sydney region for at least 40,000 years and possibly much longer, so while our city might be young, the history of its first people is not. If you want to learn more about Australia’s indigenous culture on your visit to Sydney, there are plenty of options. While many people think the best place to find out about Aboriginal culture is in outback Australia, you can learn much about indigenous Australia from these experiences in Sydney.
Related: Get the answers to six of the most commonly asked questions about Aboriginal Sydney.
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First Australians – Guided Tours & Self Guided Tours
There are a handful of guided tours and self guided experiences that will help you get an beginner’s understanding of Australia’s indigenous culture in just a couple of hours. I have taken all of these tours and learnt something from each one.
Royal Botanic Gardens Aboriginal Experiences
Take a walk through the Cadi Jam Ora Gardens which display the plants used for food and medicine by the Cadigal people, the first inhabitants of this part of Sydney. Walk the 50-metre long Gadigal storyline with interpretation panels that note historical incidences and are very informative.
There is a native shelter, some beautiful grass trees and plenty of signs and labels. It’s a great spot to explore, but if you have some extra time, the tours offered will help you better understand Aboriginal culture.
Along with the self guided experiences there are two guided tours offered:
The Aboriginal Heritage Tours
On an Aboriginal Heritage tour you explore the captivating beauty and history of Sydney Harbour from the perspective of the local Gadigal people. Your guide is a member of the First Nations community.
They share stories of the Gadigal way of life, traditions, and give you an insight into their profound connection to this land and their community. It’s a chance for you to see Sydney Harbour in a whole new light, through the eyes of its original custodians.
These one hour tours are offered Thursday-Saturday from 1-2pm and depart from the visitors centre.
Aboriginal Bush Tucker Tours
If you are keen to learn more about Indigenous bush foods this is a great choice. Discover how these foods were not only traditionally used but also adapted for modern culinary experiences.
During this one-hour tour, you explore the Cadi Jam Ora garden and delve into some of the trendiest bush foods currently making waves in the culinary world. Plus, you’ll have the chance to savor some delicious treats along the way!
These one hour tours are offered Thursday-Saturday from 11am -12pm and depart from the visitors centre.
Bookings are essential for these tours. Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens for more details.
When: Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday
Where: Both tours starts from the Gardens Gift Shop
Yiribana Gallery: Art Gallery of New South Wales
The Yiribana Gallery at the Art Gallery of NSW is home to the largest permanent collection of Indigenous Australian art in Australia, and amazingly entry is free!
The collection includes both traditional and contemporary works by aboriginal artists and features bark painting, sculpture, weaving, prints, photography and watercolours.
Free tours depart from the Entry Pavilion on the ground level of the North Building.
When: Free guided tours of the Aboriginal collection at 11am daily.
Where: Art Gallery Road, The Domain
More: Visit the Art Gallery of NSW for more details.
Australian Museum: An Interactive Indigenous Australian Experience
If you are interested in the culture and history of the first Australians, then this museum is worth a visit. There is a good range of interactive exhibits that are suitable for both adults and children. Listen to dream time stories, learn about the Stolen Generation, view a collection of boomerangs, didgeridoos, and other artefacts.
The exhibit includes the problems aboriginal communities face both in the past and today, something which most Australians don’t talk about. Their website is a background for learning more about indigenous culture.
Join a guided tour featuring objects from the Australian Museum’s extensive collections, led by a knowledgeable First Nations guide. This 45 minute tour is offered on Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays: 11.30am, 1pm. Tickets start from $28 for members and $35 for non-members.
When: 10am to 5pm every day except 25 December
Where: Corner of College Street and William Street Sydney – opposite Hyde Park
More: Visit the Australian Museum website
Jibbon Head Self Guided Aboriginal Tour
A visit to Bundeena will get you out of the CBD and down to the city’s southern beaches. Bundeena sits on Dharawal country and the area features rock art sites along a spectacular coastline.
Follow a 5km self guided tour created by Sydney Coast Walks is relatively flat. Allow 3 hours to complete the walk.
When: This is a self guided experience
Where: Board the Bundeena ferry at Cronulla Station
illi-Langi The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour
After a long career in education Margaret started Dreamtime Southern X in 2007 with a goal of sharing her cultural knowledge with visitors to Sydney and school and education groups.
