Sweet Dreamtime: 6 stunning Aboriginal camps and lodges
Staying with the original custodians of Western Australia’s North West is a great way to learn about the world’s oldest living culture, and reconnect with nature and loved ones.
Discover Stories as Old as Time on The Dampier Peninsula
Discover millennia-old hunting techniques and traditions, alongside beachside accommodation and tranquil ganders. The Bardi people of the Lombadina community, on the spectacular Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, invite you to come and share their way of life in this stunning landscape of red dirt, white sand and turquoise waters. Accommodation includes cabins and campsites, there’s a bakery, church and store, and activities include offshore fishing charters, community tours and mud crabbing in a local estuary, followed by a feast of crab, salad and some famous Lombadina bread.
Eat Fine Food in the Far North West
You wouldn’t ordinarily expect to find top-class dining 220 kilometres north of Broome, but Kooljaman at Cape Leveque is no ordinary place. Its restaurant, Raugi’s, plates up some amazing dishes based around local bush food. The view’s not bad either. Here at Cape Leveque, you’ll find a pristine coastline and an ocean teeming with life, as well as opportunities to explore on tours that range from night fishing to scenic flights. The camp is owned and run by the Bardi Jawi people, with camping and glamping options including a deluxe safari tent with a king-size bed and balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Soak Up the Serenity at Mercedes Cove
Also on the Dampier Peninsula, the simple but stunning set-up at Mercedes Cove offers a handful of cabins and eco-tents overlooking a private beach on the Indian Ocean. This is a family-run Aboriginal business. There are no guided tours, but you won’t miss out when co-owner Pat Channing is around; she’s often found sitting with guests and enjoying a yarn. “We have a spot where we look out at the whales and have a chat,” she says. She also points guests towards the best bushwalking, snorkelling and fishing spots, and says a stay here is mostly about relaxing: “just unpack, sit back and enjoy”.
Pitch a Tent at Whale Song
A bush camp with sites overlooking the Dampier Peninsula’s Pender Bay (much loved by migrating humpback whales), the Aboriginal owned Whale Song Café and Campground offers not only a stunning place to pitch a tent, but a popular cafe where you can enjoy a pizza and a mango smoothie, or perhaps a gubinge crush, a gelato-type delicacy made entirely from the locally grown superfood (it’s a native plum). The Whale Song Campground is called Mayoorr, the Bardi word for “stone fish traps”, and you can see these traps – said to be 2000 years old – at low tide. “It’s a beautiful place,” says co-owner Jacinta Monck.
Camp With Custodians at Imintji
At the western end of the Gibb River Road, deep in the Kimberley landscape, you’ll find a campground with a difference. Imintji has long been an essential stop on this famous track, but since 2016 the community has also invited visitors to stay. Imintji Campground is a Camping with Custodians site which provides tourists the opportunity to camp on Aboriginal land. Imintji means “a place to sit down” in the Ngarinyin language, so pitch a tent, replenish your supplies at the community store, check out the art centre and mix with the locals.
Explore the Kimberley from a Wilderness Camp
“It’s hard to find a wild river in the world these days,” says Nyikina man Neville Poelina, “but we have one right here.” There are also 52 natural springs on this Fitzroy River property in the heart of the Kimberley, so there’s no shortage of places to have a swim and cool down. Activities at the Oongkalkada Wilderness Camp include fishing adventures, bird spotting in the wetlands, and visits to Aboriginal communities, all tailored to individual needs. “The best thing is the tranquility,” says Neville.
Interested in more memorable experiences? Check out these Top 10 Aboriginal experiences.