Category Archives: Darwin

— Darwin —

4 unmissable Darwin daytrips

WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JANUARY 27, 2016

  • Four wild and exhilarating adventures to get a real taste of the Northern Territory within coo-ee of Darwin….

    1. Darwin Harbour Cruises 
    Another way to experience the hypercolour Darwin sunset, the Sunset Cruise is a favourite with loved-up couples. A word of warning, though, don’t delay on the buffet or you’ll miss out! See: Darwin Harbour Cruises

    2. Litchfield National Park Waterfalls
    Darwin is the gateway to the outback and no trip is complete without a little walkabout. AAT Kings offer day trips to Litchfield National Park were you can spend time wallowing in crystal-clear waterholes.

    3. Mindil Beach Sunset Market
    This strip of market stalls run parallel to the sand dunes of Mindil Beach. Grab a satay stick and a trinket then head to the beach to watch the sun set over water. Raffles Plaza, 2/1 Buffalo Court, Darwin.

    4. Wildlands Wetlands Safari
    The early rise is well worth it for this incredible cruise along Corroboree Billabong. Ogle majestic birds and get alarmingly close to crocs as you slip through the quiet early-morning waters. See: Wildlands Wetlands Safari

     

    More…
    How to find Darwin’s wild side

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    — Darwin —

    How to find Darwin’s wild side

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JANUARY 19, 2016

    Darwin and its surrounds have a wild, exhilarating beauty awaiting those who venture up this far (Words: Lara Picone).

    The breeze exhales its penetrating heat onto sticky skin and eyes drift to the impossibly azure waters beyond Darwin’s Waterfront.

    It’s beautiful, but you can’t help feeling deeply frustrated. For sweltering tourists, gazing from Survivor’s Lookout is akin to pining for an unrequited love, because slipping into that cooling water is nothing more than a maddening fantasy.

    The sun is partly to blame; it so cruelly enhances this beguiling, untouchable scene, yet the inviting waters that skirt Darwin and dissect into the Northern Territory aren’t for people.

    They’re jammed with the peril of crocodiles, sharks, and box jellyfish. All creatures only too obliging to end your life, one grisly way or another.

    Just one of those creatures is enough to severely threaten your frail human existence but, no, Mother Nature has deemed these waters so pure that she’s set a diverse panoply of formidable guards to keep watch over her glittering, topaz diadem – consigning us to land or hulking, metal boats.

    Like the lactose intolerant staring longingly into ice-cream parlours all summer long, it’s impossible not to feel this is a huge injustice.

    Survivor’s Lookout

    Survivor’s Lookout has played host to more than its share of the unfair. It’s here where Darwinians found the best view of approaching horror in the form of 188 Japanese bombers on 19 February, 1942.

    Then, in 1974, it provided a vantage from which to survey the second decimation of the town, following Cyclone Tracy’s near-complete destruction.

    Tearing through Darwin with all the rage of a woman scorned, Tracy refused to behave as other cyclones do and, instead, criss-crossed her ill-intent through town, rather than sticking to a reasonably straight line.

    Carnage ensued and once the much-diminished townspeople had collected themselves, the question loomed as to whether or not they should bother rebuilding at all.

    Happily, they chose to rise again, albeit with a very distinctive ’70s style.

    Original tenants

    Long before these events wrought their misery, though, the original inhabitants, the Larrakia, or saltwater people, had likely stood on the same site with bemused terror as Dutch ships appeared on the horizon in the 1600s.

    Again, the Larrakia watched on when, a lazy 200-or-so years later, the British HMS Beagle turned up. Commander of the ship John Celements Wickham dubbed the place Darwin (apparently unaware it already had a name that had served it for thousands of years) in honour of his mate, Charles, who had hitched a ride on one of the Beagle’s earlier voyages.

    It seems that for the people who’ve always called this cul-de-sac of the Northern Territory home, danger and change has habitually arrived via the sea.

    John Hart of Walk Darwin bestows his local and historical knowledge to eager visitors as they join him on a stroll through the city’s streets.

    Learning lessons from Cyclone Tracy

    A fountain of anecdotal and factual stories, John tells how in Larrakia lore, events like Tracy serve to give the people of the area a swift clip on the back of the head.

    “As if to say, ‘Wise up, you fellas, you’re growing too fast and stuffing it all up’,” tells John.

    Looking back toward the high rises of the eagerly expanding city it’s easy to wonder if another clip on the head isn’t going to be forthcoming. One person who won’t be bothered by this is Ruben James Jones.

