Visit the Gold Coast Not Just for the Games

The Commonwealth Games 2018 (GC2018), kicked off with a spectacular opening ceremony, featuring a distinct focus on Queensland’s indigenous culture. The show combined totem ceremonies, indigenous dancing and traditional didgeridoo music to place the state’s indigenous culture onto the world stage, showcasing how Queensland is home to a huge variety of Indigenous experiences that can be enjoyed by UK traveller’s right across the state

Travel Destinations

The Commonwealth Games 2018 (GC2018), kicked off with a spectacular opening ceremony, featuring a distinct focus on Queensland’s indigenous culture. The show combined totem ceremonies, indigenous dancing and traditional didgeridoo music to place the state’s indigenous culture onto the world stage, showcasing how Queensland is home to a huge variety of Indigenous experiences that can be enjoyed by UK traveller’s right across the state.

From the beaches and wetlands of South East Queensland to the ancient rainforests of Tropical North Queensland, all the way up to the palm-fringed islands of the Torres Strait, the Sunshine State is brimming with awe-inspiring and immersive experiences that bring the ancient ways of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to life. For those inspired by the opening ceremony, below are just some of the newest and best indigenous experiences that can be found in the destination.

Tourism and Events Queensland have also just launched: Connect with Culture: 50 ways to experience Indigenous culture – essential reading for inquisitive travellers who scratch beneath the surface and go beyond the clichés to get to the real heart of a place.

Combining fantastic weather, state-of-the-art facilities, and a welcoming local community, the Gold Coast is the ideal home for the global event. Known as Australia’s playground for entertainment and adventure, the Gold Coast is also placing itself firmly on the map as an up-and-coming hotspot for travellers, revellers and hipsters. As quirky bars and stylish restaurants continue to pop up along the famous stretch of coastline, this is now one of the hottest places to experience on Australia’s pacific coast.

New ‘Heart of the Gold Coast’ tour with local indigenous guide, Gold Coast, Opened early 2017   

The Jellurgal Cultural Centre, Kayak the Gold Coast and David Fleay Wildlife Park have partnered to introduce a ‘Heart of the Gold Coast’ half-day tour transporting visitors from the subtropical Burleigh Headland all the way back to Queensland’s Dreamtime. A local Indigenous guide leads guests up the Dreaming Mountain to discover the origin of Ochre and the importance of local flora, before stopping for an incredible view of Palm Beach to Coolangatta. Next, kayak along the Tallebudgera Creek wetlands and arrive on the banks of wildlife’s front door for encounters with koalas, kangaroos, platypus and nocturnal creatures at the David Fleay Wildlife Park. Running on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the half-day tour is priced at $119 (£73) for adults and $99 (£61) for kids.

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair

Hosted in Tropical North Queensland, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair is well attended by art enthusiasts, film buffs and fashion designers alike. The highlight of the event is the runway fashion show where local Indigenous designers showcase their creations. During the day you’ll be entertained by dancing, singing and art gallery showings and at night you can participate in further celebrations and food stalls. The event has a major focus on cultural education in its program. It hosts training workshops for children to learn more about the history of the art and furthers their understanding of the role artists play in current culture.

Lizard Island’s new reef expeditions, Great Barrier Reef, November 2018

Lizard Island is hosting a series of Reef Expeditions featuring scientists from the Australian Museum to offer guests exclusive access to parts of the Great Barrier Reef and educate visitors on the current state of the Reef and what people around the world can do to help.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

Perfect your boomerang throwing skills at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns and be rewarded with a colourful live performance by the Tjapukai Dance Troupe. Or, forage for bush tucker by day and participate in an interactive fire ceremony by night. Either way, this park is completely hands-on and you’re invited to join the hosts as they practice their Indigenous culture. From primitive fire-making to learning specialist hunting techniques, this is a remarkable experience where you’ll also learn vital survival tools.

