Hands up who has their next holiday in the pipeline? Hands up if it is in WA? Assuming that you plan to take at least one holiday this year, most of us should be running out of hands to throw into the air at this point.
With the borders closed to our beautiful state, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to get out there and explore Western Australia like never before. Now is the perfect time to delve deeper into our own backyard and learn about the incredible heritage of the Traditional owners of the land.
The Aboriginal people of Western Australia have had a connection with the land for over 50,000 years. That makes it the world’s oldest living culture, and a culture that is essential to understand for those of us that call this land home.
There are some amazing Indigenous tours to take throughout the state, so to help make things easy we have rounded up some of the best below, no matter which direction your compass is pointing.
Headed up to the pearly shores of Broome? You are in for a treat with several experiences to pick from thanks to Narlijia Cultural Tours. Born and bred in Broome, Yawuru man Bart Pigram started Narlijia Tours, with the name Narlijia meaning ‘true for you’ in the Yawuru (Australian Aboriginal) language. When taking a journey with Bart, he’ll be sharing his Aboriginal and multicultural perspective first hand, the ‘entire’ story. Choose from tours such as ‘beach to bay’, complete with dinosaur tracks and ancient shell middens created by the Djugun-Yawuru people of Broome, or a ‘cultural cruise’ seeing the land from a different perspective. There’s also mangroves, Broome town tours and a staircase to the moon experience.
Head up towards Derby and the Gibb River Road for a full day Windjana & Tunnel Creek Day Tour. On the way, you’ll see some spectacular scenery and learn all about Derby, the Kimberly and the Napier ranges. Once off the road, you’ll learn all about Bunuba culture, the land and the story of Jandamarra from local Traditional Owners from the Bunuba people at Windjana Gorge along with a fully guided walk through both Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. Let’s be honest, it’s not often that the halfway point on your road trip includes a stroll around a 2000-year-old Boab tree!
Lucky enough to head up to the red gorges and lush waterways of the Pilbara? Become immersed in the culture of the Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi people through the eyes off a traditional owner of the land. Clinton Walker formed Ngurrangga Tours to educate people and to encourage understanding of the Pilbara Aboriginal culture and country. From rock art through to bush tucker, it’s a truly special way to experience the magic of the Pilbara. You can even play 4WD tag along if you’ve got a four-wheeled sense of adventure.
Not so much a tour as a self-drive experience, the Yamaji Drive Trail encompasses 14 sites of cultural significance to the local Yamatji people while cruising the 195km trail around Geraldton, Greenough and Mullewa. Whether you are an art lover or not, while in the region it’s well worth stopping into Yamaji Art Centre, where you’ll be helping a 100 per cent owned and operated art centre which provides support developing Aboriginal artists living in the Lower Murchison region of Yamaji country.
Arts and crafts have a huge role to play in the sharing of stories in the Aboriginal customs, the intertwining of spirit, place and way of life strongly intertwined. In Northampton, The Storytellers–Keeper of the Dreaming is an intimate experience where you’ll be able to observe Aboriginal art and craft being created and learn about the beliefs and traditions of the people of this part of Western Australia. Afterwards, shop authentic arts and crafts and take a piece to remember your experience and learnings.
The new Kalbarri Skywalk has made the headlines recently for all of the right reasons, and it’s likely already on any Kalbarri visitors bucket list. If not, it should be. Located in the Yamatji region and part of the traditional lands on the Nanda people, the Skywalk features a recording of a welcome to country and informative plaques throughout the trail filled with indigenous history and the culture of the Nanda people. You’ll find interpretative artwork created by local indigenous artists; their work is inspired by the regions aboriginal heritage and beauty.
A popular destination for West Australian travellers, The Shark Bay Area holds immense cultural and ecological significance to the region’s first people. Take a tour with guide Darren ‘Capes’ Capewell and his business Wula Gura Nyinda Eco Cultural Adventures. A descendent of the region’s Nhanda and Malgana people, his cultural tours operate in the Shark Bay area, including tours around Monkey Mia, Francois Peron National Park, and to Dirk Hartog Island. Perfect for those that like to have a bit of active adventure, you can even SUP or kayak your way through a day with Darren.
