Top 10 things to do around Darwin
Not visited by winter and with a relaxed, small-town feel, Darwin is the tropical capital of the Northern Territory that's perched on a harbour fives times the size of Sydney’s. Darwin is famous for its multicultural food, outdoor markets, waterside attractions and a warm holiday vibe year-round. Here are 10 of Darwin’s must-do experiences.
1. Make like a local: head to the markets!
Find locally made treasures and indulge your tastebuds at Darwin's famous markets. At the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets (Thursdays and Sundays, April to October), sit on the beach with something to eat from some of the 60 food stalls as a fiery Darwin sunset sinks into the ocean. Every weekend, suburban spaces in Nightcliff, Parap, Rapid Creek, Palmerston, Coolalinga and Malak are transformed into open-air markets where locals get their fruit and vegetables, authentic laksa and fresh juices.
2. Relax at the Darwin Waterfront Precinct
One of Australia’s finest waterfront communities is right in the heart of Darwin, just a five-minute walk from the city. Ride the swell at the popular wave pool, swim in the saltwater lagoon, recharge at the cafes and colourful eateries, have a craft beer in the tavern, enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants or sit in the shade in the lush parklands with engaging public art. Then visit the attractions at nearby Stokes Hill Wharf with fabulous views over Darwin Harbour.
3. Sample the city’s attractions
You don’t need to go far to experience Darwin’s must-dos. In the city itself, wander through Darwin’s Smith Street Mall (free wi-fi), stopping at luxury boutiques that sell fine crocodile and pearl products. At Crocosaurus Cove, cuddle a baby crocodile and wander around enclosures with some of Australia’s biggest saltwater crocodiles. Life-size holograms and virtual reality technology let you feel what it was like when Darwin Harbour was bombed at the Royal Flying Doctor Service/Bombing of Darwin Harbour experience on Stokes Hill Wharf. Finish off with a movie under the stars at the waterfront Deckchair Cinema.
4. Explore Litchfield National Park
This must-do on any visit to Darwin is an easy 1.5-hour drive from the city. Swim in crystal clear swimming holes and under waterfalls, spot colourful birds and wildlife on bushwalks through monsoonal rainforest, discover the Lost City on a four-wheel-drive track and wander through a ‘graveyard’ of towering termite mounds. Pack a picnic for the perfect day trip. Entry is free.
5. Get up close to a jumping crocodile
Drive about an hour from Darwin on the scenic Arnhem Highway towards Kakadu to experience one of Darwin’s best attractions: a jumping crocodile cruise on the Adelaide River. From the safety of your boat, watch as saltwater crocodiles leap from the water. Then try the other must-dos in this area: the bird and wildlife displays at the free Window on the Wetlands Centre and a two-hour Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural tour, where you can try basket weaving, dilly bag making and playing a didgeridoo.
6. Experience Aboriginal culture on the Tiwi Islands
Join a day trip to the picturesque Tiwi Islands, a 30-minute flight or 2.5-hour ferry ride north of Darwin, to share in the Tiwi Aboriginal people’s strong connection to their rich culture. Meet local artists at the islands’ art centres and experience a smoking ceremony. Visit in March for the annual football grand final and art sale, a hugely popular and very special event.
7. Cruise Darwin Harbour at sunset
Catch a famous Darwin sunset aboard a luxury yacht, a restored pearling lugger or a comfortable two-storey vessel on a cruise around beautiful Darwin Harbour. There are many tours to choose from, where you can enjoy a three-course dinner, seafood buffet, canapes and sparkling wine, or pick up fresh fish and chips. With the warm breeze in your hair and an exquisite tropical sunset on the horizon, this is a must-do Darwin experience.
8. Discover the art scene of Darwin
Darwin is renowned for its art—hidden galleries of contemporary works featuring paintings from highly collectable Aboriginal artists. Start at the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, a sprawling cultural complex five minutes from the city. See ‘Sweetheart’ the 5.1m crocodile who loved outboard motors, the Cyclone Tracy exhibit with an eerie sound booth of actual recordings of the cyclone, and an important collection of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal art, plus ever-changing exhibits.
9. Meet the wildlife
Have an up-close encounter with the animals of the Top End at the Territory Wildlife Park, 45 minutes from Darwin. The many attractions are spread around a 4km loop road with free shuttle trains connecting them. Visit the cool nocturnal house and aquarium, walk through treetop aviaries and stroll around the lagoon. Afterwards, call in at the adjacent Berry Springs Nature Park for a swim in the springs and a picnic on the lawns.
10. Get close to nature at the Mary River National Park
Head an hour east of Darwin to explore the lush Mary River wetlands that thrive with wildlife, birds and fish. Visit Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve in the dry season (May to October) to see some of the 250 species of birds that flock here—see jabiru, jacana, pygmy geese, brolga and ibis feed among pink water lilies. There are bird hides at some billabongs. Or join a fishing charter to land a barramundi, our most famous sports fish that is plentiful in the Mary River wetlands.
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