    “If the world turns to shit, I’ll be right,” laughs the Wildlands Wetlands Safari guide as he ferries a boatful of tourists along Corroboree Billabong, about an hour from town.

    “I’ll just go and live with my people out in the bush. I’ll live off the land.” Ruben, who is of half Aboriginal and half English descent chuckles to himself as the day-trippers exchange uneasy looks, as if the fact their survival might depend on a supermarket had never occurred to them.

    Rapid fire croc stats

    But, more immediately, their survival depends on a sheet of tin separating them from a four-metre-long saltwater crocodile. Soaking up some rays on the muddy banks he’s so big and prehistoric that he looks like he should be exhibited alongside a dinosaur in some natural history museum.

    Lenses zoom, excited chatter rises and a yellow eye swivels lazily to take in the boatload of fleshy tourists. Dinner for months, if he could be bothered. Luckily, he can’t.

    “Their jaws move three times quicker than your eye can pick it up, folks. And one tooth has 600 kilograms of crushing power – that’s one of 60!”

    Ruben rapid-fires croc stats at the group while reversing back into the billabong to see if he can rustle up some more napping reptiles. “They have their favourite spots,” he says.

    Weaving through a cattle station twice the size of Singapore, the billabong’s water is still and glassy in the early morning. Darters perch on logs, spreading their wings, like flashers opening a trench coat, to dry them in the morning sun.

    A jabiru (Australia’s only true stalk, incidentally) elegantly makes its way across the banks and a sea eagle with a wingspan of two-metres silently glides overhead.

    It’s all so serene, even the seemingly sleeping crocodiles, that it’s easy to slip into ambivalence about the dangers.

    How to run from a crocodile

    Yet, it’s told that fishermen have been plucked from the back of tinnies, hapless tourists are frequently being eaten, and Ruben has been chased by more crocs than he can count.

    To that, he helpfully dispenses advice to run when in pursuit, “It’s an old wive’s tale that you have to weave when you run from crocs,” he says,

    “I’ve been chased by crocs for 20 years and not once did I stop and think, ‘hang on, I’d better chuck a right in here’.” Good to know.

    The possibility of an errant croc sits uneasily when diving into the deep, inviting pool at Wangi Falls in the Litchfield National Park, further along the way from Corroboree Billabong.

    In the dry season, crocs can’t find their way to this popular swimming hole, where Darwinians and tourists alike can finally cool down away from water-dwelling assassins.

    But in ‘the wet’ when banks burst and land is bridged by water, crocs can find themselves washed up here – hence the Fall’s closure to visitors during the season.

    Today, it’s the dry season, but even repeating this fact mantra-style provides little assurance as the warm, clear shallows give way to a cold, dark-green abyss.

    What lies beneath

    Imagination turns to what lies beneath, but some hardier souls have conquered this thought to swim out to the base of the falls where they frolic around the downpour.

    Looking up at the soaring rock face from the safety of the far bank, it looks as though a kindly giant has used his bare hands to force apart the rock, forming two cracks for water to cascade down and providing humans with a safe spot to cool off.

    Palms, ferns, gum trees and ancient cycads spring up in vivid greens, guzzling the fresh water and providing a photogenic contrast to the imposing rust-red rock. It’s an effect not lost on the local tourism body, which provides poolside wi-fi so swimmers waste no time uploading their memories to social media.

    On the drive back to town, the brilliant-green foliage of new growth pops against blackened trunks burnt by fire. The colour palette never fatigues, which is just as well considering the hope of spotting a wallaby requires eyes to be peeled at all times.

    The frontier city

    Wallaby eye-spy is only interrupted by turn-offs to Katherine, military barracks, and roadside airstrips, which all serve as a reminder that Darwin is, at its heart, a frontier city.

    Be that a frontier to the endless red dust of the outback or the first line of defence against external aggressors.

    Like all frontiers, it draws an eclectic mix of people, from soldiers to opportunists, and others looking to shed an old life.

    Darwin embraces them all, along with everyone else who drifts in and out to glimpse life at the Top End.

    Mindil Beach sunsets

    There’s no better place to experience this buffet of cultures than at Darwin’s famed Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, where they come with deck chairs, strollers and guitars slung over shoulder for the evening light show.

    While the beat of bongos lends a steady rhythm to market-goers and sweet, savoury smoke lures the hungry, the beach fills like a stadium as punters stake out a patch of sand.

    They come to watch diamonds sparkle across the water as the sun yields to night, lighting up the beach in an evolving array of colours from precocious pinks to soothing mauves.

