Summer in the Top End7-day itinerary
A tropical summer in the Top End means the waterfalls are thundering, nature is at its greenest, the wildlife is abundant, the sunsets are filled with shades of violet and the skies come to life with epic lightning shows.
Check out this 7-day itinerary covering things to see and do around Darwin, Litchfield National Park and Kakadu National Park over Australia’s summertime – September to April.
Become a city explorer
Start your road trip with a morning coffee and breakfast at one of the many popular cafés in Darwin City. Explore the vibrant streets of Darwin and get lost in the magnificent street art. As part of the annual Darwin Street Art Festival, murals have been painted by renowned local and interstate artists – some of which you can interact with by downloading the app.
Immerse yourself in local art
Today you’ll immerse yourself in the local Aboriginal art scene. The art galleries around Darwin are the perfect place to get acquainted with Aboriginal art and artists from around the region. Enjoy a stroll around Darwin’s CBD to respected galleries like Mbantua Fine Art Gallery and Mason Gallery. Or head to Parap for the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art to discover a wider range of Northern Territory art.
Give yourself plenty of time to peruse at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), which offers a fascinating and broad overview of the region’s Aboriginal art and history. The museum and art gallery, set in a scenic location overlooking the Arafura Sea, is home to a collection of over 1.2 million natural history specimens and over 30,000 items of art and material culture.
Relax poolside for the afternoon
Enjoy an afternoon by the lagoon pool at Mindil Beach Casino Resort. Look out across the Arafura Sea while you sip on a cocktail from the pool’s own ‘swim up’ bar. This is resort-style relaxation at its best.
Time for a bush tucker brekkie
Situated in the historic Lyons Cottage, Aboriginal Bush Traders is a bush food café that uses native Australian products and bush tucker in their menu. Serving a variety of cakes, teas, dampers, jams, sandwiches and salads, you can fill your belly ready for the day ahead.
Aboriginal Bush Traders also have a retail store with Local Aboriginal art and craft, unique gifts and home wares. They provide avenues for Aboriginal people wanting to engage in economic activities in a sustainable way, and are 100% not-for-profit.
Come face-to-face with a croc
After lunch, make your way to Crocosaurus Cove in the heart of Darwin on Mitchell Street. Here you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the largest reptile on the planet, the saltwater crocodile, and learn about fish and reptile species at the aquarium.
There’s a twice-daily crocodile and fish-feeding show that’s not to be missed. If you’re feeling brave, climb into the Cage of Death for a face-to-face encounter with one of the largest saltwater crocodiles in captivity. It’s the ultimate adrenaline rush!
Explore the Darwin Waterfront & Stokes Hill Wharf
Pack your bathers for a swim at the Wave Pool and Recreation Lagoons. Paddle, swim or play in these manmade lagoons with waves up to 1.7m generated at regular intervals. Both areas are safe for swimming and protected from stingers. You’re also a hop, skip and jump away from some of Darwin’s best restaurants, so take your pick for lunch at the Darwin Waterfront.
For those seeking adventure close to the city. Get out on the harbour and feel the wind in your hair on a Darwin Airboat Tour or 00seven Jet Ski Adventure. Both of these activities depart from Stokes Hill Wharf.
Another dinner, another sunset
If you’re travelling between April – December, spend your evening on the Charles Darwin Sunset Dinner Cruise. Watch the sky light up in technicolour as you sip champagne and feast the night away on the water.
Looking for another dining by the water experience? Head to Pee Wee’s at the Pointto watch the sun set over the Darwin Harbour and the Arafura Sea. This is one of the best places in Darwin to check out the beach, sunset and city lights.
See the World Heritage-listed sites of Kakadu
Rise early and depart Darwin along the Stuart Highway and Arnhem Highway for your 2-hour drive to the northern entry of Kakadu National Park.
As you’ll be visiting Aboriginal-owned land, a park pass is required. Your pass includes entry to the park, ranger-guided walks and talks. You can buy your Kakadu park pass online.
Head to the Bowali Visitor Centre to plan your time in Kakadu. Stop for refreshments at the café before you wander through the interpretive displays and gallery. Remember to ask staff for information about any road closures or conditions you should be aware of for your trip through Kakadu.
Check into your accommodation at Cooinda Lodge before preparing for an afternoon walk. Make your way to Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) to stroll through the naturally sheltered path filled with ancient rock art upon the walls. This is a must-stop for anyone who wants to see well-preserved Aboriginal rock art in Australia.
