Six things to do when you cruise into Darwin
Make the most of your time in the Top End’s tropical harbour city. Here are six things to do when you dock in Darwin.
First, stock up on essentials
1. You’ll find supermarkets, pharmacies, newsagents, bottle shops and souvenir outlets within a few minutes’ walk of each other in Darwin city. There’s the Mitchell Centre on Mitchell Street, a Woolworths complex on Smith Street and shops up and down the Smith Street Mall.
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Follow the signs from the cruise terminal and take the scenic walk along the sea wall, through the Waterfront precinct and up the skywalk into the heart of Darwin.
Check out the crocs
2. Fascinated by our fearsome saltwater crocodile? There are plenty of places to meet one.
Try the famous Cage of Death or join in feeding time at Crocosaurus Cove in the city (a 5-15 minute walk/short taxi ride from the cruise terminal); board a cruise and learn from 30 years of croc research and conservation at Crocodylus Park, a 15-minute taxi ride from the city; or book an iconic jumping crocodile cruise on the Adelaide River (an hour from the city. Book tours and shore excursions at the tour desk on board your ship).
Europe’s top design houses favour Darwin’s superior crocodile leather – buy your own keepsake (bookmarks to handbags) at Crocosaurus Cove, Crocodylus Park or at the di CROCO boutique in the Darwin mall.
Learn about the day WWII came to Australia
3. Did you know that 188 aircraft attacked Darwin just before 10am on 19 February 1942? Another 54 descended in a second raid at midday. Darwin’s little-known World War II history is explained at attractions scattered around the city.
Life-size holograms and virtual reality headsets let you feel what it was like when Darwin Harbour was bombed at the new Royal Flying Doctor Service/Bombing of Darwin Harbour experience on Stokes Hill Wharf, right near the cruise terminal. You can walk under an original B52 Mitchell Bomber, one of few surviving in the world, at the Darwin Aviation Museum, 15 minutes in a taxi from the terminal, or read the plaques along Darwin’s shady Esplanade that tell Darwin’s WWII story.
See war memorabilia, artillery and uniforms at the Defence of Darwin Experience and Darwin Military Museum at East Point (a 10-minute taxi ride from the city), or join a half-day Bombing of Darwin tour with Garry Gallagher, whose father and uncles were in Darwin when the bombs fell. Cruise passengers will be dropped back to the ship after the tour (book at www.bombingofdarwin.com.au).
Explore your artistic side
4. Darwin is world renowned for its art – hip, hidden galleries of contemporary artworks to Indigenous galleries showcasing work from local and remote Aboriginal communities (including highly collectible artists).
Find some treasure to take home at three Aboriginal art galleries in the city: Aboriginal Bush Traders on the Esplanade, and the Mbantua Fine Art Gallery and upstairs at the Readback Book Exchange (both in the mall).
Provenance Arts is 100% Aboriginal owned and houses a blend of ethical, ancient and contemporary art and exhibitions plus is Australia's first specialist Indigenous cultural tourism information service.
A few minutes further in Fannie Bay is Darwin’s main art and culture complex, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Its adjoining community arts organisation, Tactile Arts, produces some of the finest handmade craft in the NT. The galleries in Parap and Fannie Bay are accessible on the Darwin Explorer hop on, hop off bus tour (see below, or on tourismtopend.com.au).
Take shelter from the elements
5. This is one city that’s not short on places to enjoy a meal and a drink, with pubs, cafes and restaurants everywhere you look.
Settle back with a cold drink at one of these local favourites within cooee of the cruise terminal: the Precinct Tavern (44 beers on tap, with many craft beers) and Irish pub Fiddler’s Green at the Waterfront Precinct, or take the sky walk up to the CBD and try the Cav, the Darwin Hotel or the Deck Bar.
When it’s time to eat, there are quality restaurants close by: the Galleria food hall (also in the mall), PM Eat & Drink (a tapas bar on Smith St) and Moorish Café on Knuckey St. For something more casual, grab a takeaway from outlets in the Mitchell Centre.
Read reviews on these picks and many more on local food blog, www.darwinfoodies.com.
Hop on, hop off buses
6. Jump on a bus and explore the best of Darwin in comfort. There are two operators: Darwin Tour Tub and Darwin Explorer.
The Tour Tub’s ‘Darwin City Explorer’ is a five-hour guided tour of Darwin with entry to six attractions: the WWII Tunnels, Darwin Military Museum, the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, the Qantas hangar and the Aviation Heritage Centre (buy tickets on board or at the Visitor Information Centre or online at www.darwintours.com.au).
The open-air, double-decker Darwin Explorer hop on, hop off tour lets you decide where you want to spend your time. There are 12 stops – including the new Bombing of Darwin Harbour and Royal Flying Doctor Tourist Facility, Darwin Military Museum, Cullen Bay Marina, Doctors Gully and Crocosaurus Cove. Recorded commentary lets you follow all the stories. Darwin Explorer picks up and drops off at the cruise ship terminal.
Remember: Darwin’s weather is probably hotter and more humid than what you’re used to. It’s important to drink plenty of water, wear a hat and use sunscreen.