Journey to the southwestern corner of Victoria, within Gunditjmara Country, and discover the wonders of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape. Set among lakes, forests, marshlands, and even a dormant volcano, this area was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in July 2019. This is the only Australian place to receive international recognition for its Aboriginal cultural values. The only other UNESCO World Heritage site in Victoria is the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens.
It features three parts – Budj Bim (northern) component, Kurtonitj (central) component and Tyrendarra (southern) component. Together, these three elements contain one of the world’s most extensive and oldest aquaculture systems. They are connected by the Budj Bim lava flows, which provided the basis for a system of channels, weirs and dams. Over a period of at least 6,600 years, the Gunditjmara carefully developed this system to trap, store and harvest kooyang (short-finned eel) and support the enhancement of other food resources.
This unique landscape is about an hour’s drive away from Warrnambool, or around four hours from Melbourne.
Budj Bim Cultural Landscape
The Gunditjmara people have lived in the area for over 30,000 years. When you visit, you’ll see Budj Bim, an inactive volcano. Its last major eruption was between 30,000 and 39,000 years ago, and it spewed lava across 50 kilometres, changing the waterways and wetlands of the surrounding area. It was during this eruption that an ancestral creator revealed himself in the landscape.
Explore Budj Bim National Park and discover a crater lake, lava canals, caves and more. This park is perfect for all sorts of nature-based activities, including camping and mountain biking.
To see other cultural sites in Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, it’s best to take a tour.
Tours depart from the Tae Rak Aquaculture Centre, which is located on the shores of Tae Rak (Lake Condah). This facility has a Bush Tucker Café, a retail space, and even a kooyang display tank, so that you can look at live short-finned eels.
All tours run from Wednesday to Sunday. There are currently three guided tours for you to try, as well as tours for school groups, clubs, associations and corporate groups.
Tae Rak Guided Cultural Walk
Go on a walk around Tae Rak (Lake Condah) and the surrounding wetlands, and listen to your Gunditjmara cultural guide. Set next to the lava flows of Budj Bim National Park, the lake covers 1,700 hectares of wetlands and stony rises. Venture along a boardwalk, onto the jetty over the lake, and learn the Gunditjmara creation story. As you walk along, your guide will point out all the wonderful marine and birdlife. On the tour, you’ll learn about traditional eel harvesting, culturally significant flora and fauna, the lava flows and kooyang traps on the lake, and much more. The walk lasts for about two hours, and starts at 10am or 2pm.
Tungatt Mirring – Stone Country – Half Day Tour
Visit the Kurtonitj Indigenous Protected Area, in the centre of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape. This area has historical stone eel traps and stone channels, stone house sites and an ancient tree used for smoking eels. After that, have morning tea in Budj Bim National Park, then go on a cultural walk and see key areas like Lake Surprise, lava tunnels, caves and forests. You’ll see plenty of wildlife, including an extensive koala population. The trip starts at 9:30am, and runs until about 1pm.
Kooyang Yana – Kooyang Walk – Full Day Tour
In this experience, you’ll visit the Kurtonitj Indigenous Protected Area, and see stone house sites, eel smoking trees, a Budj Bim seasonal calendar installation, an area of lava flow featuring two weirs and more. After that, have morning tea in Budj Bim National Park. Just like the half day tour, you’ll go on a cultural walk to see Lake Surprise, lava tunnels, caves and more. Have lunch at the Tae Rak Aquaculture Centre & Café. Then, go on a cultural walk of southern and eastern sides of Tae Rak and the surrounding areas. This tour starts at 9:30, and ends at around 4pm.
Tyrendarra Indigenous Protected Area
This cultural site is located two kilometres north of Tyrendarra. The region is a traditional meeting place and camping area, with an aquaculture complex of dams, excavated channels and swampy depressions. Explore this area with the help of Budj Bim Tours, a separate group that has offered guided tours since 1999. Walking tours last for two hours, and run on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
There’s so many unforgettable sights waiting for you at Budj Bim Cultural Landscape. For more information about the history, cultural sites, tours and more, click here.