Darwin is truly magical all year round, but between November and April Mother Nature cranks it up a notch or two and the town gets into the spirit of the tropics.
Tropical summer sunsets are spectacular. Breathtaking electrical storms light up the sky daily, and early rains transform the city into a lush and verdant splendour. The smell of frangipanis fills the air and the pace of life is slow and comfortable.
Ok, so there’s no denying it gets hot, humid and steamy, especially around October -- the time we call the build up. Just ask the locals, the refreshing rains cool everything down instantly. But it doesn’t rain all the time, so there’s plenty of time to get out and about. Top tip: locals always check the Bureau of Meteorology app to plan their day.
Whether you’re a nature lover, an avid foodie, a fisho, an art aficionado or a history bon vivant there’s so much on offer during November to April. And to top it off, being the low season it’s the time to grab some great deals on flights, accommodation and tours.
Here’s my top 10 things to do during the Top End's tropical summer.
1. Witness the magnificent waterfalls at their best
Nothing compares to a chopper ride or scenic flight over Kakadu National Park to see Jim Jim and Twin Falls at their majestic best. Only a 1.5 hour drive from Darwin are Litchfield National Park's raging waterfalls which should be on every itinerary. There's so much water, and these sights make for enviable Facebook and Instagram snaps! Make sure you check the NT Parks websites for any closures.
2. Catch the best sunsets and lightning shows in Australia
Any local will tell you that the sunsets between this time are dazzling and rival the best fireworks displays, our magnificent lightning shows are world class, and free! Grab a harbour-side seat at the Darwin Ski Club, The Trailer Boat Club, Stokes Hill Wharf, or jump aboard Sea Darwin for a sunset harbour cruise.
3. Wine and dine in local haunts
You’ll find Darwinians lunching at Sweet Brew, a hip little joint located in a converted mechanics warehouse, having coffee at the groovy Lucky Bat Café or chatting over an organic buckwheat hotcake at Laneway Café. Try dinner at PM, for a stylish and intimate affair or Little Miss Korea with an industrial hipster vibe. Then make a beeline to the Stone House, an atmospheric wine bar in the gorgeous historic stone Sue Wah Chin Building.
4. Delve into Darwin’s WWII history
For a state of the art virtual reality experience of the bombing of Darwin, the Royal Flying Doctor Tourist Precinct at Stokes Hill Wharf is a must. The Defence of Darwin at Fannie Bay is another captivating interactive exhibition space telling the WWII history in the Top End. Make sure you download the app before you go.
5. Hook a Top End barramundi
Just ask the local fishing enthusiasts -- nothing compares to hooking a metre-plus barramundi in the Top End. And anglers are abuzz with the Million Dollar Fish competition. There’s 100 barramundi tagged with a $10,000 prize tag and five worth $1 million to be caught by one lucky fisho in Territory waters. One the big million dollar barra is caught, the other four will revert back to $10,000 fish. It’s a chance to hook your fortune.
6. Head to the local markets
The vibrant Parap Markets are held every Saturday -- rain, hail or shine. And Rapid Creek Markets on Sunday mornings is where you’ll jostle with Darwin’s vibrant multicultural community. If you haven't tried a Green Papaya Salad, Sri Lankan String Hoppers, or tasted exotic fruits like Sapodilla, this is the place. On a Sunday the Nightcliff Markets has a friendly atmosphere, a great selection of food with market stalls and live music.
7. Take in some art and natural history
Perfect on a hot or rainy day is the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory with it’s natural history, Cyclone Tracey exhibitions and world renowned Aboriginal art.
8. Ethical retail therapy
Rain or shine you can pick up that piece of Aboriginal art you've always dreamed of at Outstation Gallery. Be sure to stop in at Starwin Shopfront and Aboriginal Bush Traders on the Esplanade to browse their fab collection of clothes, home wares, jewellery and more. They're all open for majority of the year.
9. Cuddle, feed and swim with a croc!
What’s a trip to the Top End without seeing a croc? Opportunities abound for safe croc experiences all year round. Located on Mitchell Street in the heart of Darwin, Crocosaurus Cove is famous for its “Cage of Death” swimming experience. You can also get your photo taken with Fluffy the baby croc, feed the juvenile crocs, and see some hands-on reptile talks.
10. Swim, splash and slide
Needing to cool down? There’s plenty of options -- head to the Wave Lagoon or for some water slide action try Leanyer Waterpark. For something local, try Nightcliff Pool which has that old Darwin charm and sublime sea vistas and visit the Foreshore Café right next door.
And that’s just for starters. No doubt about it, November to April is a great time to be in Darwin, enjoying the tropical summer and all that's on offer.