Indigenous Cultural Experiences around Byron Bay and the Northern Rivers Region

Broken Head Broken Head Nature Reserve. Courtesy of NSW National Parks, 2022.

In recent years, Byron Bay and the surrounding Northern Rivers region of New South Wales has become an incredibly popular getaway destination. Visitors travel to the area to enjoy the incredible natural environment and laid back lifestyle. What many people may not fully appreciate, is the rich Indigenous culture intertwined with this beautiful landscape. In this article, we’ll be recommending some unique cultural experiences where you can learn about, and connect with the local Indigenous culture and Country. 

Aboriginal Heritage of Byron Bay and Northern Rivers Region

The Traditional Owners of the beautiful Byron Bay and Northern Rivers Region are the Bundjalung Nation. Their lands extends from Grafton on the Clarence River in the South, to the Logan River in the North, and inland as far as the Great Dividing Range. Within this large area there are many unique language groups.

The Byron Bay region is the lands of the Arakwal, Minjungbal and Widjabul Wia-bal people (Byron Shire Council, 2022). The Arakwal people refer to Byron Bay and Broken Head as ‘Cavanbah’ which translates to ‘meeting place.’ Before European settlement, it was a popular location for trade with the neighbouring Bundjalung Nation clans (Elements of Byron, 2022). To the south of Byron, the Ballina region is the lands of the Nyangbul and Widjabul Wia-bal peoples, to the west in Lismore the Widjabul Wia-bal and the Galibal peoples, and to the north in and around Tweed Heads the Ngandowal, Minyungbal and Yugambeh peoples (Tweed Shire Council, 2022).

Explore Byron Bay Aboriginal Tours

Aboriginal cultural tour Arakwal Bundjalung woman Delta Kay leading cultural tour at Broken Head Nature Reserve. Courtesy of City of Byron Bay, 2022.

Explore Byron Bay Aboriginal Tours are led by proud Arakwal Bundjalung woman Delta Kay, who passionately shares the local Aboriginal culture with visitors. Delta takes guests to significant sites, sharing local history and Dreaming stories (City of Byron Bay, 2022). 

There are two tours offered, one exploring Cape Byron and the other Broken Head. On these tours, Delta will lead you on a moderate 1.5km return walk, visiting significant places while learning and sharing about culture, Bundjalung language, Arakwal customs, bush food, natural medicine, tools, weapons and artefacts. And if you’re lucky, you’ll also spot some incredible wildlife, such as pods of dolphins, wallabies, white-bellied sea eagles and fairy wrens (City of Byron Bay, 2022). 

You can learn more about and book here

Indigenous Art Workshops with Kate Constantine

Kate Constantine Kate Constantine in her studio. Courtesy of Welcome to Country, 2022.

Located on Arakwal Country in Myocum, a 20 minute drive from Byron Bay, Aboriginal artist Kate Constantine (Konstantina) invites visitors to experience a 2 hour art workshop on her beautiful property (Welcome to Country, 2022). Gadigal artist Konstantina is passionate about sharing her knowledge of Indigenous art, and bringing about the recognition it deserves. Through her modern take on dot painting, she portrays the challenges she faces being a mum, storyteller, creative and Aboriginal woman connected to the land (Konstantina, 2022). 

Through her workshops Konstantina shares about using colour, utilising both the man-made and natural hues surrounding us in our everyday lives. Using a traditional yarning circle, she will introduce you to her contemporary dot painting style while you create an artwork inspired by storytelling and mindful use of colour (Welcome to Country, 2022). 

Learn more and book a workshop here

Minjungbal Aboriginal Culture Centre

Minjungbal Aboriginal Culture CentreMinjungbal Aboriginal Culture Centre. Courtesy of Weekend Notes, 2022.

Located in Tweed Heads on Minjungbal Country, Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre makes an ideal day trip to learn about Aboriginal Culture. The centre is located within the Tweed Heads historic site, which adjoins the Ukerebagh Nature Reserve. The facility aims to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of the area, and provide an opportunity to explore and enjoy the beauty of the native coastal rainforest environment (Museums & Galleries of NSW, 2022).

In the centre you’ll find exhibits, informative videos and Aboriginal art. Local Indigenous community members offer tours through the museum and site, sharing information about history, artefacts and the native plants and animals. You’ll hear about how traditional life was once lived in the pristine forests and mangroves, and learn about the cultural significance of the Bora Ring (National Parks, 2022). 

You can learn more about Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre and book tours here.

Pot to Plate Gourmet Cruise Tweed River

Pot to Plate Gourmet tours Luther Cora sharing traditional hunting practices. Courtesy of Welcome to Country, 2022.

Pot to Plate Gourmet Cruise provides a unique way to experience the Tweed River through catching your own food for the day. Proud Yugambeh man, Luther Cora leads the tour retracing the footsteps of Indigenous Elders, and sharing about traditional hunting versus today’s commercial practices (Welcome to Country, 2022). 

You’ll have the opportunity to try hunting mud crabs, stingray and fish using bamboo spears. Then, while the morning's catch is cooked over a fire, learn about local Aboriginal culture and enjoy some didgeridoo music. Once back on the boat you will cruise through the oyster leases, taste fresh oysters, and enjoy a freshly prepared platter of seafood including mud and spanner crabs, prawns, salads and bread (Welcome to Country, 2022). 

We hope this article has helped you pick out some new destinations for your next holiday or day trip. The Northern Rivers Region has so much to offer, both in terms of natural beauty and cultural richness. If you’re in need of some further trip recommendations check out our previous posts: 

Experience Aboriginal Culture from the Sunshine Coast to North Stradbroke Island

Indigenous Experiences Around Brisbane and the Gold Coast