Australia’s Top End: Things to do in Darwin

Darwin, Australia

I loved Darwin, although you have got to have low expectations for the architecture of a place that’s had the sh*t kicked out of it twice in the past century. During the Second World War the Japanese bombed Darwin to bits. Then in 1974 Cyclone Tracy demolished all but 15 per cent of Darwin’s buildings.

In recent years the Northern Territory capital has seen exciting shiny new building development, especially along the waterfront. It is a city of peaceful suburbs shaded by tropical palms and gardens. It also has a bustling backpacker bar scene on Mitchell Street.

There are pleasant malls and lush esplanade parks filled with Banyan trees and frangipani iced with creamy flowers. This city of only 150,000 people offers so much for visitors it was difficult to pick my favourite things to do in Darwin, but here they are:

Darwin’s amazing multi-cultural markets

I was blown away by the vibrant and multi-cultural markets in Darwin. For pure gastronomic pleasure they are also pretty hard to beat. The Mindil Beach sunset markets are at the top of my list but I also loved the daytime affair of suburban Parap Market. Delicious Asian food, huge piles of tropical fruit, beautiful crafts and even crocodile artifacts! A great way to spend a lot of time in Darwin!

Mindil beach sunset market, Darwin, Australia

The Deckchair cinema

This is one darling little cinema – sitting in stripey deckchairs on a balmy tropical Darwin evening, stomach full of delicious food from Hanuman (you can buy and eat this at the cinema), sipping a beer and enjoying one of a well-thought-out range of films, both popular and arthouse. The Deckchair Cinema has been an important part of Darwin’s social life since the 1920s and it is fantastic.

Darwin Deckchair Cinema, Australia

The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

This is a great little museum with hugely varied exhibits that represents the natural and cultural history of the region. From exploring the different habitats of Australia’s Top End to experiencing the noise and terror of a tropical cyclone, it’s far from dull. There is a beautiful selection of ancient and contemporary art – from woven pandanus to totems to paintings by Albert Namatjira. Don’t miss the Cyclone Tracy exhibit, or the preserved remains of Sweetheart – a 780kg monster croc caught in 1979. The attached Cornucopia café is excellent.

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Australia

Crocosaurus Cove

There are a number of options for getting to know the Top End’s most famous inhabitants in and around Darwin. Crocodylus Park and the Adelaide River Jumping Crocs cruises are two examples. But if you’re in central Darwin without a vehicle, Crocosaurus Cove offers an opportunity to get up close and personal to some of the world’s biggest crocodiles, right in the heart of the CBD. It’s a great way to gain a healthy respect for crocodiles before heading out into the national parks of Kakadu and Litchfield.

Crocodiles, Darwin, Australia

The Darwin Botanical Gardens

The Darwin Botanical Gardens look like a giant extension of the city’s tropical lushness and they are definitely worth a wander.  They claim the most diverse palm collection in the southern hemisphere and the rainforest walk is really quite gorgeous.

Darwin Botanical Gardens, Australia

Darwin’s Esplanade and Waterfront area

Right at the edge of the Darwin CBD the Waterfront precinct is now home to the Darwin Convention Centre, the Wave Pool and Swimming Lagoon, and an ever-growing number of hotels, apartments, restaurants, retail outlet, bars and cafes. I enjoyed sunset over a deliciously fresh plate of Thai food here and will watch plans for further development of this area with interest.

Darwin waterfront, Australia

Fish feeding at Acquascene and Darwin Waterfront

Acquascene offers the opportunity to dabble your toes in the water and hand-feed fish, which come in from the sea at high tide into a concrete pool. Huge, disc-shaped bat fish were taking bread right out of my hand. Filipino Milk Fish thrashed the water after a bread roll. A lazy barracuda cruised the pool, showing off his shiny scales. You can also feed fish from the pier on Darwin Waterfront. It’s not nearly so up close but it is free. Kids obviously love this but the adults did too!

Acquascene, Darwin, Australia

Darwin’s Second World War heritage

WWII relics abound in Darwin and its surrounds. The East Point War Museum and the WWII Oil Storage tunnels are in central Darwin. There are many WWII landing strips to be seen driving out in the Outback. More than anything I think these are testament to the resilience of the people of Darwin to survive attempts to destroy their home.

Darwin WWII bombing, Australia

Things to do in Darwin

Whatever you choose to do in Darwin make sure you enjoy a beautiful tropical sunset every night. After all, the city is only 12 degrees south of the equator and the balmy evenings and fiery sunsets are sure to be a highlight of your visit.

See here for my full itinerary for exploring Australia’s Top End. For help in planning your once-in-a-lifetime Australian travel talk to the team at Adventure Tours Australia.

By Natasha von Geldern

Have you visited Darwin? What did you do there?

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About Natasha von Geldern

Natasha von Geldern is the World Wandering Kiwi, a freelance travel writer, editor and inveterate traveller who is passionate about making the pages of the atlas real one trip at a time.

Comments

  1. I’ve not been to the Northern Territory yet, but it seems a high-spirited kind of place. Love the deck chair cinema idea. Much cooler than a drive-in.
    Sophie recently posted..The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the real NarniaMy Profile

  2. Looks like tons of interesting things to do in Darwin!
    Brock – Backpack With Brock recently posted..Exploring Franconia Notch State Park – New Hampshire, USAMy Profile

  3. I loved the Mindil Beach market in Darwin. When I visited there was a guy there playing didgeridoo (four of them at the same time!) who was absolutely incredible to watch.
    Laurence recently posted..In photos: Barcelona’s Gothic QuarterMy Profile

    • Natasha von Geldern says:

      Yes he’s still there, pretty impressive playing and a great beat. The crowd was loving it :)

    • Natasha von Geldern says:

      Yes he’s still there, pretty impressive playing and a great vibe. The crowd was loving it :)

  4. Awesome! I did some of these things the first time I was in Darwin, but I am looking forward to doing some of the others when I am back next time :D
    Jade Johnston – OurOyster.com recently posted..Australia – Overland Perth To Adelaide With @GreatSthnRailMy Profile

  5. Fab post! I haven’t explored Darwin yet and these are some places I’ve now added to my list.
    Sonya recently posted..Camping Photo: Gypsy WagonMy Profile

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  1. [...] 1: Arrive Darwin; feed the fish at Acquascene; catch dinner and a film at the Deckchair Cinema (7.30pm or [...]

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  5. […] and always keeping a lookout for crocodiles! Combine a Kakadu adventure with a few days in Darwin to catch the sunset markets. And don’t forget to visit an Outback Pub. Take a look at my […]

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