    You may take your life in your hands to swim in Darwin’s waters, but this frontier city offers a spectacular compensation in her sunsets.

     

    The details: 

    Staying there: Oaks Elan Darwin – Just opened this year, these self-contained apartments are located in the centre of town and well-equipped with everything you need for a Darwin jaunt – especially a sky-high pool. 31 Woods St, Darwin

    Eating there: Seoul Food – Set beneath the Oaks Elan Darwin, this Korean-inspired restaurant fires out dishes that match perfectly to Darwin’s warm, tropical climes. The oysters and wagyu are must-trys. 31 Woods St, Darwin

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    4 unmissable Darwin daytrips

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    — Darwin —

    3 surprising ways to eat out in Darwin

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • SEPTEMBER 15, 2015

    From top-end beachside fare to Asian chic, Jennifer Pinkerton samples the pick of culinary newcomers to breeze through the Territory’s tropics.

    Cue a new era: the previous 12 months have seen Darwin’s food scene sprout black cockatoo wings and take flight. Hip, artisan eateries and food trucks are emerging with greater gusto than a wet-season storm. And it’s not just the food that delights, either, with many new establishments also acing the atmosphere stakes. Either fully or partially, diners can sit outdoors amid the dry season air. We checked out a handful of freshly hatched havens to whet your appetite for a tropical bite.

    1. Nightcliff Foreshore’s food truck scene

    Twenty minutes north of the CBD in artsy hub Nightcliff, a ‘village walk’ of new-breed food trucks has popped up alongside the suburb’s milky-blue ocean fringe. Beginning at the Nightcliff Pool carpark, roll over to Jetty & the Fish (Friday to Sunday). This pint-sized red van, owned by young guns Kate Jellis and Grant Dwyer, serves NT threadfin salmon, as well as southern Mexican -inspired fish tacos with spicy white sauce, cabbage and coriander. Further north lies Teardrop Coffee (Monday to Saturday), a pop-up blue-and-white vintage van with the pick of early morning locations: a stand-up paddle boarder’s section of beach, set right by the Aralia Street and Casuarina Drive intersection. Here, owner Imogen Gough brews java beside a scattering of milk crates and a lush strip of lawn. By night, just around the bend at the Seabreeze carpark (Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays), you’ll find the jewel in the foreshore’s food truck crown. Cucina Sotto Le Stelle translates from Italian to ‘kitchen under the stars’. his mobile restaurant’s chef Benjamin Matthews wood-fires traditional pizzas, while diners share long, communal tables set beneath illuminated flame trees. Try the risotto with NT squid ink, garlic and blue swimmer crab. But do take note that the menu here shifts with the seasons, so while you may not always find your favourite, you can be assured the freshest produce Matthews can get his hands on.

    2. Seoul Food Darwin style

    Sitting at the fancy end of the spectrum, Seoul Food is the newest fine-dining offering on the block. Based on the ground floor of hotel Élan Solo Suites, it was set up with culinary guidance from Chung Jae Lee, former South Australia Chef of the Year. The modern-looking restaurant blends traditional Korean food with French flourishes for intriguing and well-considered mash-ups. Plates emerge from the open kitchen looking like edible canvases. Think flecked sauces and sprays of black sesame. Must-try dishes include Seoul Food’s pumpkin, ginger and coconut soup with Korean mandu (pork dumpling); kimchi and pancetta arancini with smoked garlic dipping sauce; and beef carpaccio with nashi pear, avocado, and a soy and sesame dressing. The sizzling vegetarian bibimbap (rice bowl), served in a heavy, heated bowl is a fresh and filling stand-out. 31 Woods St, Darwin

    3. De La Plage

    Darwin’s latest cafe might also boast its best views. Housed in a disused surf club storeroom, De la Plage occupies a grassy expanse that overlooks Casuarina Coastal Reserve, 25 minutes north of the CBD. Run by Belgian and Australian-Turkish duo, Claire Pirau and Sevan Guzel, the café’s menu is inspired by the ladies’ respective heritages. Belgian treats include brown sugar and lime crêpes, while a decadent fig and dark chocolate baklava is among the Turkish offerings. AT favourites comprise the chia seed porridge with Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit, as well as a refreshing watermelon salad. De la Plage pulls off a chilled beach vibe, Darwin style, and there are plans afoot to have tunes spinning out across the lawns on weekends. Darribah Road, Brinkin

