Your go-to guide to Darwin’s best places to eat, sleep and top things to do with kids.
Where to eat in Darwin with kids
Style and substance is the name of the game at this slick eatery that enjoys an enviable position on the wharf corner overlooking the lagoon of the Darwin Waterfront. That said, it’s the food that has people talking, its menu offering such gems as wood-grilled squid with smoked hummus and lemon and wood-fired barramundi with miso and pickled daikon. The little ones don’t miss out either: a kids’ menu featuring the likes of a house-made fettuccine and tempura chicken breast is available.
Address: 19 Kitchener Dr, Darwin City NT 0801
Tucked away in the lush greenery of George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens and housed in a heritage-listed church, sits Eva’s Botanic Gardens Café. A popular destination for breakfast and lunch (there’s no place better for a decadent eggs Benedict), kids can enjoy the plethora of toys set up outside on the lawn, or work their way through the cafe’s kids’ menu. A grilled cheese toastie or smashed avo on toast is served with a popper. A traditional high tea menu is also available for something special.
Address: Gardens Rd, The Gardens NT 0820
To be fair, you could come to ‘the club’ to take advantage of its westerly aspect alone – ideal for witnessing the city’s famous sunsets, but then what would you eat? Happily, the seaside bistro stays open all day long, serving up a steady line of family favourites, from burgers and chicken parmigiana to fish and chips. Just a word of warning: the kids’ menu (chicken nuggets and chips, spaghetti Bolognese) will be finished between runs to the on-site pool and playground.
Address: 8 Atkins Dr, Fannie Bay NT 0820
It’s not unusual to see a steady queue beating down the door of this classic Cavanagh Street bakery to get hold of its much-loved and feathery-light vanilla slice before they all sell out. Should this happen, take heart; Kurt’s Cakes’ collection of tarts, cakes, pies and sausage rolls are just as delectable so you’ll never walk away disappointed. Top tip? Don’t miss the moist carrot cake, and remember, if you’re celebrating a birthday while you’re in town, cakes can be baked to order.
Address: 1/35 Cavenagh St, Darwin City NT 0800
With its colourful bean bags, hammocks and umbrellas, there’s every chance De La Plage, a dog-friendly cafe along the Casuarina Coastal Reserve, is one of Darwin’s finest eateries for kids. Fridays are earmarked ‘fish and chip evenings’, for a start, there are live music performances on Sundays and the first Sunday of every month De La Plage hosts a Street Food event. Although a kids’ menu featuring the usual suspects is offered, most seem happier to order burgers from the adults’ menu.
Address: Surf Life Saving Club Lot 9316 Darribah Road, Brinkin NT 0810
Get in early to queue up for what is arguably Darwin’s best laksa. Mary (Gyuo Yang Lei) has been holding court in Parap Village Markets (Saturdays) for almost 20 years and insists her popularity has to do with her focus on fresh produce and traditional cooking methods. Bring an umbrella for the kids to shelter under (you could be queuing under a blazing sun for 20 minutes) and ask for minimal spice. Sure, it’s a risky move with little ones, but what an introduction.
Address: 3/3 Vickers St, Parap NT 0804
The best way to describe this bustling Parap café is that it’s as Sydney as Darwin gets. Particularly popular on Saturday mornings when the markets are on, Laneway Specialty Coffee is all about nourish bowls filled with greens (highly recommended), serious – and seriously good – coffee, and conversation about fixie bikes. Kids are well looked after too, with a solid breakfast menu for little ones (check out the full brekkie), or if you’re coming in for lunch, an ever-popular beef burger.
Address: 4/1 Vickers St, Parap NT 0820
Darwin is a city obsessed with laksa and it’s no surprise; not only is the city closer to Asia than it is to Sydney, it’s also one of our most multicultural cities. The best place to let the kids get acquainted with a new cuisine? Laksa House, an old-school eatery on the Stuart Highway fitted with old Laminex tables and chairs. Take a seat in its BYO beer garden and order up big from a menu that also features stir-fries and child-friendly snacks.
Address: 54 Stuart Hwy, Stuart Park NT 0820
This chic Cullen Bay eatery is known for many things: its prime views over the marina, seafood platters, bowls (yes bowls) of coffee, and its Fatty Boomba, a generous breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and the rest served in a pan. Parents love all of the above of course, but feel just as strongly about the on-site kids’ playroom and free fish-feeding from the deck. Open for breakfast and lunch with an extensive menu designed to delight every member of the family.
Address: 56 Marina Blvd, Larrakeyah NT 0820
Nothing cools you down quicker than an icy lemon gelato, and for doing just that this popular gelateria is perfectly placed. Located on Mitchell Street in the heart of Darwin’s CBD, pop in between attractions, pull up a seat outdoors and treat yourself (OK, and the kids) to an authentic Italian scoop or two of gelato, sorbet or granita in a wide variety of flavours. Sample tastings available to help you make up your mind.
Address: 12/69 Mitchell St, Darwin City NT 0800
Where to stay in Darwin with kids
This property offers a best-of-both-worlds approach to accommodation, with five-star resort rooms (the lagoon room accommodates a family of four) and four-star connecting hotel rooms. No matter which one you choose, you can make the most of all of the facilities including the spa pool, lap pool and lagoon pool, free parking, guest laundry and various restaurants. And the iconic Mindil Beach sunsets come as a free added extra!
