Marked by cyclones and bombing raids during WWII, the capital city of the Northern Territory hasn`t got much left from its architectonical heritage. Calmly sitting on the banks of Timor Sea, it is a quiet city, in fact, more a big town than a city that primarily serves the Australian Defence Force. Over the recent few years though, Darwin`s tourism has increasingly grown, and today, it is an important travel destination – a gateway to the famed Australian crocodile country.
In the last decade, Darwin has transformed into a modern city
with plenty of attractions for all ages and any types of travellers. The
isolation and steamy tropical climate
gave Darwin a relaxed atmosphere and laid back way of life.
Here, days are hot and often sticky; all you want to do is wading the water. Evenings are delightful and most appreciated, they offer good conditions for city explorations. There is much to enjoy in Darwin, most of which is all about camping, fishing, sailing, swimming and sunsets – some of the most wonderful in Australia.
WHAT TO DO IN DARWIN
Old Fannie Bay Gaol – a must-see when in Darwin – a historic jail, established in 1883, later on, the building was turned into an exciting museum and art gallery that promotes regular exhibitions and events throughout a year. The prison is well-preserved, and it will take the visitors back in time, to the eerie cells and gallows
Military Museum – a great place where to learn about the ill-fated World War II era and its consequences for the town
Old Government House – history lovers will surely appreciate a visit to the Government House – one of the oldest buildings in Darwin built in 1780
Parliament House – set amid lush vegetation the NT Parliament House enjoys pretty sea views, guided tours are available almost every Saturday morning
WWII Oil Storage Tunnels – learn more about Darwin`s rich history in the tunnels of Darwin near the Wharf Precinct, interactive displays are open daily throughout a year
The Tour Tube – Darwin`s tourist double-decker bus that provides a tour of Darwin`s top sights
The Territory Day – every year on the 1st of July the Territorians celebrate the state`s independence but honestly, the day mainly is about blowing things up, really. The sale of fireworks in Australia is banned, except on a single day in the Northern Territory – the 1st of July. This is when locals go literally crazy, and the most spectacular display of fireworks can be enjoyed throughout the city. The loud blasting doesn’t stop at least until midnight. There is usually a public event/festival with live music and government fireworks shoot off after dark at the Mindil Beach.
Beer Can Regatta – Darwin`s quirkiest event begun by Lutz Frankenfeld in 1974 and has been held ever since. Participants create boats and ships made out of beer cansand soft drink cans to send the vessels into the waters, with the aim not to fall apart. It is a great fun festival to visit in July (one day only at the Mindil Beach)
Darwin Festival – the annual fiesta is held for about 3 weeks each August, and it celebrates the multicultural aspect of the local lifestyle. There are numerous events, e.g. outdoor concerts, theatre, comedy festival, film and visual art, dance and music and various workshops
Deckchair Outdoor Cinema – Darwin`s way of enjoying both sunset, drinks, food and movies is absolutely unique, the outdoor cinema broadcast national and international films every night between April and November
Mindil Beach Sunset Markets – browse around Darwin`s iconic market that reflects the city`s eclectic, multicultural mix (Thursday and Sunday evening between April and November). Various cuisines can be tasted at the friendly food stalls as well as jewellery, artistic products, and clothes, various performances such as fire show, talented dancers and local bands
3.DINING & CRUISES (ideal for sunsets)
Mindil Beach Casino Resort – take a stroll along Darwin`s most popular beach and enjoy spectacular sunset views from one of the beachfront restaurants. Don’t skip the Infinity pool with amazing beach views!