    Plus, one to keep an eye out for…

    Lola’s, which opened in June, is a cabaret and carnival-themed restaurant and bar in the harbour-side precinct of Cullen Bay. It is the sister bar to Monte’s Lounge, an Alice Springs staple with a cracker of an outdoor area and more atmosphere than you’ll find at a footy grand final. Lola’s serves up another NT newbie, too, a draught beer from local Darwin label One Mile Brewery. Cheekily, the beer’s name is drawn from the knock-off time for public servants: 4:21. Marina Boulevard, Cullen Bay 

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    — Darwin —

    The hipster’s guide to Darwin

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 7, 2015

    Darwin’s always been a fascinating place to visit, historically more town than city, more shorts and socks than skinny jeans. But over past few years, fed by the magnetic energy of the tropical seasons, a multicultural heart (both indigenous and international) and wave after wave of energetic people moving there from “down South” the place has developed a Big City, dare we say hipster, cooler side, writes Steve Madgwick. 

    The Top End’s capital is a natural stopover for your big ticket outback must-do’s, such as Kakadu and Nitmiluk (formerly Katherine) Gorge, but ever increasing pockets of laid-back urbanity mean the place is no longer just a pit stop on your Territory adventure. Here’s where and why Darwin is down with kool kids.

    Sunsets, stars, tunes & whisky sours

    Darwin’s nightlife has a raucous reputation. A wander along a certain couple of blocks in the famous Mitchell Street and you’ll probably agree that it is well deserved. But outside this lively backpacker magnet, the nightlife and entertainment options are quietly and calmly blossoming, in all directions.

    The local’s pick: For a unencumbered beverage and an unobstructed outlook over a classic Top End sunset, many Darwinites will rightfully recommend Darwin Ski Club. Grab a table on the manicured lawns, choose your fave bottled beer and watch the boats bob up and down in Fannie Bay, the palm trees reminding you that, hey, you’re in the tropics now. The bistro food here is also on the rise.

    Musical secret: Tuesdays nights at Nirvana (on Smith Street) are jam night with plenty of talented Darwin musicians picking up a sax’ or playing impromptu drum sets. Fantastic cocktails – try the whisky sour – and Thai/Malay/Indian food is consistently flavoursome too.

    Cinematic stars: The open-air Deckchair Cinema (July to September) has very little chance of being interrupted by rain and screens an intelligent array of films seven nights a week (on the Darwin Waterfront). There’s a licensed bar to help you enjoy the show (no BYO) with double-session marathons for the buffs.

    Cruising the harbour: The pick of the Darwin harbour cruises (of which there is a few) is the relaxed Champagne Sunset Dinner Cruise with Sail Darwin. Recline and quaff bubbles on a 50ft-ocean-going luxury catamaran ($95 for three hours).

    Dare to be different? Try a Darwin-flavoured drag show at Throb (Smith Street). Don’t be put off by the kitschy name, this joint attracts open-minded Darwinites from all walks of life.

    Dining out or taking away from the source

    Darwin has long since shed its reputation as a steak and a stubby city, thanks mainly to strong multicultural (in particular Asian) influences. Hanuman (on Mitchell Street, away from Backpacker Central) successfully executes a wide range of Indian and South-East Asian dishes in an airy, high-ceilinged, street-fronted space. You might want to try the ‘Meen Moolie’, a creamy curry starring local barramundi.

    Impress-a-guest options aplenty: Pee Wees on the Point for fine dining with a view; Char for “innovative local cuisine”; Il Lido (Waterfront) for fresh seafood and “modern Australian”. There are also plenty of family-friendly restaurants and cafes (and mainstreamish shopping opps) at Cullen Bay Marina.

    Something different: Try The Laksa House (Stuart Highway) for some scrumptious West Timorese food in the vibrant and fun atmosphere of a converted carpark (you may have to share a table). Owner Amye Un’s lively personality is as much a highlight as the cuisine. Keep an eye out for the chicken shrines.

    Pop-up Italian: Cucina Sotto Le Stelle, a quirky woodfired pizza and pasta pop-up venue, serves its wares on the grass of Nightcliff foreshore, attracting Darwin’s into-Italian-crowd on Wednesdays and Fridays.

    Fresh off the boat: Feel like some fresh barra’? Head down to Darwin Fish Market at Fisherman’s Wharf where you can buy straight off the boat. Small in scale but big in fish.

    The caffeine crusade

    Nothing speaks inner-city cred like access to seriously grown-up coffee. Newbie Alley Cats Patisserie (Mitchell Street) pours a cultured cup of your choice and purveys yummy in-house puff pastries and a-maz-ing sour dough.