Sitting in the heart of the CBD and entertainment precinct, with easy access to Mindil Beach, Darwin waterfront and great cafes and shopping, H on Mitchell offers guests the choice of one- and two-bedroom apartments that come with all the requisites for families, from kitchens and laundry facilities to spacious living areas and free wi-fi. There is also a pool, a must to beat Darwin’s tropical heat.
It’s all about being on the waterfront in Darwin, with its restaurants, wave pool and man-made lagoon. Families checking into the Adina should book a two-bedroom apartment for access to a full kitchen, in-room laundry facilities and plenty of space. Then, make the most of the facilities including the swimming pool, fitness centre and the in-house restaurant and bar.
Located next to the wetlands of Rapid Creek, the lush tropical outlook here provides a real resort experience. The resort family rooms sleep four comfortably, and provide access to facilities such as the lagoon-style swimming pool, while the resort itself serves as a gateway to Kakadu National Park.
Consider taking the extended family to this city-centre property where the room categories include family apartments, super-size family rooms and two-bedroom suites, all with fully equipped kitchens, spacious living areas and balconies. The saltwater pool here is the longest in the city.
Located 20 minutes from the city, but with a handy shuttle service, the 200 guest rooms here include two- and three-bedroom serviced apartments fitted out with a kitchen, washing machine and dryer and a large private balcony. On-site facilities include a restaurant, bar, gym and pool.
With generous two-bedroom apartments in the heart of the CBD, Oaks is a good choice to be close to shopping, eating and entertainment. The apartments feature full kitchens, laundry facilities, free wi-fi, with the added bonus of a large balcony. There’s a rooftop lap pool and casual dining, too.
What to do in Darwin with kids
Festivals & Events
From 7 August – 6 February
Head along to Australia’s longest running and most prestigious Indigenous art awards – the 38th Telstra NATSIAA exhibition kicks o in August – for an education into the very best of Australian Indigenous contemporary art by artists from across Australia. See amazing artworks that span 3D, multimedia, paintings, works on paper and bark painting in all sorts of styles.
Darwin Festival invites audiences of all ages and demographics to binge on an array of artistic offerings across Darwin in the dry season. This year’s kid-friendly shows include We All Know What’s Happening, set on a tropical island full of palm trees with a cast of child activists that is part school musical, part history lesson and part political probe for young and old. Compelling and entertaining, if a little unsettling, it will have the whole family talking.
You might be lucky enough to be in town when Darwin’s new crop of vibrant street art is freshly minted on the city streets as part of the Darwin Street Art Festival. This year’s festival will engage the talents of local artists on the theme of ‘journey’.
Mangoes are a big deal in the Northern Territory – where 52 per cent of the national crop is produced – so it follows that you should celebrate them in all their juicy goodness in Darwin. This festival is a combination of food and drinks stalls, entertainment by way of roving performances and stage shows, a mango-eating competition, fun and educational activities, cooking workshops and waterfront venues providing mango-themed menus.
Dates for the diary
- 11–13 June Barunga Festival Barunga
- 2–11 July Darwin Fringe, various venues
- 2 September Bell Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Darwin Entertainment Centre
- 5 September Darwin Lions Beer Can Regatta, Mindil Beach
Day trips from Darwin
It takes just under two hours to hit the edge of Kakadu National Park from Darwin, but the effort is well worth it even for a day. There is so much to see and it is so vast, that you are going to want to book a one-day tour to get maximum bang for your 12 hours – try operators such as AAT Kings and Venture North. Itineraries often include star attractions such as Ubirr, Nourlangie Rock, East Alligator River, Yellow Water Billabong and Mamukala Wetlands.
You can’t come all the way to Darwin and not take the hour-long drive south to Litchfield National Park, where a wonderland of waterfalls, swimming holes, trails and giant termite mounds awaits. Camping and caravan sites are located within the park if you feel like super-sizing your day trip, or check into eco cabin Hideaway Litchfield.
Visiting the Mary River wetlands for a day provides rich rewards. The lush landscape here, roughly one hour from Darwin, is teeming with creatures, from birds to wildlife to fish, and a crocodile or two. Head to Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve in the dry season to see jabirus, brolgas and ibis in real life. And don’t head home before skimming across the wetlands on an airboat with Wildlands Wetlands Safari Cruises.
Like most things in the Top End, the Adelaide River and its surrounds are alive with fascinating wildlife. Sign up for a one-day wildlife tour with the family owned and operated Adelaide River Tours to cruise the river and spot crocodiles, wild buffalo and jabirus along the way. Morning tea is served onboard and lunch is enjoyed at a private riverside camp, with a stop at Goat Island on the way back.
Located 30 kilometres north-east of the town of Katherine and just a tick over three hours from Darwin, Nitmiluk National Park boasts a total of 13 gorges across its vast expanse, although the crowd-pleaser is definitely Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge. You are going to want to max out your time so consider an organised tour departing Darwin to ensure you tick off the must-dos like seeing Edith Falls, learning about the Jawoyn people, and cruising the waters of Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge itself.
Jump on a ferry from Cullen Bay (sealinknt.com.au) bound for Crab Claw Island Resort, where you can lunch on fresh seafood before splashing around in the resort’s pools or exploring the wildlife sanctuary that surrounds it. Then get back on the ferry for the trip home.