With an easy, tropical laid-back feel, the outback city of Darwin is not only the gateway to the Northern Territory’s incredible Top End, but a destination in its own right.


By Megan Arkinstall

Darwin, a youthful and vibrant city, is home to a rich Indigenous culture and more than 50 nationalities.

Within the compact city center you can shop and enjoy cool eateries, bars and parkland, while its lively waterfront precinct serves up a wave pool and recreation lagoon to cool off in the tropical warmth, plus there’s a host of excellent dining options available.

Spend a day at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, to learn about the city’s complex history and see dinosaur fossils from an active dig near Alcoota Station.

Best places to eat in Darwin

Sample the seafood at Oyster Bar

Stop by the dimly lit PM Eat + Drink on Knuckey Street for a pre-dinner cocktail or some tapas from the Mediterranean-inspired seasonal menu.

Tucked away in the city center, edgy restaurant Little Miss Korea is a fun experience with the option to DIY Korean barbecue, meanwhile CHOW serves big bowls of steaming pho, creamy laksa and quirky bubble tea cocktails and ka-pows, inspired by Asian drinks served in plastic bags.

If you are an oyster fan get your fill at Oyster Bar on the waterfront; the menu has more than a dozen ways to enjoy the bivalve. And for great views, head to Pee Wee’s at the Point.

Where to stay in Darwin

Budget accommodation

The Vibe Hotel is located directly opposite the wave pool in Darwin’s buzzy waterfront area.

Hotels

Oaks Elan is smack in the center of town and offers the choice of standard hotel rooms, as well as one- and two-bedroom apartments that feature kitchenettes.

Luxury accommodation

A casino and hotel, SKYCity Darwin has seven restaurants, five bars, an infinity pool and beach access.

Darwin outdoor cinema

Watch a film under the stars.

Things to do in Darwin

If you’re heading into or out of Darwin by car, pop by Laneway specialty coffee in Parap, just a 10-minute drive from the city. This café serves an excellent brew and delicious all-day, brunch-style menu.

If you find yourself in the area on a Saturday, check out Parap village markets where you can browse locally made arts and crafts and sample an array of local produce – fruits, vegetables, coffee – and Asian dishes such as laksa and satay prawns.

Held every Thursday and Sunday evening between May and October, the food stalls at Mindil Markets showcase the flavors of the Top End, from Southeast Asian fare to crocodile meat, which you can enjoy while watching Mindil’s famous sunset.

Easy side trips from Darwin

Kakadu is perhaps the most famous of side trips from Darwin so we created your guide to how to ‘do’ Kakadu.

Whilst Kakadu steals all the limelight, there are some other great options.

Mary River

A two-hour drive will deliver you to Mary River National Park.

What to do

Take an air-boat tour, skimming above the water to spot the abundant birdlife in lush wetlands, then see Mary River’s most famous residents, the mighty saltwater crocodile, at close (yet very safe) quarters on a jumping crocodile tour on the Adelaide River.

For something a little more relaxed, head to Shady Camp during the ‘run-off’ between March and May to try and catch the Top End’s most famous fish, barramundi.

Where to stay

Wildman Wilderness Lodge has 10 cabins and 15 luxe safari tents anchored by a central lodge with a restaurant serving up a bush-to-table menu.

Where to eat

Gecko Restaurant at Mary River Wilderness Retreat utilizes local and Australian ingredients to create French bistro-style dishes.

Litchfield National Park

One of the stunning waterfalls of Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park

Located just a 90-minute drive south of Darwin, Litchfield is an easy and popular one-day side trip from the city.

What to do

Litchfield National Park is home to several stunning waterfalls that cascade into crystal clear pools.

Most tours stop at either Florence or Wangi Falls and others also allow time to soak in the shady three-tiered fall at Buley Rockhole.

To experience the drama of the lost city, a cluster of ancient weathered sandstone pillars, take a 15-minute scenic helicopter flight with NT Air. And seasoned walkers can tackle the 24-mile tabletop track, which passes waterfalls and creeks, or you can take on one of the shorter sections.

Where to stay

Most visitors do Litchfield in a day and then head back to Darwin. But if you are game there are loads of campsites throughout the park.

Where to eat

There are not many dining options in Litchfield so many of the 4WD and organized tours include meals.

Katherine

On the three-hour drive to Katherine, home to Nitmiluk National Park, stop at Leliyn (Edith Falls) for a refreshing dip at the pandanus-fringed pool, 12 miles off the highway.

What to do

Comprising 13 separate gorges, Nitmiluk Gorge has some of the most stunning scenery in the Northern Territory; this ancient wonder winds along seven miles of sheer rock that reaches more than 230 feet in height.

You can explore the gorge via its walking tracks (ranging from one to six hours), hire a kayak and take a leisurely paddle, see the changing colors at sunset on a dinner cruise, or fly over it in a helicopter, all with Nitmiluk Tours.

Where to stay

For luxury in the heart of the outback, opt to stay at the Indigenous-owned Cicada Lodge.

Where to eat

Just outside of Katherine, Marksie’s Stockman’s Camp Tucker is a unique bush tucker (food) experience, cooked with native ingredients, and served under the stars from April with campfire stories (Aussies call them ‘yarns’).

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