On my recent tour Margaret took us on a leisurely stroll through The Rocks, sharing knowledge of the Gadigal people and their deep connection to Sydney Harbour.
We heard about a some of the beliefs of the Gadigal and the similarities and differences to our own. We learnt about saltwater heritage, the ways they use the land and water, and their spiritual bond with the neighboring waterways and shores.
I have done at least half a dozen first nations tours in NSW and always find I learn something new. This was no exception. Margaret is an engaging guide and she trains all the staff so I am sure which ever guide you get on your tour will also have wonderful stories to share.
When: 10.30am – 12 noon daily (except Christmas Day and Good Friday)
Where: Cadman’s Cottage 110 George Street, The Rocks.
Aboriginal Cultural Tours at Barangaroo
Barangaroo’s Aboriginal Cultural Tours offer a unique opportunity to explore the rich native history of Warrane (Sydney Harbour) and the deep significance of the land to Australia’s Aboriginal heritage, particularly to the clans of the Eora Nation.
Led by a team of knowledgeable Aboriginal educators, these tours provide an immersive experience that spans the expansive six-hectare headland of Barangaroo Reserve, where you can discover the beauty of the 75,000 native Australian trees and shrubs that grace the Reserve.
What sets Barangaroo apart from some of the locations above is that it is the only public space in Sydney with such an extensive collection of native flora, making it a must-visit destination for gardening and nature enthusiasts.
I have yet to take this tour but hope to soon!
When: 10.30am Monday to Saturday
Where: Starts at The Cutaway Barangaroo
Aboriginal Experiences in Sydney
Nura Diya: Taronga Zoo’s Aboriginal experiences
Taronga’s Nura Diya Australia” offers you a chance to encounter iconic Australian animals such as kangaroos, koalas, and dingoes. This immersive experience showcases eight native species in habitats like Kangaroo Country and Koala Country.
Nura Diya,” meaning ‘This Country’ the language of the Gadigal people
Beyond meeting the wildlife you also have the opportunity to learn more about First Nations culture and their use of the land.
The newest attraction at the zoo, nguwing nura, an immersive nocturnal experience where visitors can encounter rare Australian wildlife, like the Greater Bilby and Yellow-bellied Glider.
This 100-metre long attraction showcases around 230 animals from 12 native nocturnal species. The experience, which translates to ‘Night Country’ in Sydney’s First Language, offers a unique insight into Australian wildlife that’s typically active after sundown. It also emphasises the deep connection between First Nations cultures and the land.
The exhibition includes a captivating artwork by renowned First Nations artist Jacob Nash and a tranquil soundscape for a sensory journey. Nguwing nura is part of the larger Nura Diya Australia Experience, housing 23 distinct Australian species.
When: Open every day – self guided
Where: Taronga Zoo
Indigenous Rock Art in Sydney’s National Parks
There are several examples of rock carvings in the national parks around Sydney.
Berry Island Reserve
You will find Berry Island Reserve less than 20 minutes from the city centre and easily reached by public transport. Take the signposted walk along the Gadyan Track and learn the story of the Cammeraigal, who used the area as a campsite.
Another site that can be reached by public transport is the Royal National Park at Bundeena. To get to the park, catch the train to Cronulla and ferry to Bundeena. The best examples are at Jibbon Headland, take the walking track from Bundeena to Marley Head. There are signs with descriptions, and among the engravings are boomerangs, sharks, fish and whales.
If you have a car, there are some incredible engravings at West Head in Kuringai National Park. The Basin Engraving Site and The Elvina Engraving Site – are located off West Head Road between Elvina Nature Trail and West Head are all easily accessible and well signposted.
When: Any nice sunny day
Where: Berry Island is closest to the city, Bundeena is a train and ferry ride south, The Basin needs a car in my opinion.
Bangarra Dance Theatre
The Bangarra Dance Theatre is a National Indigenous Performing Arts company that uses modern dance to tell the stories of their ancestors. The company has had very successful tours to the USA and the UK and are world-class performers.
We recently attended a school holiday performance of Weru
When: Season runs June to December
Where: 15 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
For more ideas check out Welcome to Country which has a huge database of experiences across the country.