From exploring ancient rainforests in Far North Queensland to meeting artists in the remote Tiwi Islands, these diverse destination tours will take you off the beaten track.
Although Australia’s ‘big ticket’ attractions enjoy millions of visitors every year (we’re looking at you, Sydney Opera House), there’s another side to this sun-bronzed country – one enriched with contrasting landscapes, ancient culture that runs deep, and wildlife you can’t find anywhere else on the planet. With these immersive tours, you’ll experience all three (and much more), delving deeper into some Australian hidden gems.
Delve deeper into this incredible country. (Image: TEQ)
1. Explore Cape Tribulation
For many travellers, Far North Queensland is simply the jumping-off point to the Great Barrier Reef, and while the 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands that make up this World Heritage area are spectacular (and worthy of the attention), they’re not all the region has to offer.
To travel a little further afield, leave behind the busy streets of Cairns and the holidaymakers of Port Douglas to explore the lesser-known area between Cape Tribulation and Cooktown with Down Under Tours.
Be moved by this incredible World Heritage area. (Image: TEQ)
Their three-day Cape Tribulation & Cooktown Wanderer itinerary takes you from the ancient rainforests of the Daintree National Park all the way along tropical Cape Tribulation and into the historic streets of Cooktown.
On the way, you’ll experience the popular Marrdja Botanical Boardwalk, the rugged 4WD-only Bloomfield Track, and the many waterfalls of the beautiful Wujal Wujal region.
After two nights in Cooktown exploring the culturally significant Reconciliation Rocks, colonial history and incredible landscape, you’ll return south via outback savannah country, spotting huge termite mounds and dusty Brahman cattle on the way.
Walk the stunning Marrdja Botanical Boardwalk. (Image: TEQ)
2. Connect to Uluru
As the sun rises over the rust-coloured desert of Central Australia, Uluru looms large on the horizon with its ever-changing colours, hidden waterfalls and ancient spiritual meaning.
Looking for a deeper understanding of the ancient Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park landscape and culture? Go further than the tourist trails with an immersive tour led by the traditional owners of the land.
Dig into the culture around Uluru. (Image: Kate Flowers)
Run by SEIT Outback Australia, the seven-hour SEIT Patji tour explores beyond the park borders by 4WD. Not only will you learn from the Traditional Custodians about Uluru, their culture, and connection to the land. You’ll also be able to try local bush food.
The highlight, though, is that gives you exclusive permission to end your day on a private sand dune on Aboriginal land, watching Uluru fade into the night.
Gain a deeper understanding of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
3. View Tiwi Islands art
While Australia is known for its tropical islands, few travellers are able to experience the art, culture and nature of the extremely remote Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin.
The Tiwi people first arrived in the area around 18,000 years ago, and this collection of 11 islands (only two of them – Bathurst and Melville – are inhabited) have their own distinct cultural history, art and spirituality.
In particular, the Tiwi Islands are now renowned for their three dynamic art centres: Tiwi Designs, Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association and Munupi Arts.
View the distinct art of Tiwi Islands. (Image: Shaana McNaught)
You’ll need a permit to visit the islands, but your best bet is to join AAT Kings’ Tiwi Islands Aboriginal Cultural Tour, which operates between April and November. Travelling aboard the Tiwi Mantawi, you’ll leave from Darwin and then spend a couple of hours crossing the Timor Sea before arriving on Bathurst Island, where the first stop is the unique Tiwi-style Catholic church.
After a smoking ceremony, you’ll meet local artists and admire their work – you can buy their pieces directly from the local art centres – and enjoy a billy tea and damper. Bring your binoculars if you’re a nature lover; the Tiwi Islands are also a biodiversity haven.
The Tiwi Islands themselves are also a work of art. (Image: Elise Cook)
4. Experience ancient culture in Kings Canyon National Park
Just three and a half hours from Alice Springs, in the centre of Australia, is one of Australia’s most stunning geological offerings (and we’ve got a few, so the competition is steep).
Rising 100 metres from the desert floor in the beautiful Watarrka National Park, Kings Canyon was formed around 40 million years ago. It can easily be explored on foot, and you’ll find hidden year-round watering holes, spectacular views and around 600 species of native plants and animals.
Explore the incredible Watarrka National Park. (Image: Plenty Of Dust)
The area has been home to the Luritja and Pertame (Southern Aranda) people for the past 20,000 years. To really understand the cultural significance of this part of Australia, and the local Indigenous community, join the six-day Outback Contrasts trip with Inspiring Journeys.
You’ll explore the tiny community of Watarrka with locals Peter and Christine, who run the Indigenous-owned and operated Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Experience & Tours.
Learn about using seasonal mai (‘food’ in the Luritja language) as bush medicines for spiritual healing from Peter, and see Christine expertly demonstrating traditional methods of grinding stones.
Explore Watarrka with Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Experience & Tours.
Christine will also share her love of Indigenous art-making and its significance to her culture, while creating beautiful pieces surrounded by desert bushland and the wildlife that call it home.
Discover more Australian adventures at aatkings.com.