Australia’s top end is for many, the highlight of their first trip to Australia. Unlike the popular East coast of the country, Northern Australia is rugged, remote, exotic and intriguing, full of natural beauty that resonates the true heart of the country. The capital of the Northern Territory is Darwin, sitting right at the top end of the country and facing out into the Timor Sea. It has hot, humid and wet tropical summers, with warm, dry winters, and it is surrounded by the natural beauty of the sea and the rugged landscapes of the Northern Territory. It was once regarded as a bit of a rough, frontier town, and although it is still remote, Darwin has grown and developed into a pleasant city. You will find amazing attractions, good dining and nightlife and plenty of accommodation in Darwin to choose from.
If you’re thinking of making a trip to Darwin, follow this guide for the best things to do and places to eat in and around the city.
Things to do
Darwin has an excellent range of things to do in and around the city for all ages.
Darwin’s beautiful waterfront has been developed over the years into a fantastic cultural and nightlife precinct, where the city’s outdoor tropical lifestyle can be enjoyed at its best. The precinct is full of excellent cafes, restaurants, bars and shops to browse. There is a manmade saltwater beach and lagoon here where you can swim safely, and nearby there is a fun filled wave pool where you can ride the waves on those hot tropical days.
Crocodiles are an integral, iconic part of Northern Australia and the waterways (and beaches) around Darwin are well and truly croc infested. The safe way to get up close and personal with a crocodile is a visit to Crocosaurus Cove. This crocodile learning and experience centre allows you to view and learn all about the mighty saltwater crocodiles that inhabit this part of the world. For many, the highlight is the terrifying and thrilling Cage of Death experience, where you get lowered into a pool inhabited by crocodiles, with only a cage separating you from their powerful jaws.
Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
The sunsets in Darwin are a sight to behold and shouldn’t be missed while you are in the city. One of the best spots to view the sunset is from the picturesque Mindil Beach. You can’t swim here due to the possibility of crocodiles, but you can safely wander down and sit on the sand to watch the sun sink down over the water. During the dry season there is also a thriving night food market here, with yummy and exotic street food from an abundance of stalls.
Darwin has an interesting history and you can explore it through the city’s museums. The Darwin Museum and Art Gallery is a good place to start, with a combined look at historical artefacts and some interesting art pieces. The Defence of Darwin Experience in the Waterfront Precinct is a good way to learn about Darwin’s World War II history, along with the Military Museum and the Aviation Museum.
Adelaide River Queen Cruises
The waterways that make up the Adelaide River system near Darwin are teeming with saltwater crocodiles and you can enjoy a cruise in these waterways with Adelaide River Queen Cruises. The highlight of the cruise is the jumping crocodiles, where chunks of meat are hung out from the boat on long poles and enormous crocodiles launch themselves out of the water to take the meat. It is an exhilarating experience, allowing you to view crocodiles in the wild while enjoying a picturesque river cruise.
Litchfield National Park
For most people, the reason they come to Darwin is to visit the nearby National Parks to get a real taste of the natural beauty of Australia’s top end. Places like Kakadu have become truly famous for their beautiful landscapes and abundant wildlife. Kakadu is a fair way from Darwin and is best visited on a tour over several days. A closer and more convenient alternative is Litchfield National Park, located only an hour and half drive from Darwin. This beautiful park is saturated in natural beauty, with stunning rugged landscapes, rainforest, waterfalls and cool, refreshing swimming holes.
Where to eat
Darwin has an excellent range of cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars to choose from. Here are a few to try out.
Char is constantly regarded as one of Darwin’s best restaurants. Located on the esplanade, Char Restaurant is focused on steak and seafood, which seemingly works perfectly in Darwin. Amazing food, accompanied by a good wine list and a picturesque location, makes Char a popular choice in for locals and tourists.
Darwin is very much a cosmopolitan city and it is resonated in its mix of cuisines available through its restaurants. Hanuman, located on Mitchell street, serves up delightful Thai and Indian inspired dishes, and so well regarded that it is almost essential to book a table.
Pee Wee’s at the Point
Pee Wee’s boasts possibly the best dining view in Darwin, with waterfront seating situated within a nature reserve. It’s a fine dining establishment but worth the money for the amazing views and delightful dishes.
Laneway Specialty Coffee
One of the best and most popular coffee shops in Darwin is Laneway Specialty Coffee. This place gets packed full of people looking for their daily coffee fix, but it’s not just about the coffee here, with excellent breakfast and brunch style dishes on offer, making it a great spot to start off your day.
The Deck Bar
A popular spot for a drink and a meal in Darwin is the Deck Bar. This corner pub is in a great location, with a huge deck looking out towards parliament and the esplanade. Enjoy a cold beer and a burger or schnitzel in a relaxed atmosphere.
Darwin is an interesting and pleasant city to visit with lots of great things to do, and a relaxed, laid back culture that is sure to capture your heart.