    The Pearl (Vic Arcade) is a chic and consistent choice for breakfast or a piece of rich chocolate cake, with big city coffee options in a relaxed bo-ho vibe.

    It’s getting easier and easier to get your ristretto et al fix – try also Four Birds, Coffee Nut, Java Spice and the Laneway Café in Parap.

    Market city & on the hunt for indigenous art

    Your market personality test? A tropical climate breeds outdoor shopping and Darwin is ridiculously well serviced in this respect. Short-time visitors end up at Mindil Markets (Thursdays and Sundays) for its food stalls (fantastic fresh oysters), tourist trinkets, live music and beachy keen sunsey views. Locals reckon Mindil can be a “a little touristy” though – it certainly pulls in the crowds on Sundays.

    Where the locals go: Parap (Saturdays), Nightcliff (Sundays) and Rapid Creek (Sundays) markets give more of a taste of the real Darwin and a snapshot of local life. Try a breakfast laksa or sate your wildest mango fantasies (sticky mango rice at Rapid Creek is sublime) at either of the fresh-food-heavy facilities.

    Where Indigenous art thou? There are a handful of galleries that offer quality art hailing from around the entire Northern Territory, which work with outlying communities and art centres in Arnhem Land, the Tiwi Islands and the Western Desert. In the Parap area, browse Outstation and Nomad galleries and try Tiwi Art if you don’t think that you’ll make it across to the islands. Don’t expect bargain basement prices, the art is seriously good and seriously sought after. Shop around!

    Festival Territory

    Darwin packs a lot of its festival action into the dry season and “build-up” (to the Wet Season). May to October is peak time, but there are plenty of quirky events all year-round (see TravelNT for more).

    For Dry Season action, the Top End’s answer to the Melbourne Cup, the Darwin Cup (late July, early August), is fast becoming the race that stops (this part of) the nation.
    Darwin Festival festivals offer art, dance, comedy and indigenous culture that might not otherwise find its way to the city – check out the line-up and book ahead. The Darwin Fringe is also growing in popularity as the demand for non-mainstream mushrooms with the great north migration.

    From the Mediterranean: Greek Glenti celebrates one of Darwin’s dominant immigrant cultures, a plate-smashing celebration of Hellenic dancing, music and most importantly cuisine centred on Bicentennial Park. Oh, did, we mention the food?

    If you really must… the touristy stuff

    The cult of the croc is alive and well in Darwin, and there are two ways to have a safe encounter with the prehistoric beasts. For a bit of fun tourist tack, immerse yourself in the transparent ‘Cage of Death’ at Crocosauras Cove (diving in a clear cylindrical cage) or head out of the city centre to Crocodylus Park & Zoo to learn more about the giant reptiles and witness the drama of a feeding frenzy.

    Kids in tow? There are not many large bodies of water where you can swim croc-free in the Top End, but you can catch an (artificial) wave at the Darwin Waterfront Wave Lagoon without the worry of box jellyfish or Darwin’s favourite topic of conversation snacking on you.

    — Darwin —

    #74 – Turtle nirvana Dundee Beach

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • APRIL 1, 2015

    Turtle-nesting nirvana Dundee Beach, in the Top End, is number 74 on Australian Traveller’s ‘100 amazing places you haven’t been to yet‘. Nominated by: Tahan Lew-Fatt, reality TV contestant.

    Amazingly, six out of the seven species of marine turtle to be found anywhere on Earth live in the waters of the NT, and many of them nest on the beaches very close to, or even within, Darwin.

    Big Brother’s Tahan Lew-Fatt was brought up loving the moment at night-time when the turtles would make the long trek between the waves and their sandy nests.

    “It’s more of a local thing, but everyone knows about Dundee,” she says. “When I was about 10, the turtles seemed as big as me. They’re huge.”

    About 120 kilometres south-west of Darwin, this beach has whiter-than-white sand and that clean, clear Territory water. Stay at the Sholly Shack for a six-metre saltwater pool that overlooks the bay (from $270 a night).

    Some call this area ‘the best fishing spot in the NT’ which, frankly, is a phrase used so often in this state that it’s lost all meaning, but a spot that facilitates fantastic game, reef, river and barramundi fishing, and mud crabbing can’t be sneezed at.

    Find out if ‘they’ are right and book a fishing charter (dundeebeachfishingcharters.com.au).