Margaret River Region
Join Cultural custodian Josh Whiteland for a day to be remembered with either Koomal Dreaming or Cape Cultural Tours. You’ll learn to see the South West through the eyes of the local Wadandi people, and learn about the traditional six season Noongar calendar, which is still instrumental to daily life with the past and present ever intertwined. Also an artisan, musician and storyteller, you’ll enjoy a magical experience as Josh’s shares his connection to country with you; whether it’s on the windswept coast, in the sheltered bushland or the echoes of Ngilgi Cave.
Troy Bennell started his business, Ngalang Wongi Aboriginal Cultural Tours, to help share his passion for his homeland and cultural heritage of his people. Take one of his walking tours around Bunbury, either throughout the town or the estuary, and you’ll learn about the traditional Noongar names and history, along with fascinating personal stories from Troy, having grown up with the traditional way of life from his elders.
It’s worth the trip to Kojonup for an experience at The Kodja Place. Set aside time to explore the rose maze and the interactive cultural experience at the centre, before taking part in a special tour with Noongar Elder, Jack Cox. Settle in for a billy-tea and damper and some traditional tales from Jack that will stay with you well after you’ve finished your cuppa and joined him for a tour of the Kodj gallery.
See a side of Kalgoorlie you’ve not seen before with a tour from family business Bush Ghoodhu Wongutha Tours. You’ll explore Kulgooluh, which means ‘place of the silky pears’ and is a place of great cultural significance to the local Wongutha people. Choose from an outback tour compete with damper and traditional hunting tools and weapons, take a town tour or watch the stars and hear Dreamtime stories around the campfire with an overnight tour.
Head out to the wheatbelt town of Merredin, pop your walking shoes on and you’ve got two opportunities for an experience with Njaki Njaki Aboriginal Cultural Tours. Founded by Traditional Owner and Aboriginal tour guide Mick, take a cultural walking tour of Merredin Peak where he’ll share with you the Aboriginal history via a walk along the trail up the rock. You can also jump in for a full day experience with his Moulyk Dreaming tour. Be prepared to return from your day with tracking and bush orientation skills and a newfound interest in foraging for traditional foods.
Perth and surrounds
Why wait for a holiday to learn more about the traditions and culture of the Whadjuk people? You don’t even need to hit the road to jump on a tour with Noongar guide Walter from Go Cultural Tours & Experiences. Learn the first stories from Perth’s iconic location such as Goomup (Elizabeth Quay), Karrgatup (Kings Park), Goologoolup (Yagan Square) and Wadjemup (Rottnest Island). Alternatively, take a walk along the Swan River with Mervyn (Nick) Abraham of Warrang-Bridil tours. Kerry-Ann Winmar, a Whadjuk Yorga from the Perth region also hosts interactive tours of South Perth and Kings Park with her business Nyungar Tours. For a star-filled experience, go no further then Djurandi Dreaming, with a torchlit tour of Lake Walyungup or Lake Richmond.
Just a short drive from Perth is Dwellingup, home to Maitland and his Kaarak Dreaming Cultural Tours. Bush medicine, native plants, Dreamtime stories and traditional music are just some of the experiences you’ll have while learning about Noongar culture on one of his tours in the bushland surrounds of Dwellingup.
Take a trip to Mandurah and this time spend some time out on country with one of the two great tour operators here. Kerry and Trevor Stack are proud of their Nyungar heritage and their full day Goolamwiin day tour will take you through bushfoods and the traditions of their culture. Mandjoogoordap Dreaming is another great Indigenous tour option if you are bound for the Mandurah. Your cultural knowledge will expand tenfold by the end of his tour and you’ll be a full bottle on traditional bushcraft, thanks to cultural custodian George.
Not done exploring and learning? Here are the best places in visit in WA for your next road trip.