Connect to culture with these Indigenous Tropical North Queensland tours
Tropical North Queensland is brimming with awe-inspiring, immersive experiences and Indigenous tours near Cairns and beyond that bring the ancient ways of the Australia’s Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to life.
Explore mangrove-fringed beaches and wander ancient rainforests to discover the cultural significance behind some of Queensland’s most spectacular locations. Immerse yourself in the traditions and songlines of two of the world’s oldest living cultures through the mediums of storytelling and dance. And learn about a deeply felt connection to the land that has been 40,000 years in the making.
Here are 10 must-do Indigenous tours and experiences which deserve a spot on your Tropical North Queensland bucket-list.
Discover the secrets of the Daintree Rainforest, Mossman
A profound respect for the land and all its creatures has always been at the heart of Aboriginal culture – which is why there’s no better way to explore Queensland’s World Heritage-listed rainforests than by following in the footsteps of a local Indigenous guide. Ditch your map, strap on your hiking boots and embark on a Wet Tropics adventure.
Join Kuku Yalanji man Juan Walker on a Walkabout Cultural Adventures tour and see the Daintree Rainforest through the eyes of one who knows it best. Your one-day trek will take you past waterfalls, river systems and coastal habitats as you learn about ancient natural remedies and forage for bush tucker. At the end of your journey, take a dip in the refreshing waters of the Daintree River.
Visit sacred sites, hear ancient stories and witness a traditional smoking ceremony on a Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk through spectacular Mossman Gorge. On this tour, your Aboriginal guide will take you through the heart of the Daintree Rainforest along private Indigenous tracks and teach you about the Kuku Yalanji people’s powerful connection to the rainforest.
Local tip: before you leave, grab a bush-tucker inspired lunch at the Mayi Cafe in the Mossman Gorge Centre.
Forge a deeper connection with the coast and sea in Port Douglas and Cairns
Head to Cooya Beach in Port Douglas to visit the traditional fishing grounds of the Kuku Yalanji People. Join the Kubirri Warra brothers from Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours on a beach, mudflat and mangrove walk to find out more about their deep connection to the land. Learn ancient Aboriginal spearfishing techniques, try your hand at mudcrabbing or take part in an immersive night fishing experience.
Head a little further south to Cairns for a cultural Reef tour like no other. Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel run boat tours to the outer reef, giving you the chance to explore the Great Barrier Reef through the eyes of a Traditional Owner. Witness a live dance performance, hear the Great Barrier Reef creation story and talk to Indigenous Sea Rangers about their people’s connection to the sea.
Follow the Indigenous art trail in Cairns and Laura
For thousands of years, Australia’s First Peoples have been weaving stories into their art to create striking, powerful artworks that stands the test of time. Head to Cairns, Australia’s Indigenous art capital, to learn about the importance of art within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture – and maybe even find a new favourite piece to take home.
Among the city’s must-see galleries are UMI Arts – a buzzing hub featuring three galleries and authentic, locally-sourced arts and crafts – and the heritage-listed Cairns Regional Gallery, where contemporary works live alongside ancient pieces. Don’t miss the chance to see Australia’s largest collection of ‘ghost net’ art, created from abandoned fishing nets, at the Canopy Arts Centre.
For even more creative inspiration, visit in July to experience the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, a three-day event thrumming with Indigenous artists, dancers, and performers.
Prefer to experience Indigenous art in nature? Head to the North Queensland town of Laura and take a Jarramali tour of the Quinkan Rock art sites. Explore this natural art gallery with a local Kuku Yalanji guide and marvel at sandstone escarpments decorated with hundreds of rock paintings, estimated to be at least 15,000 years old.
If you can, time your visit to coincide with the legendary Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival: featuring three solid days of song, storytelling and dance, it’s one of the highlights of Australia’s Indigenous events calendar.
Practice your survival skills in Kuranda
Ever wondered what it would be like to live off the land? Brush up on your survival skills and learn how to access Mother Nature’s open-all-hours menu with a visit to the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience in the Rainforestation Nature Park, Kuranda.
Witness ancient rituals and get schooled on bush remedies and tucker as you explore the rainforest with a Pamagirri guide on this Indigenous tour near Cairns. Learn how to throw a boomerang or spear and get a lesson in playing the didgeridoo. Then wrap up your day with a front row seat to a tribal dance performance by Kuranda’s Traditional Owners, the Djabugay.
Sample Indigenous flavours in Mungalla and the Daintree Rainforest
Tropical North Queensland’s Indigenous food scene is bursting with unique flavours inspired by the flora and fauna of the Australian bush.
Treat yourself to a night of fine dining and cultural entertainment at Flames of the Forest – Australia’s only rainforest dining experience. Tuck into a seven-course banquet of locally-sourced Australian produce as you listen to the music and storytelling of the local Kuku Yalanji people, all performed against the backdrop of a lush, flame-lit forest.
Just an hour from Townsville lies the idyllic rural homestead of Mungalla Station, the venue for Mungalla Tours’ authentic kup murri experience. Listen to traditional Aboriginal live music while your dinner is cooked amidst hot embers in a traditional underground oven, then eat your fill around the campfire beneath a blanket of stars. Also included in the experience is the Mungalla Station tour, where you’ll find out more about the history of its Traditional Owners, the Ngwaigi people, and discover the truth about this former cattle ranch’s dark colonial past.