Welcome To Arakwal Country: Byron Bay’s Aboriginal Experiences

Before diving further into this article, we encourage you to watch the Welcome to Country, featuring some of the local Mob and epic scenery from around Byron Bay.

Many people talk about how special Byron Bay is, but I believe to do so, we should look into the indigenous history of the area. This history dates back to more than 20,000 years ago with the Arakwal Bumberlin people.

Arakwal People of Byron Bay

The Bundjalung of Byron Bay, or Arakwal Bumberlin people, have lived in this coastal area for more than 20,000 years. Cavanbah (meaning ‘meeting place’) was the Arakwal name for the Byron Bay area. This was due to it being a meeting place for northern and southern tribes from Bundjalung Nation. The Bundjalung Nation comprised 15 different tribes, the Arakwal being one of them.

A great way to honour the original owners of the land is by learning and respecting Country and their culture, how they do things, and apply those learnings when visiting. If possible, learning from an Aboriginal person directly is a fantastic opportunity to best connect with the land. 

Aboriginal Tours and Experiences in Byron Bay

Explore Byron Bay

Explore Byron Bay offers authentic Aboriginal tours in the Byron Bay area. They provide several unique experiences led by Delta Kay, an Arakwal Bundjalung woman who is very well-respected as an Arakwal elder in the Byron Shire. Delta Kay is passionate about sharing Aboriginal culture and her ancestry. Explore Byron Bay’s experiences include Bush Tucker tours, Aboriginal Tours, and even Private Aborignal Tours.

Aboriginal Cultural Concepts

Another great way to explore is through the Aboriginal Cultural Concepts tours. These are run by Auntie Lois, a Traditional Custodian of Nyangbul country in the Bundjalung Nation. Available from Wednesday to Saturday, you can choose between half day and full day cultural experiences. Expect to discover secret and mythological sites, hear Dreaming stories, experience traditional Aboriginal culture and more.

Place Of Plenty

Taste bush tucker and campfire food with a Place of Plenty tour. In this two-hour tour located at the beautiful The Pass, you’ll be involved in damper cooking, identifying and taste testing bush food, learning about how bush foods are used in traditional and contemporary times, and many Aborignal cultural perspectives on the bush environment.

Aboriginal Walking Trails

The New South Wales government signed a historic treaty with the Arakwal people in 2001. This treaty recognised the Arakwal people’s ownership of this particular area of ground, now called Arakwal National Park (featured image). When enjoying the walking trails here, look out for the signage with information about the area and the wildlife of the place. To discover more amazing walking trails in the area, I recommend the Byron Bay Trails book, which is available in any of the local bookstores or online.

Aboriginal culture provides us some basic bush rules for when we are in Country, especially if you are visiting our cultural sites:

  • Absorb what is around you and keep voices to a minimum
  • Keep to the tracks and leave plants and animals where they are
  • Where fishing is allowed, only catch what you need
  • If you find one of our middens, please don’t touch them
  • Please respect our sacred sites if you know them or where they are
  • Remember to look after country so that it can look after us

Aboriginal Shopping

There is a beautiful shop in Byron Bay town called Planet Corroboree. Here you can find authentic First Nations artefacts, original arts, jewellery, homewares and gorgeous gifts to purchase directly from the artists. You can also find Didgeridoos, drums and fire twirling equipment at Maha Bazaar.  

Indigenous Restaurants

After exploring Byron Bay’s Aboriginal walking sites, shops and tours, book a table at Karkalla Byron Bay. This restaurant in the heart of town serves seasonal food with native indigenous ingredients. Their locally sourced menu is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Karkalla in Byron Bay, serves seasonal food with native indigenous ingredients.

Remember to visit the Tourist Information Centre in Byron town for updated information about current events.

“We want to see Country how it used to be. We want to continue to look after country and want it to look after us. We want our people to be back on Country, caring for and using Country like we always have. We want to share parts of our culture with the wider community so they learn about and respect Country like we do. We want everybody to work together to keep Country clean and healthy.”

Aunties Lorna Kelly, Dulcie Nicholls and Linda Vidler, 2003.

Wake Up! Byron Bay respects and honours First Nations Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of First Nations Peoples on this land and commit to building a brighter future together.

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