Meet the people behind the food with Gold Coast Food and Wine Tours, Gold Coast, Opened early 2017   

The launch of local business Gold Coast Food and Wine Tours is an exciting addition to the Gold Coast food scene, with walking tours of Burleigh Heads, Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise. Accredited tour guide and business owner Karen Inglis-Turner recently launched her own food tour company to cater for the rapidly growing interest in the region’s food and wine. “High quality dining experiences have put the Gold Coast on the map as a foodie destination, with food tourism one of our fastest growing markets,” says Karen. During the tour the guides share insider knowledge of the industry and show the hidden gems and foodie secrets that only a local would know. Guests will get to meet the people behind the food – bakers, baristas and brewers who are really passionate about what they do and are happy to share their knowledge. A four hour tour costs $129 (£79)

Spirits of the Red Sand, Beenleigh, Opened March 2018

Ever wondered what life was like in a 19th century Australian village, a time when British settlers forever changed the aboriginal people’s way of life? The new Spirts of the Red Sand experience in Beenleigh is a 2.5-hour journey through the 1800s, led by Jarrah, the only survivor of three Aboriginal brothers, and based on the true story of his family. This interactive experience with indigenous culture takes up to 120 guests through seven sets of live theatre, like the Dreamtime, a precolonial village and a jail, with an 18-strong cast of direct descendants of the first people. The cast will join guests for a warm damper dinner in the dining hall when the show concludes. Located in the Beenleigh Historical Village, 45km from the Gold Coast CBD and 36km from Brisbane’s CBD, tickets include transfers from either location, and start from $25 to $65 for kids and $120 for adults.

Walkabout Cultural Adventures

Walkabout Cultural Adventures offers full- and half-day tours that visit culturally significant sights between Port Douglas and Bloomfield. Spend time with the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people and learn about their history, and relationship with nature and its healing powers. You’ll see natural wonders including waterfalls, river systems and coastal habitats. Your guide will teach you about the different food resources and medicines that you can make from nature and the rainforest. After a big day of walking, take a dip in the refreshing waters of the Daintree river.

Artificial reef and dive site, Fraser Cost, Opening mid-2018

The Royal Australian Navy’s first purpose-built amphibious heavy-lift ship, ex-HMAS Tobruk, is due to be scuttled by mid-2018, six months ahead of schedule, to create a world-class dive site off the Fraser Coast. With the ship to be located in the waters of the Great Sandy Marine Park and only a short distance to the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef’s Lady Elliot Island, this artificial reef will provide a stunning wreck dive option for the Fraser Coast.

Reopening of the Waltzing Matilda Centre, Reopening April 2018

After a fire destroyed Winton’s much-loved Waltzing Matilda Centre in June 2015, the tribute to one of Australia’s most popular poets is expected to reopen in April 2018, in time to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The museum, was the first in the world dedicated to a song, Waltzing Matilda, written by Banjo Paterson in 1895. Award-winning Architect firm Cox Rayner, acclaimed for their involvement in the design of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs have designed the new Centre.

Kinrara Expeditions, Tropical North Queensland, Opening April 2018

Tapping into 270 generations of Gugu Badhun creation stories that have helped define the remote Kinrara National Park, husband and wife duo, Callum and Robin O’Brien, along with Callum’s brother Shane, have launched Kinrara Expeditions – a five-day, four-night stunning outback Queensland adventure four hours south west of Cairns. Operating from their 70,000-acre MacEacherns Camp cattle station, each tour takes up to 12 guests staying in one of 10 low impact double tents that come with large private deck, high-quality inner-spring mattresses, crisp white linen and enchanting views of the Burdekin River. Callum customises the tour (and menu) depending on the group’s preferences, making stops at the Atherton Tablelands and Mount Garnet on the four-hour 4WD convoy out to the station. After the Welcome to Country, guests can opt into guided walks – some in footsteps of the Prussian explorer and naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt, kayak trips on the lush waterways, mountain biking, helicopter rides to Australia’s youngest volcano to explore its secret lava tubes, fishing, or just sitting at the lake’s edge and watching the rich biodiversity of kangaroos, emus and 60 bird species on the property. Tours depart from Cairns or Townsville and bookings are now open for an April to October season.

ReefSleep, The Whitsundays, Reopened late 2017

Cruise Whitsundays has relaunched its popular Great Barrier Reef under-the-starts experience. The one-of-a-kind ReefSleep experiences provides travellers with the chance to slumber under the stars on a pontoon located on Hardy Reef (40 nautical miles from shore). The fully-refurbished Heart Pontoon now offers a new gourmet experience (a la carte menu of fresh seafood and local produce), more comfort (bra new linen) and more capacity (holds an extra 30 guests in double swags). The two-day, one-night experiences offers daily departures with adult prices starting from $499.

