LOVE + CULTURE
Unique experiences for culture-loving couples
WORDS MORGAN REARDON
Kakadu is a living cultural landscape with World Heritage listed rock art sites throughout.
While romance might typically be viewed as flowers, fancy dinners and five-star getaways, for the wanderlust seekers amongst us, those special moments where you connect with the people, the landscape, and each other remain the most treasured memories.
Immersive travel is growing in popularity. More and more travellers seek experiences that allow them to submerge in the cultures, traditions, and life of different destinations, turning the focus from well-trodden sites to people, history, and traditions. This style of travel - also known as cultural or slow travel - forces us to look beyond ourselves and connect with people and the world around us. Couples seeking to whisk themselves away from the regularity of daily life are also presented with the opportunity of connection. And the benefits of immersive travel and travelling as a couple are abundant. Merge them, and this becomes two-fold. Within Australia's vast 7.7 million square kilometres lies hundreds of distinct Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures with diverse practices, beliefs, and languages. With the cultures' profound connection to Country, seeking out these cultural experiences on romantic getaways offers couples the chance to deepen the significance of their memories of every sunrise, sunset and moonlit dinner.
Watch the sun set over the Flinders Ranges at Wilpena Pound Resort, South Australia.
For Allie Metz, this was experienced first-hand on a romantic getaway to Wilpena Pound Resort in South Australia's Ikara-Flinders Ranges. "Experiencing the beauty of the outback with my partner on a trip to Ikara-Flinders Ranges was magic. I recall one particular night where we sipped on sparkling as the sun went down; the ranges and sky were alight in a sea of colours; I look back now, and really, it was as romantic as it gets.
"...we sipped on sparkling as the sun went down; the ranges and sky were alight in a sea of colours; I look back now, and really, it was as romantic as it gets."
"But what made this particular sunset special was our Yura guide. Who would have thought having a third person join us for canapes at sunset would be romantic – but it was what he taught us that stays etched into our memory. "Learning Adnyamathanha [Traditional Owners of the area] stories about the landscape allowed us to deepen our connection to the moment, the landscape, and each other. It was an opportunity to grow together. It's a memory, and story, that we will forever share."
Darkinjung Elder Kevin 'Gavi' Duncan shows a display of tools.
RAISE A GLASS
Nadia O'Connell, who runs Firescreek Winery on the New South Wales Central Coast, says she often gets a similar response from guests who experience the Aboriginal Storytelling and Wine Tasting Experience, led by Darkinjung Elder Kevin 'Gavi' Duncan. "I've spoken to couples who have come on the tour before, and they often tell us that they talk about it for a long time after. It's all about creating memories together," Nadia says. This isn't a winery destination like any other. Firescreek Botanical Winery does things differently, infusing their drops with native ingredients like aspen, Davidson plum and mountain pepper. On the hour-and-a-half storytelling experience, guests are guided by Gavi on an immersive storytelling journey through the gardens, sampling some of the native flora used to flavour the wines being served, and learning about local Aboriginal culture.
His stories and gentle manner touches their soul and broadens their knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal culture.
Nadia says Gavi's storytelling often leaves her welling up thanks to the passionate way he describes his connection to Country – and it's that deep, emotional shift that couples take away with them. "I hope they get all misty-eyed too," Nadia says. "I hope that they think about Gavi's stories in one, five and 10 years and remember the feeling of his didgeridoo playing - the vibration - and that his stories and gentle manner touch their soul and broaden their knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal culture. "It's one of those things; that when you travel, if your partner can’t make it, you wish they were there to see it and experience it as you did. This is one of those experiences."
Darkinjung Elder Kevin 'Gavi' Duncan takes guests on a journey, as guests sip tastings of the unique wines.
The incredible views from the Injalak Hill rock art site are jaw-dropping.
