It used to be that a Darwin bar was considered on the upmarket side if thongs were frowned upon. But then these out-of-this-world drinking holes came onto the scene.
When you picture bars in Darwin as a first-time visitor, you could find yourself unable to imagine anything beyond good aircon, glaring sun and a welcoming cold pint. This might have used to be the case, but today you’ll find everything from romantic speakeasies to tropical high-end bars. And yes – those all too troppo pubs where you can still find a mean crocodile schnitzel and a cold one are still here as well.
An upmarket, European-style wine bar that dishes out cocktails and nibbles, as well as an ever-changing wine menu by the glass.
Find a slice of Europe tucked away in Darwin at Stonehouse.
Sit in the garden with a bottle of Italian cabernet sauvignon and gooey raclette cheese to share, or perch at the bar with a glass and a plate of pâté for a romantic tête-à-tête.
Choose from the ever-changing wine menu by the glass.
Charlie’s of Darwin
A gorgeously glowing, wooden-hued bar with rows of gleaming spirits behind it and fashionably worn brown leather couches might make you think for a moment that you were in a Melbourne speakeasy. But then, take a sip of Charlie’s locally distilled gin, with accents of Kakadu plums, Palmerston rosellas water lilies and native lemongrass, and step out to the outdoor area, lined in southeast-Asia style lanterns. It’ll fast become clear you’ve landed in a far more tropical locale at this bar.
Smith Street Social
A friendly restaurant and rooftop bar based in a refurbished, vintage-style Commonwealth Bank building. Pub meal deals are available some nights of the week and you can even book a trivia sesh for you and your new travel mates … so choose your quiz expertise ASAP.
A friendly and family-owned distillery that prides itself on utilising the flavours of the Top End in its spirits. Willing Distillery is relatively new on the scene and, like many distilleries and breweries, is housed in a light industrial complex on the outskirts of the CBD. Try a Darwin Dry Gin martini at the cellar door, or a ‘bush’ negroni, if more your tipple of choice.
Ella – by Minoli
A luxurious take on modern Sri Lankan cuisine. Ella – by Minoli promises a well-balanced mix of flavours, which pays homage to Sri Lankan food’s Ayurvedic properties, as well as creative and original cocktails.
Pair flavours of tamarind, coconut and spice with a cocktail like none you’ve ever tried before – perhaps a ’Curry Season’ with Colombo gin, curry leaf and watermelon, or an ‘Island Medicine’ with gin, pineapple and jalapeno syrup, lemongrass and fresh ginger.
It’s an intoxicating combination, and one of the reasons this romantic restaurant made our list of the best places to eat in Darwin.
The Loading Bay
One of the hottest joints in Darwin is the Little Miss Korea restaurant, meaning it’s high time to get excited for their offshoot around the back, The Loading Bay.
While the restaurant serves up traditional Kimchi and Korean BBQ (think Bulgogi beef or Jaeyuk Gui Spiced Pork Belly), funky TLB has over 20 gins and cocktails on its menu, including smoked rosemary sours and a ‘Bonsoir’ with Korean raspberry wine. Head here for a fun night of experimental cocktails in an intimate space (and the restaurant too, if you want the full experience).
Head around the back of Little Miss Korea to find The Loading Bay.
Because you can never go past a boisterous and warm Irish pub, no matter how far you are from the Emerald Isle. The buzzing Shenanigans in downtown Darwin is easy-going and good value, with specials like curries, Sunday roasts and steak nights, meal choice depending on what day you rock up for a cold beer on their terrace, or to watch a game in the cool of the bar.
Come to the stylish Trader Bar to watch jaw-droppingly skilled bartenders at work as they whip up a tart ‘Salty Plum’ for you at the ambient bar (since you asked: Davidson plum gin, with lemon juice and salty palm dust), before making your way out onto the lawn for the DJ set.
Make your way through the cocktail menu at The Trader Bar.
There is such a thing as too much of a good time. If you overindulge, you can also stop by Traders for a recovery coffee and fresh croissant in the morning … and perhaps a spiced Bloody Mary, if you’re feeling perkier. Want to shake it up come morning? We have more suggestions for the best Darwin cafes and breakfasts right here.
