Objectives The aim of the present study was to explore Aboriginal patients' lived experiences of cardiac care at a major metropolitan hospital in Melbourne. Methods The study was a qualitative study involving in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of 10 Aboriginal patients who had been treated in the cardiology unit at the study hospital during 2012-13. A phenomenological approach was used to analyse the data. Results Eight themes emerged from the data, each concerning various aspects of participants' experiences: 'dislike of hospitals', 'system failures', 'engagement with hospital staff', 'experiences of racism', 'health literacy and information needs', 'self-identifying as Aboriginal', 'family involvement in care' and 'going home and difficulties adapting'. Most participants had positive experiences of the cardiac care, but hospitalisation was often challenging because of a sense of dislocation and disorientation. The stress of hospitalisation was greatly mediated by positive engagements with staff, but at times exacerbated by system failures or negative experiences. Conclusion Cardiac crises are stressful and hospital stays were particularly disorienting for Aboriginal people dislocated from their home land and community. What is known about the topic? Aboriginal people have higher mortality rates due to cardiovascular diseases compared with other Australians. Along with different factors contributing to the life expectancy gap, Aboriginal people also face significant barriers in the use of the healthcare system. What does this paper add? Aboriginal patients' lived experience of cardiac care at a major metropolitan hospital in Melbourne is explored in this paper. Different issues were revealed during their interaction with the hospital staff and the hospital system in conjunction with their cultural aspect of patient care. What are the implications for practitioners? Positive interactions with staff, ongoing support from family and community, culturally appropriate cardiac rehabilitation programs can improve the cardiac care experiences of Aboriginal patients.