     

    Return to: 100 Amazing Places You Haven’t Been to Yet

     

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    — Darwin —

    Jumping crocodile cruise

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JANUARY 7, 2015

    Contrived spectacle or Attenborough adventure? Jennifer Pinkerton braves infested waters on a jumping croc cruise

     

    “Tell me you’re not,” snorts my mate Graham, a Territory resident of five years. “It’s a bloody circus, Jen.” He adjusts his glasses, shakes his head and scans the crowd at Darwin’s Roma Bar cafe.
    “Are you… checking to see who heard me say that?” I ask indignantly. What’s so bad about a little tourist activity in my newly-adopted home town?

    “Croc jumping is a ride. And you can only do it in the Northern Territory,” my boss Alice had urged the previous month. She’d drawn me a map of the Darwin-Kakadu loop, marking ‘must-dos’ with an insistent, scrawled star.

    First non-missable item: this croc-jumping tour, in the Adelaide River catchment – home to one of the world’s highest concentrations of saltwater crocodiles. Yup, the casually humungous kind.

    Mentally torn between enthusiasm and disdain at today’s distinctly touristy activity, I arrive at croc central on a Sunday afternoon in dry, 30-degree heat. A painted sign sits propped between two orange plastic chairs, pointing to parking. Two tourists with tanned arms whisper in the shade.

    “You’re on a small boat today; there’s only 10 of you. And you’ve come at the best time. The tide’s low so there’ll be crocs baking on the river beds,” says my friendly South African host, running an old-fashioned manual slide over my credit card.

    She’s a modern day Linda Kozlowski I decide, waiting to catch sight of her Mick Dundee. Instead I spot the ‘penthouse’, a two-storey staff hut. The thing looks like it’d blow over in a gentle breeze.

    There’s a small jetty visible through the shrubs and I wander out for a view of the river.

    I see one! A croc! Its marble eyes and long snout lift out of the khaki water. It’s looking STRAIGHT AT ME.

    I holler for my travel companion to check-this-the-frig-out.

    “Oi, you guys, step away from there please. That’s meant to be cordoned off.” Dundee’s got a gap-toothed smile, tufts of curly red hair, and, disappointingly, the name ‘Morgan’ stitched on his shirt. “Ready to croc n’ roll?” says Kozlowski, without a hint of irony.

    Taking my seat up front, mild panic strikes. The boat’s a little sunken and passengers sit at water level. Separating us from the currents: a two-centimetre-thick metal grill.

    We amble around the first bend and spy a croc on the bank. The boat putts out into the open river. In waves, flocks of birds make an exodus from the trees. Fellow cruisers coo. This is a pretty spot.

    Morgan rams the boats in a messy nook of branches. We pause. “Here she comes. She’s a monster.” He hooks a palm-sized cut of meat onto a pole and dangles it over the edge.

    She slides towards us at full speed, snaps at the teasing hook, then lunges from the water – half her body in the air. A flurry of broken, yellowed teeth and dead, glazed eyes swipe past the grill. The croc is close enough to touch – should you be partial to suicide.

    I won’t lie. I shriek like a baby.

    “Are they fighting? Is there a second one?” I’m semi-hysterical, pointing at a tail slapping five metres from the mouth.

    “It’s the same one. She’s almost six metres. Don’t lean out of the boat, people!” says Morgan, eyeing a French backpacker zoning out behind her Raybans.

    A child buries his face in his father’s legs. Ho-ly crap.

    Six crocs later, our boat drifts to a stop.

    “You haven’t got a spare pair of undies, do ya?” asks the man with tanned arms. I grin.

    That was thrilling, freaky fun. I make a mental note to chastise cynical Graham. Circus? Mate. This is a jungle.

     

    What’s the gossip?
    What a shockadile! Brutus, 17-foot monster, rises from the Adelaide River near Darwin, Australia, to snack on a hunk of buffalo meat as fearless tourists look on.”
    – Business Review Forum

    The AT Verdict
    Jennifer Pinkerton, who paid her own way and visited anonymously, says:
    I’d gazed longingly at the ‘turn left for crocodile cruise’ sign many times before taking the plunge, fearing something kitsch and touristy. Surprisingly, it was intimate and had an unexpected danger factor. Far better than seeing crocs in the zoo.”

    The Details
    Where: 70km from Darwin CBD, off the Arnhem Hwy.
    Notes: $35 for a one-hour cruise. Runs four times daily from mid-May until late October. To avoid the crowds and join a smaller boat, choose a 9am or 3pm cruise.
    Contact: 08 8983 3224 or 0427 180 316; adelaiderivercruises.com.au

     

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    — Darwin —

    Is mellow Moonshadow Darwin’s answer to Bali?

