Immerse yourself in these Indigenous experiences in Cairns and Tropical North Queensland.
Tropical North Queensland is home to the oldest living culture in the world, and you can visit the past and remember the present through an increasing amount of Indigenous experiences in Cairns and beyond. Cairns has many tour options, galleries, and events to learn about Indigenous traditions, knowledge and wisdom.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO Mark Olsen said that the region “has authentic cultural experiences showcasing stories around rock art, bush tucker and medicine, art, star gazing, hot springs and gorges. Several of these tours, including a Great Barrier Reef experience, an island walk, and a day trip to the Torres Strait can be experienced from our city centre.”
It is important to recognise the original caretakers of this land, and learning firsthand about the diversity of Indigenous culture and language groups can help us achieve this.
Wunyami Cultural Walking Tour
Towards the end of April 2022, the Wunyami Cultural Walking Tour was launched. Led by Indigenous guides, this guided tour journeys around Wunyami, or Green Island. Guests can get to Green Island through two daily 45-minute boat departures from Cairns. Wunyami is not only a beautiful ancient coral cay with unique flora and fauna, but also an island connected to the ancient journey of two ancestral beings. Learn about the cultural ceremonies of the GuruGulu Gunggnji and Gimuy Yidinji people on this 1 hour long trip.
Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours
The Guided Eco Cultural Tour takes you deep into Indigenous culture with a 3 hour journey to a hidden part of Cairns away from the croads. You’ll travel through the Trinity Inlet and mangroves to Mandingalbay Yindinji land. After a cleansing smoking ceremony, a guided walk by Indigenous Rangers takes you through the ancient rainforest to the bush supermarket and pharmacy. For longer stays, check out the overnight options or the magical Deadly Dinner evening experience.
Strait Experience – A Strait Day
Gain access to the special paradise of the Torres Strait Islands with this attainable tour experience developed by Fraser Nai, a Traditional Owner of Masig (Yorke) Island, and John Palmer. Strait Experience’s A Strait Day tour launched in June 2022, allowing guests to explore two islands of the Torres Strait, Waiben (Thursday) and Ngarupai (Horn). A scenic flight also takes you along the east coast of the Cape York Peninsula, the tip of Cape York, and the southern islands.
Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel
With the many snorkelling and reef experiences in the Great Barrier Reef, what sets Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel apart is their cultural spin on the experience, making them the only cultural reef experience in Tropical North Queensland. You’ll be enjoying five hours out in the world’s most impressive reef snorkelling with multitudes of diverse marine life, while learning about how saltwater people have interacted with the reef for generations. Hear the creation story of the Great Barrier Reef from Indigenous Sea Rangers and gain a deeper understanding of the rich history behind this natural wonder in the Pacific Ocean.
Down Under Tours – Aboriginal Day Tours
Head into the rainforest with Down Under Tour’s Daintree Dreaming program journeying from the Cairns coast to the Daintree rainforest. Choose one of the Aboriginal day tours to experience a combination of lush nature and ancient culture. Every tour includes the Mossman Gorge Dreamtime Walk, in which your Aboriginal guide leads you on a walk where you’ll learn about the Kuku Yalanji people’s relationship with the land. Then you can partake in either a Janbal Gallery painting class or traditional fishing with Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours.
Pamagirri Rainforest Walkabout
Kuranda is just 30 minutes away from Cairns and holds the Rainforestation Nature Park, where you can embark on an immersive rainforest experience on the Pamagirri Rainforest Walkabout. Your Aboriginal guide will discuss traditions like the spiritual transition to manhood, totems, and body painting before your guided walk. During the walk, you’ll learn all about survival in the rainforest, the plants, fruits, and berries used as bush tucker and remedies, along with traditional shelters and artefacts. Don’t miss out on a meaningful trip to the oldest surviving rainforest in the entire world.
UMI Arts – Cairns Indigenous Art Centre
Hear and experience Indigenous stories first hand at the UMI Arts Cairns Indigenous Art Centre in Manoora. The nonprofit UMI Arts is a hub for regional First Nations artists, nurturing talented new artists through workshops and giving them the opportunity to showcase their amazing work. Their upcoming Summer Show exhibition between November and February features new and experimental works inspired by the energy of the wet tropics.
To begin planning your next trip to Cairns, check out the Rex route map below.
If you enjoyed reading about indigenous experiences in Cairns, why not read more about awesome Indigenous festivals, tours and events around the country.