In Darwin, life moves at a more relaxed pace. And that’s exactly how the locals like it.
Balmy days and nights are part of life in the Top End. Which is why you’ll be spending so much time outdoors. From beachside markets to open-air cinemas and sunset cruises, the glorious outdoors is where some of the best entertainment can be found in this unique city.
The tropical escape is a prime destination for families with kids – there are plenty of options with adrenaline-pumping activities a speciality.
Start with the Darwin Waterfront Precinct where you can grab a boogie board and ride the swell in the wave pool. This is a must-see for everyone, young and old alike. With shallow waters for toddlers, the Wave Lagoon has tubes, popularly known as noodles, especially for families. Or you can hit the man-made beach at Recreation Lagoon.
Families will also enjoy Lake Alexander in East Point Reserve. The filtered seawater lake is a safe swimming spot in a lovely natural landscape dotted with picnic areas.
Also known as a foodie melting pot, and touted as the laksa capital of Australia, here your tastebuds will be tantalised by spicy Asian flavours, real bush tucker and everything in between.
Beat the heat at MAGNT (the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory), which showcases a fascinating mix of scientific collections, art and culture. Don’t leave before saying g’day to the museum’s most famous resident: Sweetheart, a 5.1-metre taxidermy saltwater crocodile.
To spot spectacular wildlife, book a Top End Safari Camp tour which includes a helicopter flight to spot buffalo, and a billabong cruise, barbecue and the feeding of one of the world’s largest crocodiles.
Eat and drink
1. During the dry season, visitors should make a beeline to Mindil Beach Sunset Market to sample the stalls’ tasty offerings. The market is packed with waterfront stalls serving seafood, bush tucker, Asian favourites and fresh lemonade and juices.
2. Other favourites include Little Miss Korea, a Korean charcoal barbecue restaurant, and Hanuman, which serves Thai, Indian and Nonya cuisine. Make sure you check out new dining venues Phat Mango, the Darwin Club at Admiralty House and Bella Fresh.
3. Sip and sample the city’s top drinks and bites on a walking tour with Darwin Gourmet Tours. You’ll learn about the Top End’s culinary influences from the chefs as they talk about their creations and you work your way through the tasting plates. The three-hour lunch or dinner tours visit historical landmarks and eateries such as Chow, Moorish and Snapper Rocks.
Charlie’s of Darwin
Enjoy a cocktail while lounging in a chesterfield at this restaurant/lounge/bar. There’s also an onsite distillery which produces gins infused with Kakadu plum and native lemongrass.
The popular rooftop terrace bar overlooks Raintree Park. Order pitchers of their signature cocktails (fancy a Mulberry Gin Spritz?) and bar snacks such as kangaroo and plum spring rolls or gin-marinated olives.
The Bicycle Network has launched a new nine-day tour of the Top End, starting in Darwin and riding through World Heritage-listed national parks, including Kakadu and Litchfield, stopping at stunning waterholes, such as Wangi Falls, and taking part in immersive Indigenous cultural experiences. Bus routes will take you to the start of each of the journeys.
Kick off with a 38-kilometre ride around Darwin, making your way around the beautiful foreshore. You will stop by MAGNT and enjoy dinner at Mindil Beach markets. Then there’s the 56-kilometre ride over the vast, undulating outback Litchfield National Park, stopping by the spectacular Florence Falls. There’s also the 64-kilometre ride to Nitmiluk Gorge where you will feel dwarfed by the thundering waterfall. Visitors can also take a Three Gorge cruise or go on a helicopter ride to get an aerial view of the falls.
To learn about Darwin’s military history, pick up a new Heritage Link Attraction Pass which gives you access to four attractions at a discounted rate. The pass covers the Aviation Museum, Darwin Military Museum, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility and the Myilly Point Heritage Precinct. You will be able to see the Legendary B52 bomber on permanent loan from the US Air Force and the F-111C Strike Fighter at the Aviation Museum.
If you are looking to stay at a beachfront hotel next to the sunset market, head to the Mindil Beach Casino & Resort where you can swim from the deck of your suite to a man-made lagoon. The resort has a choice of restaurants, serving cuisines ranging from Asian-fusion to contemporary Italian, and bars overlooking the Arafura Sea – perfect for watching Darwin’s sunsets.
If you prefer to be in the middle of the action, there’s the Vibe Hotel on the waterfront, which is a short stroll from the Bicentennial Park and Esplanade precinct. At Stokes Hill Wharf you can peer into the water and spot tropical angel fish. The hotel has a shaded pool and an eatery overlooking the lawns. It is also close to great shopping and local pubs.