Australia is home to the oldest continuing living culture in the world, and one of the best ways to learn about it is through a walking tour. Fortunately, Sydney — which is built upon Gadigal Country — has more than a handful of said tours, which go over ancient Aboriginal traditions, history, art and native food.
Ahead, we round up some of the best tours among them. From a 90-minute walk around Sydney Harbour, where you’ll be shown how plants and smoke are used in Aboriginal ceremonies, to another taking you through the history of Barangaroo, these are our picks for the Sydney experiences that let you best expand your knowledge of Australian Indigenous culture.
Aboriginal Culture Tour at Royal Botanic Garden
Enjoy an authentic Aboriginal experience on a 90-minute Aboriginal Culture Tour of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Led by Aboriginal guides, the tour will see you introduced to traditional cultural uses of native flora in the harbourside gardens. Learn about the history of the Traditional Owners of the area, the Gadigal people, and discover how they harvested local seasonal foods, crafted practical artefacts and cared for Country for tens of thousands of years.
Aboriginal Dreaming Tour at The Rocks
On Dreamtime Southern X’s The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour, you’ll be taken on a 90-minute walk around Sydney Harbour. There, you’ll learn about the local Aboriginal People’s deep spiritual connection to the area’s waterways and foreshores, how they used the land and water and sustained themselves on seasonal foods. Your guide will explain how this ancient wisdom continues to reveal itself in The Rocks today, show you how plants and smoke are used in Aboriginal ceremonies and take you to a number of culturally important sites.
Aboriginal Cultural Tour at Barangaroo
You may know Sydney’s newest commercial precinct, Barangaroo, as a hub of office buildings and waterside restaurants and bars, but the area is also a spiritual and cultural site of great significance for Sydney’s Aboriginal people. The precinct was named for an 18th-century Cammeraygal Aboriginal woman who was one of the key figures in the first dealings with European settlers. Join an Aboriginal Cultural Tour to learn how Traditional Owners from the Eora nation lived on the harbour’s once-pristine shores. Tours are led by Aboriginal educators and take in the flora of the six-hectare headland of Barangaroo Reserve, home to some 75,000 Australian native trees and shrubs.
Aboriginal Site Tour at Basin Track
Learn about life on Country from Laurie Bimson of Guringai Aboriginal Tours through a three-hour Basin Track Aboriginal Site Tour. Visitors are led to culturally significant sites within the stunning bushland of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, 25km north of Sydney CBD. You’ll see sandstone engravings and stencil art, and be briefed on how Aboriginal people enjoyed food, shelter, community and spirituality in the area. Bimson has been operating tours since 2009 and is an adviser to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Aboriginal Culture Tour at Royal National Park
If you’d rather learn about Aboriginal culture on your own time, opt for a self-guided tour in Royal National Park, south of the city. On a 5km-return walk that starts at the ferry wharf in Bundeena and follows a well-marked bush track to Jibbon Beach, you’ll learn about the traditional home of the Dharawal people. Jibbon headland features significant Aboriginal rock carvings depicting animals and Dreaming spirits. Behind the beach, in the sand dunes, you’ll find Aboriginal middens — a collection of shells and bones that indicate places of food gathering and consumption — dating back 3,000 years.