Exploring

Darwin

Not just the tropical gateway to the outback, Darwin is a youthful, vibrant city, with a rich indigenous culture and a colourful mix of more than 50 nationalities.

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 our pick of the best things to see and do in and around Darwin.

Top things to do in Darwin

Cruises and wildlife encounters

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. The Jumping Crocodile Cruise is a must for wildlife lovers, or (if you’re game enough) immerse yourself in the transparent ‘Cage of Death’ at Crocosauras Cove (diving in a clear cylindrical cage).

Tours

Darwin’s a natural base for exploring Litchfield National Park, home to some of the territory’s best wild swimming spots – floating in a swimming hole beneath waterfalls in the middle of a monsoon forest is an unforgettable experience. Less than 100km south of the city, it’s an easy day trip, or you can camp at one of the parks campgrounds overnight.
Darwin is also our most vibrant Indigenous city and gives you tremendous access to art touring. From a simple day trip to the Tiwi Islands for dancing, tea and damper, storytelling and sensational art to a more extensive Arnhem Land tour, it’s always worth it.

Fishing

Darwin is famous for its fishing, and the prized barramundi – as tasty as it is tricky to catch – is the ultimate prize. Our Beginner’s Guide to Bagging a Barramundi has the low down on where and how to end up with a barra in the net.

Best things to see in Darwin

Darwin might be Australia’s smallest capital city, but there is loads to do. Hot and steamy all year – if you don’t like the rain visit during the dry season between April and November – the swimming lagoon and wave pool at the waterfront precinct is a perfect place to cool off.

Darwin’s markets are some of the best in the country; we rate highly Mindil Beach Thursday evening markets and Saturday’s Parap markets. Darwin might have a reputation as a tropical frontier, but you’ll be surprised by just how sophisticated this city can be if you know here to look. To save you searching, we’ve found the hip in this hood for you.

Darwin is significant in our nation’s history and it’s full of great museums and historical sights – dive into World War II history and relive, through the wonders of modern technology, the bombing of Darwin that that rocked Australia in 1942 and explore forgotten tunnels and experience the fury of Cyclone Tracy at the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT.

Darwin Accommodation

Accommodation in Darwin is fairly centralised around the CBD, which is probably right considering this is where most of the action happens.

 

The Esplanade and Waterfront are the pick of city areas with beautiful views of the harbour and close to the action of Mitchell St or the wharf precinct dining. The Waterfront has the added benefit of the waterpark and fenced off (read croc free) ocean swimming zone.

 

More central hotels are excellent for business meetings followed by some leisure. A quick important tip for business travellers. Unless you have a car stay s close as possible to your meetings to minimise walking. This means more central hotels like the Hilton Brisbane and Mantra Pandanus come into  play.

 

For our picks you can check out our list of where to stay in Darwin.

 

Maybe chill out in style in one of the city’s luxury holiday homes surrounded by Asian antiques and tropical gardens full of fuchsia frangipani and a shady pool to escape the heat.

Where to eat in Darwin

Great places to eat out in Darwin are easy to find in this city where Asian markets, hipster cafes and jovial Greek tavernas meet high-end restaurants, perfect for sampling wild ingredients such as banana prawns, crocodile and kangaroo.

Special spots include Hanuman – try the ‘Meen Moolie’, a creamy curry starring local barramundi – Lola’s, a cabaret and carnival-themed restaurant and bar in the harbour-side precinct of Cullen Bay with a cracker of an outdoor area and more atmosphere than you’ll find at a footy grand final, and The Pearl, where Champagne high teas are held on Saturdays and Sundays with bottomless Champagne. Feel like some fresh barra’? Head down to Darwin Fish Market at Fisherman’s Wharf where you can buy straight off the boat.

Darwin Nightlife

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.

Beer lovers welcome a pit stop at the freshly corked Precinct Tavern in the waterfront complex. Among the many fine eateries of the waterfront, the Precinct  serves 44 beers (including ciders) on tap, evidenced by the maze of kegs visible through the main bar’s transparent wall. If you’re feeling indecisive, select the $12 tasty tray.

Alternatively, the beer garden at Parap’s Railway Club is an intimate space adored by local hipsters and artsy folk. It feels like a 1960s lodge. The garden’s adjoining room stages indie bands from all over Australia, and its interior is strewn with fairy lights, low couches and wine barrel high tables.

And just because life is an adventure, 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.