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MARCH 10, 2014

    Walking in the footsteps of Australia’s elite, Jennifer Pinkerton uncovers a Top End stay – and a curious one, at that.

    Moonshadow Villas is a sought-after ‘celebrity’ retreat and your privacy is guaranteed.” Do go on, I whisper to the screen. A vine of adjectives trails the homepage. Breathtaking, exotic, five-star, tranquil, tropical-bird-and-orchid-filled.

    Then, there among the stay’s testimonials, sits someone I recognise. Germaine Greer. “Thank you. GG,” she signs off. GG mightn’t seem a likely arbiter of fine taste but the thing is, she’s interesting. And higher-echelon places to stay in Darwin are, well, less than so.

    There’s a saying though, that with gain comes pain. My pain comes in the form of a booking system – a challenge I anticipated due to word on the street. Moonshadow is well-known around these parts as being incredibly tough to book into. True to form, owners Moya and Peter are polite and pleasant, but it takes eight calls, seven emails and two online booking requests to secure a stay. I can’t help but wonder how much they want my business. Or anyone’s for that matter.

    Still, with a location two kilometres from the CBD – just a palm tree’s sway from the Botanic Gardens – Moonshadow promises rainforest-y, tucked-away paradise. I’m seduced. Upon our arrival at the ‘Frangipani Villa’, there’s no one in sight. But that’s a deliberate move.

    Moonshadow’s philosophy is to provide an atmosphere where guests feel like they’ve just returned home – to their own home. So it’s just us, an unlocked door and, of course, a villa. Antique Chinese entrance doors give way to a short run of stairs. At their base rests an in-ground spa, fringed with red-glazed pots and tall wisps of bamboo. 

    Inside, the space is chilled cool like a lassi. A pleasant escape from the heat. Yellow-painted walls enclose a living room of heavy wooden furniture and large-scale art: mostly bold Balinese women pressed together, their lips ruby red and hair draped with flowers. I note Peter’s signature on each piece. One of his “many bad talents”, he later tells me as I leave. 

    The villa’s kitchen is modern. Aggressively so. A tire-print stainless steel bench top caps an island recess. It bears a fresh bunch of helliconia, a signature stem of the Top End.

    I bound up jarrah wood stairs to find two bedrooms. With their navy gingham bed throws and ornate carved Asian bed heads, the styling swings between ‘Bali’ and ‘country homestead’. Incongruent? I think so, but a soft king bed amply makes up for this minor quibble in taste.

    I hunt for a welcome pack or info about our new home. None to be found. Perhaps another tactic to render Moonshadow less touristy? While I like the sound of this idea, in practise it’s perturbing. Instead of feeling like someone who’s just won the lottery, I feel a tad like an invader.

    Outside we pad around like detectives, treading pebbled paths to the manager’s home. He’s not there, but his entertainment cabinet is. It’s crammed with documentaries and modern histories of northern Australia. There are art books, too. The kind that’d do GG proud. I bundle 1001 Nudes under my arm and retreat for a lazy afternoon on the couch.

    Later, as the sky breaks and monsoonal rains thud at our roof, we break our schedule of idling and make a beeline for the guest pool.

    A figure appears in the trees. It is co-owner Moya. But just as I think she’ll pass without word, she stops. She stands by a small statue and touches its head. “If you need good luck, rub this Ganesh. It was blessed by a Balinese priest.” As quickly as she arrives, she vanishes. Celebrities like GG may require steely levels of privacy. But we welcome this sign of life. It helps us settle in for our stay.

    Approaching Ganesh, I climb from the pool, splashing polka dot drips onto stone. I realise then, that it’s here in shared spaces – the bookshelves, the palms and the pool – that Moonshadow’s sweet spot resides. GG’s endorsement holds sway. But like the woman herself, it’s a clunky mix of ‘thorny’ and ‘brilliant’: a refreshing patch of rainforest that’s short on bedside manner.

    The details

    The verdict: Despite the slow-as-a-mule booking system, these are mellow, private, lush villas, set amid peaceful grounds.

    The score: 13/20; good

    We rated: The outdoor rain shower – an artwork in itself.

    We hated: The breakfast offerings. Supermarket bread and Kellogg’s cereal mini packs don’t scream ‘five-star’.

