12 Indigenous Australian Cultural Heritage Sites You Need to Visit
Find a deeper connection to country and its original custodians.
Did you know Indigenous Australians are the oldest living culture in the world? For over 60,000 years the indigenous people have lived in Australia, sharing their culture and knowledge with future generations.
You can walk the outback, drive through it, and camp beneath the stars, but for a deeper connection to Australia and its original custodians, it’s better to hear from them and learn how they see Australia. Through sacred sites and awe-inspiring landmarks, you can learn more about Dreamtime stories and how they interpret the stars. So if you want to be inspired and leave transformed, visit these cultural heritage sites.
Uluru and Kata-Tjuta
To local people, Uluru and Kata-Tjuta are more than just rock formations. Instead, it carries great spiritual and cultural significance for local indigenous tribes with over 40 sacred aboriginal sites and eleven Tjukurpa or Dreaming Trails in the area. This is a deeply important part of Aboriginal cultural identity, and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park invites visitors to share in these traditional beliefs, and hear the stories of the ancient land, but also to respect the sacred sites.
Kakadu National Park
Kakadu’s ancient escarpment and stone country spans more than two billion years of geological history, boasting coastal floodplains, and dynamic environments. Although, what most don’t realise is the park is a living cultural landscape. Its archaeological sites record the skills and way of life of Aboriginal people over tens of thousands of years. Kakadu’s rock art documents Indigenous creation stories and makes up one of the longest historical records of any group of people in the world. The Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) rock art site is a must-stop on your journey through Kakadu. Stroll through shaded rock shelters to marvel at the World Heritage-listed art and discover how life used to be for the Bininj.
Purnululu National Park
Situated deep in the eastern Kimberley region is the Bungle Bungle Range. The bee-hive shaped rock domes are marvellous to see, but the Dreaming stories are even more spectacular to hear. The name Purnululu comes from the Aboriginal Gija people, meaning ‘fretting sands’. The origin of the name (often referred to as the Bungle Bungles) is not known, although some have suggested that is a reference to Bundle Bundle, a Kimberley grass. At the height of the violence between the Kija people and the pastoralists, many of the Kija took refuge in the Bungle Bungles after brutal massacres of the Indigenous people in the area. You can join a tour to discover art and hear stories through songs and dance.
South Australia and Northern Territory
Cave Hill, also known as Walinynga in the local language, is the most significant rock art site within Central Australia and was a ceremonial site for Aboriginal people from various regions. is the only rock art site of its kind that tells the Dreamtime creation story of the Seven Sisters. This story relates to the journey of the seven sisters that make up the group of stars we call the Pleiades, in the constellation Taurus. You can hike the area or join a tour guide to walk you through the cultural significance and stories.
Arkaroo Rock and Sacred Canyon
The Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is rich in Aboriginal rock art and engravings, that you can admire. Arkaroo Rock is a particularly important Aboriginal art site in the Flinders Ranges featuring ochre and charcoal images depicting the creation of Wilpena Pound. The main cave site is at least 5,000 years old and the rock paintings are best seen in the morning light. Sacred Canyon is a small chasm where ancient Aboriginal rock engravings representing animal tracks, people, waterholes and other symbols have been etched into the smooth sandstone walls. The rock engravings are best seen in soft morning or afternoon light. The Sacred Canyon walk is only a 30-minute walk and well worth the trip alone, although you’d be missing out on discovering amazing rock art if you don’t also visit Arkaroo Rock.
Coorong National Park
Coorong National Park is breathtaking. You can cruise its backwaters, visit remote beaches and explore salty lagoons. Although, when you visit, you are a guest of the Ngarrindjeri people, traditional custodians of the Coorong for thousands of years. Dotted throughout the sandy landscape are middens—mounds of shells deposited from many years of fishing. For a deeper experience, join Spirit of the Coorong‘s Ngarrindjeri Kurangk Culture Experience Tour where you’ll unearth and taste unique native foods, explore the pristine water network and be initiated into country with a smoke ceremony performed by your Ngarrindjeri guide.
This wild and untamed landscape is rich in indigenous history. You can explore this timeless land and its billabongs, rainforests and ancient escarpments, while hearing stories about the land and its people. The Guluyambi Cultural Cruise takes you through the rugged wilderness of West Arnhem Land in small groups, where your expert guide will share modern and ancient tales of the region. The Arnhemlander 4WD Cultural Tour is the perfect place for you to experience this unique expertise, transmitted in an engaging and entertaining fashion by expert guides. You can also explore Macassan Beach—the site of the Yolngu people’s first interaction with Indonesian traders.
Grampians National Park
The Grampians National Park is a leafy national park three hours west of Melbourne. While it’s a great day trip for adventurers, you can also find ancient Aboriginal rock art. In fact, 90% of all Aboriginal rock art in the state can be found here. Learn about Indigenous folklore at the Brambuk Cultural Centre in Halls Gap before bushwalking your way around the colourful rock art sites. There are approximately 200 rock art sites recorded in the Grampians National Park (Gariwerd) with five sites open to the public. Most art sites are situated under rock over hangs providing shelter and strategic viewing points of the surrounds. Stop by Brambuk to connect and learn about what Gariwerd means to the Jadawadjali and Djab Wurrung people.
Quinkan Country is also a great place to see rock art. There are several collections of rock art here that are at least 15,000 years old. They include paintings of wildlife, spirits, and people. You can walk to several sites, or join a guided tour from late March to early December, led by the Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre in Laura.
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
New South Wales
You don’t have to venture to the middle of Australia to find cultural sites. Ku-ring-gai Chase National Parkis mere minutes from Sydney’s CBD, and offers a number of rock-art sites on the Lambert Peninsula. Here, you will find several examples of large rock engravings with simple designs that are unique to the greater Sydney area, and are up to 5000 years old. Join a tour to hear more about tools and artwork.
Worimi Conservation Lands
New South Wales
Newcastle is mostly known as having the largest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, but most don’t realise its enormous cultural significance. The most visible cultural material present in the lands is the extensive shell deposits called middens, which are 12,000 years old. There are also burial sites, which are highly significant and difficult to predict where they may occur in the landscape. It is possible that burials may occur in association with some of the midden sites. The traditional custodians—the Worimi people—now manage the 4200-hectare Worimi Conservation Lands, offering guided tours of the impressive dune landscape.
The Bay of Fires is is a stunning landscape, featuring clear blue seas, brilliant white beaches and striking orange lichen-cloaked boulders. But the recently launched Wukalina Walk adds another layer to the experience. The Aboriginal owned and operated four-day tour of Tassie’s north-east coast immerses visitors in palawa (Tasmanian Indigenous culture), traditional bush tucker, and the natural environment. When walking on Country please respect that you are on Aboriginal land and a visitor to this significant living cultural landscape. The walk will enrich your experience of lutruwita and show you the best parts of the region simultaneously.