A part of the Northern Territory, just 80 kilometres north off the coast of Darwin, are the wonderful Tiwi Islands. Voted as one of the ‘Top 100 things To do before you die’ by Australian Traveller, a short scenic ferry from Darwin will allow you to experience life in a modern day Aboriginal community. The Tiwi Islands are truly unlike anywhere else in the world, and should are an absolute must-do for any Top End adventure.
Known as the ‘Island of Smiles’, the welcoming locals take you on an unforgettable journey through their rich history and culture by showcasing traditional bush tucker, bush medicine, local history and world class Aboriginal art.
Things To Know About The Tiwi Islands
The Tiwi Islands comprise of Melville Island, Bathurst Island and nine smaller uninhabited islands, with a combined population of less than 3,000. The Tiwi people, translated in the local Aboriginal language as ‘we’ people, are culturally and linguistically unique from those just across the water in Arnhem Land.
The islands themselves span across 8,320 square kilometres and were created during the last ice age, around 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. But before the islands were isolated from the mainland, the Indigenous people had occupied this area for at least 40,000 years.
Tiwi Indigenous Australians are renowned for proudly maintaining their traditional culture. Most speak Tiwi as their first language and English as their second. Plus, they’ve also uniquely blended Tiwi culture with Christianity brought to them by missionaries as seen through their Tiwi-style Catholic Church.
Local Wildlife Of The Tiwi Islands
As these islands have been isolated from Australia’s mainland since the ice age, the islands contain a range of plants and invertebrates found nowhere else in the world. Many of which are endangered including the Carpentarian dunnart, which is a small mouse-sized marsupial native to the area. The Tiwi Islands are also home to the largest breeding colony of crested terns, a rare seagull-like bird, and a significant population of the threatened Olive Ridley turtles.
Local Art & Culture
As specialists in wood carvings, here you can see carvings representing various birds from Tiwi mythology holding meanings significant to their culture. Indigenous Australian art is an important part of the Tiwi island culture and economy, with part of their artistic talent vividly demonstrated through their distinct batik, carvings and the unique Pukumani burial poles.
AAT Kings’ Tours of The Tiwi Islands
Tiwi Islands Aboriginal Cultural Tour – Full Day Tour
AAT Kings’ offers an amazing Day Tour of this fascinating island. Your day will begin with a ferry ride, departing from the Curren Bay Ferry Terminal. On arrival you’ll be met by a local guide to explore the progressive, modern day community of Wurrumiyanga and as the day develops, you’ll be taken through the rich cultural history of the area.
Key highlights of the tour include:
- Discovering traditional art depictions of the local dreamtime stories at The Tiwi Museum
- Exploring the Early Mission Precinct and unique Tiwi-style Catholic Church
- Visiting Tiwi ladies as they work on weaving and painting
- Experiencing a totem dance and a traditional smoking ceremony
- Seeing local artists work at the Arts & Crafts Centres and possibly purchase an artwork at Island prices
- Learning of the traditional Pukamani (burial ceremony)
View the full itinerary for the Tiwi Islands Cultural Tour
Browse our tours below to learn more about experiencing the Tiwi Islands