Finish the day with an incredible sunset after a short walk to the top of Nawurlandja lookout.
Cool off under a waterfall in Litchfield
Start the day with sunrise on a Yellow Water cruise or witness the impressive waterfalls in all their fury on a scenic flight that departs from Cooinda Lodge or from the township of Jabiru.
If you’re departing Kakadu from Cooinda Lodge, fill up for the 3-hour drive ahead and south along the Kakadu Highway connecting to the Stuart Highway to make your way around to Litchfield National Park.
Check into your accommodation before cooling off in the soothing waters of Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole in the afternoon.
Start the next day with a swim or rainforest bushwalk
There’s plenty to do in Litchfield, so plan your trip well: choose to bushwalk a rainforest trail, frog kick under a cascading waterfall and marvel at the massive termite mounds that stand up to 6m high. Check out the full list of activities and accommodation in the Litchfield Destination Guide.
Go wild at the Territory Wildlife Park
On your back to Darwin from Litchfield, stop in at the Territory Wildlife Park where you can view the renowned ‘birds of prey’ show or hand feed the whip rays in the Oolloo Sandbar. Wander through treetop aviaries, around a natural lagoon and through the aquarium to see animals, including the resident saltwater crocodile.
Go where the locals go to see the flame trees in full bloom
Head to East Point Reserve to see the Poinciana trees in full bloom between November to April. This is a great spot to go for a beach walk, check out the fascinating military history in the area or see the wallabies emerge from the trees into the grassy clearings at dusk.
Sip a sunset beer at the Darwin Ski Club or Darwin Sailing Club
The Darwin Ski Club or Darwin Sailing Club are both the perfect place to settle back into Darwin. Grab an ice-cold beverage, order some snacks or something heartier from the bistro, and watch the sun set over Fannie Bay. The moody skies of the Tropical Summer season may even put on a show for you.
Hook a Top End barramundi
Bag a barra on your second last day in the NT. Just ask the local fishing enthusiasts – nothing compares to hooking a metre-plus barramundi in the Top End. Anglers are abuzz with the Million Dollar Fish competition. Win a $10,000 prize tag or one worth $1 million in Territory waters. Book a Top End fishing charter, it’s a chance to hook your fortune and enjoy a day on the water at the same time. At the very least, you may catch dinner.
Historical harbour views
Head towards the Esplanade where you’ll find Bicentennial Park perched on the cliffs of Darwin Harbour. Visit the Cenotaph, Darwin’s first war memorial commemorating Australians who lost their lives in WWI, and the Aboriginal men and women whose bush skills assisted the Army during WWII.
Take a stroll under the tropical trees along The Esplanade to Parliament House. Mitchell Street is close by here where there are many dinner options to choose from.
Picnic like a local
Pack your picnic rug and chairs and get yourself down to the Nightcliff Foreshore, a popular spot with locals. If you were lucky enough to snag a barra, find a free BBQ and cook your own dinner as you watch the sun set.
If you weren’t so lucky on the water, there’s usually a selection of pop-up food vans scattered along the foreshore area from the Nightcliff Jetty down the Rapid Creek. Take your pick from pizza, tacos, Pad Thai, spuds and even crepes and Greek donuts for dessert.
Eat a laksa at the Parap Markets
On Saturday mornings make sure you check out Darwin’s renowned Parap Markets. Follow your nose through the markets’ multicultural food stalls and shop for fashion, flowers, art, crafts and more. If you’re there for lunch, don’t pass on the famous ‘Mary’s Laksa’.
Not visiting on a Saturday? Parap is still packed full of food options. Enjoy some of the best coffee in the Territory with breakfast or lunch at the Laneway Café. This coffee shop gives Melbourne a run for its money.
Take in the beauty of the botanic gardens
Just a couple of kilometres from MAGNT, take a walk through the shady George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens, or better yet hop on a Segway tour to experience the incredible flora of Northern Australia from a new perspective. Wander through monsoon forests, coastal dunes, mangroves and open woodlands before relaxing with lunch at Eva’s Botanic Gardens Café.
A send-off in style
Cap off your week in Darwin at one of the bars and pubs on the city’s main entertainment strip, Mitchell Street. Choose from traditional pubs with beer gardens, popular live music venues, terrace bars with street-side dining, casual backpacker joints, swanky cocktail bars and night clubs.
Download the Top End summer itinerary
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