Cullen Bay Marina – take a stroll around Darwin`s little ‘Hollywood’ and enjoy the sunset drinks and dinner at one of the gorgeous wharf restaurants. Cullen bay is also the departure point for all cruises around Fannie Bay, Stokes Hill Wharf, Frances Bay and Cox Peninsula as well as a ferry to the Tiwi Islands famed for the Aboriginal culture
Darwin Waterfront Precinct – enjoy a night at the city`s main
waterfront that is well-known for great restaurants, bars, and relaxed tropical seaside lifestyle
Stokes Hill Wharf is another friendly laid-back
waterside spot with alfresco eateries and phenomenal sunsets. It is also a
departure point for most of the sunset cruises
Frances Bay – pay a visit to Darwin`s fish marketsin Frances Bay and try the best fish`n
chips in Darwin or freshly caught seafood
Fannie Bay – if your budget allows you should
definitely book a table at the Pee Wees
at the Point – reputedly the most romantic restaurant in the town known for
a gorgeous, secluded beachfront setting
Nightcliff – the Foreshore café is one of the
most favourite spots for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it attracts with
lovely bean bag area overlooking the Nightcliff beach
Darwin Beach Lagoon & The Big Buoy – these are a MUST when in Darwin, located at the Darwin Waterfront. The Beach Lagoon is artificially created and it has a wall that was designed to protect the beach from not only storms but also the dangerous stingers and crocodiles. It also features floating Big Buoy Water Park for the adventurous ones!
The Wave Pool offers much fun for all ages; it has chlorinated saltwater, shallow pools for children, a big wave pool with waves up to 1.7 metres in height, boogies and pool donuts free of charge
Palmerston Water Park – free of charge, this is a fantastic spot for families with young children. It has waterslides, wading pools, sprays, shaded BBQs, picnic areas
Fannie Bay & Lake Alexander – Fannie Bay beach is generally not considered safe for swimming (crocodiles have been spotted in the area) but Lake Alexander opens in the dry season and it is ideal for water sports and swimming. The Parap Pool is open all year round
Berry Springs Waterhole – the closest waterhole to Darwin features safe swimming, lovely day picnic areas and shaded barbeques (open in the dry season, 8 am-6.30 pm)
Mindil Beach – Darwin`s only patrolled beach open to the public in the dry season. Mindil Beach Casino Resort has a fabulous seaside Infinity Pool with a bar and beach views
Nightcliff – the beaches in Nightcliff are popular with the local residents who can be often seen swimming in the dry season although crocodiles can sometimes be spotted around. Nightcliff Pool (open throughout a year) is a much better option for those who are after a refreshing dip.
Casuarina Beach & Nudist Beach – fantastic for sunset walks, picnics, horse riding or dog walking but crocodiles have been spotted in the area. Hence no swimming recommended. However, there is a nudist zone north of Dariba Road that is much-liked by Darwin`s gay population
George Brown Botanic Gardens – explore the open woodlands,
rainforest, and mangroves of the local botanic
gardens. The park features fantastic educational walking trails through lush
tropical vegetation and the well-known Eva`s
Cafe (allow at least 1 hour)
Indo-Pacific Marine Exhibition – view living coral reef ecosystems, the night program has a torchlight tour and
seafood buffet dinner. The marine reserve has been operating since 1971, and this astonishing underwater wildlife
theatre attracts thousands of visitors every year
East Point Reserve – relish the stunning Fannie`s Bay
sunset, mangroves and mobs of wallabies roaming
around the reserve when walking the East Point Trail (approximately 1-hour loop
Nightcliff & Foreshore Park – take a 5-km long walk from the Nightcliff shops through mangroves to the Nightcliff pier and continue to the Rapid Creek bridge. If visiting on Wed, Fri or Sat between 5-9 pm stop by at the Cucina Sotto le Stelle and try their delicious wood-fire baked pizzas (April-November only).
Crocodylus Park – the wildlife park showcases a huge
variety of reptiles an offers impressive croc-feeding sessions, baby crocodile
viewing, turtle sanctuary, boat tours
Territory Wildlife Park – great zoo for families with children,
it features walking trails, a train for the lesser fit ones, wide variety of
animal displays, Australian animal feeding, educational and interactive
Crocosaurus Cove – feel like swimming with crocs? You
are at the right spot then. Darwin is the only place in the world where you can
do so. The (ill-)famous Cage of Death
is an absolute MUST!