Cape Tribulation full day eco-experience, Tropical North Queensland, June 2017

Sailaway have expanded their ecotourism adventures to the outer Great Barrier Reef with full day adventure tours to Cape Tribulation. The new offer includes guided snorkelling tours with a marine biologist and glass bottom boat tours to the prime sites of Mackay and Undine Coral Cays.

Ingan Tours

Halfway between Cairns and Townsville lies the Davidson Valley, home to Jabanbarra Jirrbal people and Ingan Tours. Here tours through the heavy growth rainforest lead to the crystal clear Echo Creek where a local guide recounts how Yunba the Black Water Python healed his sick and wounded ancestors. Alternately, the Ingan River Walk takes you through knee high water and shows the art of basket weaving. If you are visiting nearby Mission Beach or Paronella Park, then this is the tour for you.

Wait A While Rainforest Tours, Tropical North Queensland, early 2018

This day and night wildlife tour takes in the scenic Atherton Tablelands, rich in bio diversity, an area that features a range of habitats including lush tropical rainforest and volcanic crater lakes. After enjoying an Afternoon Tea at the world renowned, Lake Barrine, the day adventure offers the opportunity to see the Musky Rat Kangaroo, Boyds Forest Dragon, a selection of rainforest birds, butterflies and Flying Foxes. At dusk the trip goes in search for the Platypus, one of the most unique mammals on earth. After dinner at a local country restaurant, the night time spotlighting adventure begins. Under the night stars, and in the World Heritage Rainforest, travellers may have the chance to spot a Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo, Northern Leaf Tailed Gecko, Ringtail Possums, gliders, frogs, owls and more.

Camp your style in the environ-tent, Stradbroke Island, December 2017

There’s now an even better reason to get back to nature this summer. Minjerribah Camping has launched the newest innovation in ‘glamping’ with 12 sustainable Eco Tents at the picturesque Adder Rock on North Stradbroke Island (or ‘Straddie’ as it’s affectionately known by locals). Sheltered amongst the natural bushland, the tents are central to a patrolled beach (during holiday periods), amenities, local restaurants, shops and tour operators. Feel at home with quality bedding, exterior decking, furnishings, full electric powering and storage facilities. With nine tents for couples and three family size options, Eco Tent rates start from $149 per night available for hire from 11 December.

Spear Fishing with the Walker Brothers

Described as a bushwalk with a difference, guests are invited to listen to the close-knit women of the Walker Family as they discuss the history of the land and cultural significance of the area through the eyes of those who have lived there for tens of thousands of years, before taking a trip to the magnificent Bloomfields Falls. For a slightly more hands on indigenous experience join one of the Kubirri Warra brothers on their beach, mudflat and mangrove walk where Linc and Brandon Walker follow the traditions of their ancestors who, for thousands of years, educated visitors about their Kuku Yalanji culture.  Once at Cooya Beach the brothers teach their guests how to throw a spear, hunt whilst stalking and observing wildlife and country, and how to track coastal resources Coastal Beach Walks.

Mossman Gorge Centre and Dreamtime Gorge Walk

Located in the southern part of the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest. Mossman Gorge is one of the few places in the country that visitors can gain an insight into the lives, culture and beliefs of Australia’s Indigenous population, and their connection to the natural environment. Embark on one of their Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks, conducted by the local Indigenous people. The walks includes a traditional smoking ceremony, stories of the Kuku Yalanji culture and traditions, exclusive access to Kuku Yalanji land and bush tea and damper. Visitors can learn the art of making paint, and how different plants and trees can be prepared and eaten as bush-tucker, as well as stopping off at culturally significant sites and old bark shelters.

Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa

Retreat to Tropical North Queensland and check into the Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa where you can immerse yourself in the sacredness of Wawu-Karrba (special place for healing the spirit). It offers pure escapism and enables you to disconnect from the world and reconnect with your mind, body and spirit. And, when you’re not being pampered, explore the ancient rainforest with an Aboriginal guided walk or dine at Julaymba Restaurant and treat yourself to delicious cuisine with a native twist.

Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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