GO OFF THE GRID
It's this notion of sharing a one-of-a-kind experience that loved-up couples can take away from many carefully-crafted Indigenous experiences, especially those that take you off-grid and into remote sites. Imagine journeying through the unparalleled beauty of the Top End; snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of Barramundi Gorge/Maguk, spotting an array of fish and turtles; driving across the crocodile-packed Cahills Crossing; or speaking with local artists painting and weaving at the art centre in Arnhem Land's Gunbalanya. Post-holiday slideshows and tales of distant places are great, but nothing beats sharing the moment with those you love. Venture North Safaris offer intimate, multi-day expeditions through Kakadu, Arnhem Land, and the Cobourg Peninsula, offering guests access to some remote sites with special permission from Traditional Owners. According to Venture North director Aaron Gange, one of the best things couples can experience is the incredible Injalak Hill rock art sites. "Along with a local Indigenous guide, you'll climb over rocks in this remote site not open to the public and spend the morning learning about local culture first-hand through direct descendants of people who have lived here for tens of thousands of years." The candles are lit at the remote Cobourg Coastal Camp in Madjunbalmi Country. Aaron says couples can reflect on their day’s experience over sunset bubbles and freshly shucked oysters before cosying up in the hammock or safari tent to fall asleep under a blanket of stars.
Visit the community art centre in Gunbalanya and watch on in awe as local creatives weave magic.
Dine under a blanket of stars as you learn about the Kuku Yalanji culture.
GET FIRED UP
As the old saying goes, the best way to a partner's heart is through their stomach. Nestled deep in the heart of the World Heritage-listed tropical rainforest in North Queensland, just a 10-minute drive from Port Douglas, is Flames of the Forest, a breathtaking experience of food, music, and culture that will leave couples starry-eyed and bellies full. Brothers Robert and Gary of the Creek-Nunn family and Kuku Ngoongal clan host intimate open-air dinners beneath a silk canopy dotted with hand-made chandeliers and enjoyed to the mesmerising sounds of the didgeridoo. The eight-course banquet is inspired by native ingredients and includes dishes like lemon myrtle infused kangaroo loin and jungle spiced chicken topped with a bush lime yoghurt. A storytelling and musical performance sharing Kuku Yalanji culture is seamlessly woven into the night. For the Creek-Nunn brothers, the experience of sharing their culture with the world is addictive and something couples will want to experience more than once. "When you see the amazement, wonder and realisation of Kuku Yalanji’s absolute connection to culture and traditions, in guests' eyes and on their faces, you want to do it again and again," Gary says. "We aim for people to take away that Aboriginal people, especially Kuku Yalanji bamanga (Kuku Yalanji rainforest Aboriginal people) are upholding our traditions and our beliefs not only for our younger generation but to all that experience some form of Aboriginal culture."
Enjoy a spine-tingling performance in the heart of a World Heritage-listed rainforest with Flames of the Forest.
Enjoy breathtaking views across Sydney on the Burrawa Indigenous Bridge Climb Experience.
TAKE YOUR LOVE TO NEW HEIGHTS
Like every reality dating show would have us believe, there’s nothing more romantic than getting the adrenaline pumping. So it should come as no surprise that many couples have proposed at the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge. What screams romance louder than sweeping views of one of Australia’s most iconic cityscapes? For Shona Davidson, a guide on the Burrawa Indigenous Climb Experience, adding a cultural component to the climb that takes people 134 metres above sea level is a touch of magic to this adventure.
Burrawa Indigenous Climb Experience guide Shona Davidson, believes the climb is an important way to keep her culture alive.
"The Burrawa Climb is so special to me, as it gives me the opportunity to show people Sydney in a new light."
Burrawa - a local Aboriginal word meaning 'above' or 'upwards' - is a bucket list experience for any wanderlust-seeker. It takes about three hours to climb the 1,332 steps alongside an Aboriginal storyteller who will share fascinating yarns about Sydney's/Warrane rich and enduring Aboriginal heritage and the Eora people. "The Burrawa Climb is so special to me, as it gives me the opportunity to show people Sydney in a new light. Witnessing people's faces when they hear the stories that I tell while taking in the breathtaking views of Sydney is a truly magical moment," Shona says. "While people are climbing the Bridge with me, I want them to look out across Sydney through Aboriginal eyes and learn something new and find an appreciation for our history, culture, and land that we live on. "I am so happy I get to inspire people every day – and not just with the view."
Scale the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge 134 metres above sea level, while soaking up Aboriginal history.
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