Indigenous Experiences Around Brisbane and the Gold Coast

Yugambeh Aboriginal Dancers at Gold Coast.

Yugambeh Aboriginal Dancers at Gold Coast. Photo credit: Brian Usher. Courtesy of Ocean Road Magazine, 2021.

If you’re looking for places to travel with the family next holidays, consider checking out the many incredible Indigenous cultural experiences that Brisbane/Meanjin Country and the Gold Coast/Kombumerri, Mununjali and Wangerriburra tribal lands has to offer (City of Gold Coast, 2022).

To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of places to visit, from bushwalking tours, to stunning local art galleries, to delicious bush tucker taste tests and Aboriginal storytelling through live dance and theatre shows.

Aboriginal Heritage of Brisbane and the Gold Coast

The Turrbal and Yuggera peoples have lived in the Brisbane region for more than 32,000 years and their ancestors go back more than 60,000 years. The Turrbal and Jagera people speak Yuggera and their name for Brisbane is Meanjin. On May 13, 1998 the Turrbal people lodged a claim for native title of the Meanjin area starting at the North Pine River and extending down to the Logan River and inland as far as Moggil. In 1999, the application was accepted (Turrbal, 2022).

The Gold Coast is situated on the land of the Kombumerri, Mununjali and Wangerriburra families of the Yugambeh Language Region. The Yugambeh people’s traditional homelands extend from the Logan River in the north, south to the Tweed River and west to the mountain range (Yugambeh Museum, 2022).

Birrunga Gallery & Dining, Meanjin

Birrunga Gallery & Dining.

Birrunga Gallery & Dining. Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland, 2021.

If you’re looking to explore Indigenous art and cuisine in Brisbane’s CBD, you’ll want to make a detour between Queen Street and Eagle Street to find Birrunga Gallery & Dining. As the only Indigenous-owned and operated venue within Brisbane’s CBD, the gallery aims to promote and advocate for local First Nations artists who haven't had the opportunity to display their works.

You’ll be able to enjoy an all day breakfast and lunch menu featuring native bush tucker ingredients, surrounded by the magnificent Indigenous paintings, sculptures and prints on display in the gallery.

The gallery offers guided tours, classes and 100% genuine Indigenous artefacts, paintings and prints for purchase. To add to their immersive experience, the Indigenous artists whose works are on display are regularly onsite to discuss the stories and processes behind their works.

Check out the link in their Instagram bio for more information, or to book a table, function or to check out their upcoming events.

Black Card Cultural Tours, Brisbane CBD

 Black Card Cultural Tours showing local Indigenous art around Meanjin/Brisbane.

 Black Card Cultural Tours showing local Indigenous art around Meanjin/Brisbane. Courtesy of QAGOMA, 2022.

Journey through Brisbane city’s cultural precinct in an eye-opening 90 minute Aboriginal art walking tour. With your Indigenous guide, you’ll explore galleries, exhibitions, art installations and public sculptures and discover the vital role art plays within Indigenous culture and history. Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes!

Black Card Cultural Tours also have a 3hr Cultural Tour and Weaving Session topped off with a Bush Tucker Tasting. You can book Cultural Tours via their website here.

Spirits of the Red Sand, Beenleigh 

Spirits of the Red Sand Aboriginal culture and dinner show.

Spirits of the Red Sand Aboriginal culture and dinner show. Courtesy of Get Your Guide, 2022.

Whether day or night, join Spirits of the Red Sand in their immersive cultural experiences that’s won them Gold at the 2022 Australian Tourism Awards and been voted as the RACQ #1 Must Do Queensland Experience. Located at the Beenleigh Historic Village, it's only a 30 minute drive from Brisbane City or a 40 minute drive from the Gold Coast. 

During the day, Spirits of the Red Sand invites you to their Welcome to Country Experience, where you'll experience a smoking ceremony and learn about the local ancient Dreamtime stories, customs and rituals. You’ll also get to participate in a bush tucker tasting and boomerang painting.

In the evening, enjoy a three course dinner infused with bush herbs and spices and an immersive live ‘roving theatre’ show. You’ll walk through various scenes set in the Dreamtime to the 1800’s -  a time when the British and Aboriginal ways of life collided. The 2.5 hour-long experience is set inside the 19th century Beenleigh Historical Village, complete with the largest pre-colonial Aboriginal village and authentic Gunyah (Aboriginal hut) dwellings. 

Book online via Spirits of the Red Sand's website, and check out the intro video for their dinner show here.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Gold Coast

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Aboriginal dance show.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Aboriginal dance show. Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland, 2021.

The Gold Coast’s popular tourist attraction Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary might be  known for its rainbow lorikeet feeding, ginormous saltwater crocodiles and the treetop challenge, but there are so many more reasons to visit. One such, being the mesmerising Aboriginal Culture Show - a performance of traditional song, dance and storytelling by the local ‘Yugambeh Aboriginal Dance Group,’ which is held daily at 3pm. 

You won’t want to miss out on this performance as it’s one of the city’s best kept secrets. The dance group has performed for top-notch events, such as the 2018 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, the pregame celebration for the 2020 Indigenous/Maori All Stars NRL game and the group featured in a music video for a track produced by US DJ Steve Aoki.

Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Burleigh Heads

Jellurgal Walkabout Tour, Burleigh Heads.

Jellurgal Walkabout Tour, Burleigh Heads. Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland, 2022.

Embark on a journey of discovery of the local Yugambeh culture, community, Dreaming and Burleigh Headland's native wildlife at the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre. The local Aboriginal guide will take you along the picturesque beachside rainforest walkway around Jellurgal (Dreaming Mountain). After the Jellurgal Walkabout Tour, you can opt to explore more of the surrounding Burleigh Headlands and Tallebudgera Creek where you can surf, swim, fish or just hang out. 

We hope you have fun learning about and experiencing the world's oldest living culture! If you’re a NSW resident check out our previous post for places to visit on the north coast of New South Wales:

Aboriginal Cultural Tourism Experiences at Coffs Coast