Lonely Planet Writer

Why Australia is encouraging tourists to visit cemeteries

The tourism potential of cemeteries has been overlooked in Australia until now. In other countries travellers seek out graveyards to pay homage to personal heroes, visit long-lost relatives from eras past, or to learn a bit about the history and culture of a place. In Australia, Adelaide’s West Terrace Cemetery is looking to entice more visitors and throw off any discomfort people have visiting graves or talking about death by harvesting olive oil made from the 180-year-old cemetery’s olive trees which is sold at Adelaide Central Market.

Cemetery tours on offer in Australia. Image by Elizabeth Given / EyeEm/Getty Images

“The issue for us is, as cemeteries, we need to get out there and let people know we’re there, and tell people that there’s more to cemeteries than coming in at the time you’re bereaved,” Robert Pitt, CEO of the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority, told City Mag in Australia. “Cemeteries are a repository of cultural and social history, and certainly West Terrace has that… We’ve had over 10,000 people do tours through the cemetery, and again it’s that issue about highlighting and understanding the cemetery, its role, its aesthetics, and I think, being in the CBD too, West Terrace is quite special in that respect.

Beechworth, Victoria, Australia. Image by Ross Barnett/Getty Images

“I think it gets you thinking about your own mortality as well, and your own life and where you’re at, and it causes a person to reflect. It’s a personal comment, I might add. I think it’s just a worthy thing to do.” The olives are harvested then sent to Fleurieu Peninsula Olive Press on the coast to be pressed and bottled.  In rural Australia, in the former Gold Rush town of Beechworth the multicultural history of Australia is writ large with its 2000 Chinese graves, Chinese burning towers and an altar from the 1850s.

Waverley Cemetery, Sydney. Image by Oliver Strewe/Getty Images

In Sydney, Waverley Cemetery in the seaside suburb of Bronte is a popular cemetery for its views as well as its historic graves. Across the world, a Spanish company, Junaio, has started selling gravestones that enable augmented content through their mobile devices. One customer used this to add links to video interviews and pictures of a house that his father had restored at his grave. The company also does geolocation service apps for graveyards. Robert Pitt from West Terrace Cemetery is personally very excited about the potential to bring more people to visit these historic monuments by making the experience of visiting more accessible and richer.