Aboriginal Culture on the South Coast

Aboriginal history on the NSW South Coast dates back tens of thousands of years. This rich culture is still thriving today and can be sampled through everything from bush tucker tours – where you’ll learn about and sample native produce – to gallery visits, revealing the creative talents of the country’s traditional landowners. Whichever activity or adventure you choose, prepare to be humbled and inspired by stories of the world’s oldest civilisation.        

Wollongong Art Gallery in Wollongong, South Coast

Galleries & museums

You only have to drive an hour south of Sydney to discover indigenous art at the Wollongong Art Gallery. Since the 1950s it’s been home to an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Further south in Nowra, the Shoalhaven Regional Gallery counts a cache of linocut prints from a variety of Aboriginal artists among its portfolio. In nearby Huskisson you can not only glimpse historic maritime artefacts and navigational and surveying instruments, but also learn about the region’s traditional custodians (the Dharawal and Dhurga people) at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum.

Aboriginal guide Dwayne Bannon-Harrison performing a smoking ceremony during a traditional welcome on a Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness tour

Guided tours

Three hours south of Sydney in Jervis Bay, family-owned Galamban offers everything from two-hour to full-day tours spotlighting indigenous Dreamtime stories told around the campfire, cultural practices like weaving and bush foods found across the countryside. Further south in Ulladulla, Budawang elder Noel Butler operates Nura Gunyu, an Aboriginal cultural organisation providing bush food and history walks, with plenty of personal stories along the way.

On the far South Coast in Eden, you’ll find the Monaroo Bobberrer Keeping Place, where you can join an Aboriginal guide to learn about the region’s long history, while discovering how to throw a boomerang or spear. If you have more time on your hands, the town of Narooma is the starting point for a two-night Gulaga Creation Tour. Your hosts, Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness, lead you to explore Gulaga National Park, uncovering sites of sacred significance for the Yuin Aboriginal community.

Giiyong Dancers at The Keeping Place Experience, Merimbula & Sapphire Coast

Self-guided experiences

Prefer to explore indigenous culture at your own pace? Begin your wanderings in Booderee National Park, on the southern edge of Jervis Bay Marine Park. Aside from crystal-clear water, powdery beaches and jagged sea cliff, this wilderness reserve hosts Australia’s only Aboriginal owned Botanic Gardens. Stroll scenic trails, learn about bush tucker and medicinal plants, and hear stories from indigenous rangers.

Keep driving south to Ulladulla where the distinctive carvings and paintings of artist Noel (of Nura Gunyu tours) unfold along the One Track for All. Journey on past Bawley Point to discover the 2.2km Murramarang Aboriginal Area walking track, which passes middens and other sites of cultural significance.

Couple enjoying scenic coastal views along the Bingi Dreaming Track in Eurobodalla National Park, South Coast

Follow in the footsteps of the Brinja-Yuin people on the Bingi Dreaming Track, a 13.5km coastal walk that traces ancient Songlines in Eurobodalla National Park. Then in Eden, take the self-guided interpretive Bundian Way Story Trail between Cocora Beach and Quarantine Bay. The 1.8km signposted trail leads through native bushland and over windswept headlands in Yuin Country to a ‘bunang ring’ (ceremonial performance place) featuring eight beautifully crafted stories.