Australia is home to the oldest living culture on the planet. And you don’t have to leave Sydney to dive deep this history, dating back tens of thousands of years. Discover rock art and sacred sites on Aboriginal-guided tours, listen to Dreamtime creation stories, participate in dance performances and music festivals, try your hand at art and sample bush tucker.
Burrawa Indigenous Climb Experience
BridgeClimb Sydney is one of the city’s most fabled attractions, offering guided walks to the upper arch of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. While the company features multiple daily ascents, whether at dawn or dusk or in between, its Burrawa Indigenous Climb is available just once a month, and it’s well worth booking in advance. Led by an Aboriginal guide, the eye-opening experience reveals Dreamtime stories and sacred sites most visitors pass without realising their Indigenous significance. Like hidden middens at Tallawaladah (The Rocks), and Kai’ymay (Manly Cove), whence Wangal man Woollarawarre Bennelong was lured to become a mediator and interpreter for Governor Arthur Phillip in the late 1700s. While there are 1,332 steps to tackle, your guide’s fascinating tales of the city’s Indigenous heritage – not to mention the unbroken views from the summit, 134 meters above the water – are worthy distractions.
Pairing bush tucker with Dreamtime stories, this experience takes you through the Cadi Jam Ora Gardens at the Royal Botanic Garden, dedicated to plants used for food and medicine by the Gadigal people – Sydney’s Traditional Landowners. On the Aboriginal Bush Tucker Tour you’ll get to sample seasonal bush foods while Aboriginal guides tell tales of traditional music and dance, and reveal artefacts used for millennia to collect, prepare, and store food. The Botanic Garden also host an Aboriginal Harbour Heritage Tour, exploring the harbour foreshore and offering intimate insights into Gadigal lifestyle, traditions, history, and connection to Country.
Native edibles are also on the agenda at Barangaroo Reserve, an urban development project on one of the city’s oldest settlements hugging the western harbour. Barangaroo was a key figure in the local Aboriginal community at the time of European colonisation, and this architecturally distinct precinct is named after her. The site’s Indigenous guides at Aboriginal Cultural Tours lead immersive tours across the six-hectare headland, home to 75,000 native trees and shrubs, many of which have significance to the clans of the Eora Nation that once lived in Sydney.
Aunty Margret Campbell is a bit of a legend in Sydney, a pioneer in Indigenous tourism and one of the industry’s greatest advocates. Her company Dreamtime Southern X offers immersive walking tours through The Rocks district, your Aboriginal guide regaling you with creation stories offering insights into the Traditional Owners of the land – you’ll also look at how the harbour, waterways, flora and fauna continue to influence the lives of Aboriginal people today. The experience begins with a Welcome to Country ceremony, before moving on to Bligh and Barney Reserve, Dawes Point and Campbell’s Cove, an Aboriginal fishing site.
In the middle of Sydney Harbour, Goat Island was once home to early colonial Aboriginal identities Bennelong and Barangaroo, and they are still sites of important Indigenous artefacts. The Tribal Warrior harbour cruise aboard Mari Nawi stops here, with guides telling tales of the Gadigal, Guringai, Wangal, Gammeraigal and Wallumedegal people that called this part of the world home. The boat then docks at Clark Island, where you’ll learn fishing and food gathering techniques before participating in an Aboriginal cultural performance.
Recognising the lack of opportunities for Aboriginal people in travel and tourism, Peter Cooley established Blak Markets as a platform for Aboriginal businesses to showcase their talents. Held up to eight times a year at Bare Island and The Rocks, the markets unite art and craft stalls with live entertainment by Indigenous performers, panel discussions, healing workshops, cooking demonstrations and storytelling. The markets also train and employ young Aboriginal people in food services, giving them the skills they need for future employment.
The Blak Markets is a vibrant event where attendees can directly connect with Aboriginal artists and makers from across the state. The event is held up to eight times a year at various locations, most notably at Bare Island, La Perouse, a significant place for the Bidjigal People.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the Traditional Owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.