The stylish interior at Trader Bar.
Plonk yourself down at one of the waterside tables of the Oyster Bar for a shellfish feast on the Darwin Waterfront Precinct. We’re talking Coffin Bay oysters served up every which way (natural, Kilpatrick, Thai, with caviar …), house pickled octopus, coconut crumbed prawns, pork belly bites and popcorn crocodile with salad and bush tomato relish.
Time your visit with the daily happy hour, and pair it with some rose sangria with rhubarb and ginger gin, or one of their Bloody Marys (oyster addition, optional).
If you’re after a sports bar with decent pub meals, make for the Hotel Darwin, which has been serving cold ones since 1940. A classic Australian drinking hole with pub meal specials like ribs, steak and barramundi, make some new friends at their regular amateur pool competitions or mingle with travellers and locals alike in the beer garden.
The seafood on the menu at Hotel Darwin won’t disappoint. (Image: Tourism NT)
Slip into one of Darwin’s arcades for the oh-so-kitsch, retro-themed small bar: Babylon Bar. We’re talking disco balls, walls lined with vintage Esquire posters, a dimly lit red interior and a big pair of watching blue eyes, straight out of The Great Gatsby. Settle into the quirky joint with a strong ginger beer, and see who else has come out on the town.
Step inside Babylon Bar for its fun retro vibes. (Image: Tourism NT/ Backyard Bandits)
Hanky Panky Lounge
A sleek and hidden away cocktail lounge, which can be found behind a mural of tropical parrots in the Darwin CBD. Approach the polished wooden bar of this speakeasy-style watering hole and order a dram of whiskey, or perhaps an item off their extensive martini list: a speciality at Hanky Panky.
The Tap on Mitchell
A big open-air pub, known for its friendly clientele, busy service and croc schnitty, The Tap on Mitchell is a city pub not far from the main tourist drag, where you can sit back in the shade of an enormous beauty leaf tree for a feed. Chances are? You’ll be chatting away with Darwin locals and visitors alike within minutes of your arrival.
Smoke and Oak
Sip a cocktail as smooth as the music that plays in this charismatic Darwin jazz bar, under the quizzical eyes of our comedy lord and saviour, Bill Murray, whose portrait curiously graces the bar here at the Smoke and Oak. Their specialty is the ‘Blazer’. It’s a cocktail that’s so hot right now, it is literally on fire. Staying off the booze? Non-alcoholic cocktails like their ‘No Tai’ are pretty special too.
When the strange man on the three-wheeled rickshaw approaches you and your friends and asks if you’d like a drink – don’t panic. This (we hope) is the famous Dom’s Bar rickshaw, which takes you to the quirky, relaxed hidden-away local bar in Nightcliff.
Dom’s is popular, with frequent live music events in a smallish space, so expect a buzzing atmosphere as you fight your way to the bar to order one of their signature ‘Territori-tinis’ or award-winning ‘Tiger Stripe’.
Get your fill of dumplings at Dom’s Bar.
Calling all backpackers – The Cavenagh is the top hostel bar option for those who want to party up the Darwin way. Think frozen mango daiquiris, dinner steak specials, taco Tuesdays and live music at an air-conditioned bar come Dry Season. A ten-minute walk from the Darwin Waterfront, it is central, pumping with strong party vibes and has cocktail specials: a major win in the heat of the Northern Territory.
The Darwin Ski Club
A Top End institution for over half a century, the Darwin Ski Club isn’t just the home of the Northern Territory Water Ski Association. It’s also a relaxing place to sit right on the beach’s edge to watch the sunset, perched in prime position on the still, vast waters of Fannie Bay.
Grab a cold one as you watch the sun go down.
As well as The Bali Bar, where you can indulge in a tropical cocktail while looking out over the sunset, there is the Epikur restaurant with local bistro meals and a cafe for your breakfast needs. For more info, read our full review of the Darwin Ski Club.
Soak up the good vibes at the Darwin Ski Club.