    Where: 6 Gardens Hill Crescent, The Gardens, Darwin, NT

    Notes: From $449 per night, minimum three-night stay; ring to discuss available discounts: 0408 372 273; moonshadowvillas.com

    Australian Traveller Feb/Mar Issue

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    — Darwin —

    40: Enjoy a stunning sunset over dinner at Darwin Ski Club (NT)

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • DECEMBER 10, 2013

    While at first the name might throw you – snow skiing? In tropical Darwin? – it’s actually water-skiing that gives this local institution its name. Perched in prime position on the still, wide waters of Fannie Bay, the Darwin Ski Club is fantastic for family meals, with a huge grassy expanse for children to run around on while parents catch up over a XXXX beer or two.

    The simple, merry scene is framed by palm trees strung with colourful light bulbs, which start to glow softly as the sun sinks into the sea, casting a coral coloured light over the onlookers. It’s all so supremely laidback you could fall asleep, were it not for the bewitchingly beautiful scene being played out by mother nature in front of you.

    There are ‘small person meals’ on offer and a selection of simple bistro meals with a local flavour, plus live music on Fridays and Saturdays. But there’s no question that the real star here is the sunset (photography buffs, don’t forget your camera). It’s a lovely way to end a languid Darwin day.

    The details

    Darwin Ski Club, 20 Conacher Street, Conacher St, Fannie Bay, NT. 08 8981 6630.

     

    39 << Inspire the next generation of eco warriors          Australia’s beautiful harbour bottom >> 41

    Back to 101 Unforgettable Coastal Experiences

    Australian Traveller issue 54

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    — Darwin —

    Your Shot Runner Up: Darwin during ‘the season of many colours’

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 26, 2013

    This image was taken during my last visit to Darwin, which is more than a hot and humid place to be during the wet season.

    It is a place that transforms into a little paradise; it is actually the season of many colours.

    The amazing lightning storms, the spectacular sunsets, the monsoonal downpours, and the beautiful scenery. I took this photo early in the morning after a magnificent
    lightning storm had just passed, leaving some beautiful cloud formations behind.

    At first the photo was taken for the beautiful reflection of the clouds in the rock pools, right next to the ocean.

    But this photo actually tells a bigger story. There are many faces reflecting within the pool. The longer you look, the more you discover.

    By: Dieter Berghmans, Melbourne

    Australian Traveller April/May Issue

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    — Darwin —

    100 Incredible Travel Secrets #68 Darwin in The Wet, NT

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • APRIL 3, 2013

    A tropical spectacle that tourists usually miss

    Darwin in the wet, NT

    Darwin during the wet season might be when most travellers stay away, but it offers a tropical adventure worth seeing – spectacular lightning shows, magnificent sunsets and as Scott says, scoring it 10, “this is nature at its most powerful and dramatic.”

    Australian Traveller April/May Issue

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    — Darwin —

    Out and About in Darwin

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MARCH 27, 2013

    Closer to Bali than it is to Brisbane, Australia’s smallest capital blends 56 nationalities, a perky pulse and a laid-back tropical air. Top End, indeed. Words by Jennifer Pinkerton

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    Issue-49

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    — Darwin —

    SKYCITY Casino Resort – Review

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • FEBRUARY 18, 2013

    Darwin’s beach side monolith, the SKYCITY Casino, has opened a new tropical resort. But, asks Jennifer Pinkerton, can tranquillity exist alongside roulette

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    Issue-49

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    — Darwin —

    Crocosaurus Cove Darwin

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MAY 3, 2012

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    — Darwin —

    Medina Grand Darwin Waterfront Review

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • JUNE 20, 2011

    This ambitious development has something to offer both local residents and visiting fans of the Medina brands, writes Quentin Long. Continue reading

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    — Darwin —

    The Art of Arnhem Land: Inside a Private Outback Art Tour

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MAY 14, 2010

    Australian Aboriginal Art is famous throughout the world. But to truly appreciate it, you need to travel to its source and immerse yourself. It’s a journey that’s far from easy, but the rewards are great and long lasting. Words and images by Quentin Long  Continue reading

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    — Darwin —

    Dine on diversity at Mindil Beach Markets

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MARCH 8, 2010

    Experience No.033 in Australian Traveller’s 100 Greatest Australian Gourmet Experiences Continue reading

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    Villa La Vue Holiday House

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • SEPTEMBER 9, 2009

    Australian Traveller Magazine’s 100 Great Australian Holiday Homes Continue reading

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    — Darwin —

    Pearl Holiday House

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • SEPTEMBER 9, 2009

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    Mandalay Luxury Stay

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • SEPTEMBER 9, 2009

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    — Darwin —

    Coast Holiday House

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • SEPTEMBER 9, 2009

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