Aquascene – a spectacular sight of hundreds of
large fish being hand-fed every day.
Since 1950, a unique natural phenomenon
has been occurring in the shallow waters
of Darwin coast at high tide, when magically myriads of wild fish swim to the
shores of Darwin`s Doctors Gully.
Today, the fish are so used to the friendly locals that they are willing to be
hand-fed to the delight of the tourist-audience (Note that the Aquascene is
only open in the dry season, opening days vary) http://aquascene.com.au/fish-feeding/fish-feeding-times/
7. RECOMMENDED DAY
TRIPS FROM DARWIN
Tiwi Islands – take the Sea-link ferry from Cullen Bay (2.5 hr one way) across the Arafura Sea to discover the hidden gem of Darwin. The Melville Island and Bathurst Island are famous for the Aboriginal art and culture (wood carvings of birds and batik textiles), but also their untouched natural beauty and wildlife (birds and reptiles). You can travel independently or take a day-tour at the Visitor Centre in Darwin.
Cox Peninsula – hop on the Sea-link ferry from Cullen Bay to Mandorah (20 min one way). Wagait Beach is the highlight for all locals when it comes to weekend-away; it offers great fishing, boating, beachcombing, relaxation, sunsets, forest walks and open-air bar. There is also plenty of accommodation options and if you are a fan of camping you should take the Peninsula Way from Darwin and self-drive (1.5 hr drive from Darwin, 4WD recommended)
Dundee Beach – explore the famous Dundee and perhaps spot some of the local crocs in this popular fishing and boating spot. This is one of the best places where to go for a Barramundi and some wild camping. Dundee Beach Holiday Park is a lovely facility to stay at, too. (1.5 hr drive from Darwin, 4WD recommended)
7.NATIONAL PARKS (GREATER DARWIN)
Litchfield National Park attracts tourists with a tropical setting, gorgeous waterfalls and water holes at their base so tempting to take a dip in (the area can be travelled independently – 4WD recommended or via a tour from Darwin)
Kakadu National Park – where else on earth can you see so many crocodiles in their natural environment from such a close distance and where else would you get a chance to see the rock artwork which is one of the longest historical records of any people on Earth – the Australian Aboriginals? (the area can be travelled independently – 4WD recommended or via a tour from Darwin)
Katherine – witness tropical waterfalls, take a cruise to admire dramatic ancient gorges and chill in idyllic hot springs of Mataranka (the area can be travelled independently – 4WD recommended or via a tour from Darwin)
Arnhem Land – the very tip of Australia is occupied by sacred land that has been home to the Aboriginal Yolngu people since millennia. This is a deeply spiritual place with great archaeological significance and indigenous artistic legacy (home to the national music instrument didgeridoo). The area can be travelled independently – 4WD and permit essential or via a tour from Darwin.
When in Darwin, remember to have SPF50+ sunscreen, a wide brim hat and plenty of water with you at
all times. The strong Australian sun and tropical climate can be harsh. Minimum
of 4 litres per person a day is recommended in the Northern Territory and at
least 6 litres a day per person when walking outside.
Darwin territory is home to both saltwater and freshwater crocodiles. When wandering around swamps, wetlands and billabongs always keep to the marked tracks. Similarly, when walking in the coastal areas always watch for the warning signs – the saltwater crocs have also been spotted on the beaches of Darwin. Crocodile attacks (in many cases fatal) occur throughout a year in most of the coastal areas on the Nothern Territory. Remember that the crocs can see you even if you cannot see them!
WHEN TO TRAVEL
Darwin lies in the tropics, and
it is subject to the monsoon season
that brings frequent storms, floods and sometimes
cyclones. Therefore, travellers are
suggested to visit the region during the dry
Most of the events and festivals are held between July and August but that is also a time of a year when places get crowded, prices go up and bookings are essential. Hence you might want to consider the shoulder season, e.g. May or October
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