Sailing & cruisingin the Northern Territory
With an endless ocean right on the city’s doorstep, sailing or cruising around Darwin is a peaceful way to take it all in. Further afield, witness incredible biodiversity and wildlife on the rivers and billabongs, or take a relaxing cruise through heritage-listed national parks.
Sailing & cruising around Darwin Harbour
Being a coastal town, one of the best ways to see Darwin is from the harbour. Enjoy the turquoise waters of the Timor Sea during the day aboard SeaLink’s daytime sightseeing cruise. There’s live commentary about the city’s historic wharves and landmarks, the wartime bombing air raids, and the remnants of WWII. Appreciate the scenery on a leisurely City of Darwin Cruises 2.5 hour private daytime cruise that’s set on an eco-sailing vessel powered by wind alone.
You can watch the sky come alive at night with the City of Darwin’s BYO sunset sailing cruise, or choose their all-inclusive deluxe experience package. Sail in modern luxury with full shade and a 360° view illuminated by mood lights.
Sea Darwin has diverse sunset cruising options for all, so you can enjoy the world-famous sunsets put on a show you won’t get anywhere else. Their affordable Sunset Fish ’n Chips Cruise is a great way to spend some time with the family on Darwin’s shores. Feel the breeze brush against you as you snack on the included serve of fresh fish and chips with a complimentary glass of champagne, water or soft drink for the kids. A stubby cooler or wine glass is an optional souvenir to take home after you’ve finished.
If you’re looking for fine dining on the water, Cape Adieu’s sunset dinner cruise gives you the finest Australian produce served beautifully on platters. From wild caught seafood to a scotch fillet steak, the cruise delivers a three course experience of Territory delights.
Sail Darwin operates a 3 hour champagne sunset sail on a spacious and comfortable catamaran. Sip away at the unlimited Australian sparkling wine provided as the Sundancer cuts its motors and sets sail in silence. Eskys are available if you bring your own drinks, so you can accompany your 8 course tapas-style dinner with your choice of beverages.
Darwin Harbour Cruises vessel provides 3 floors of comfort to choose from, including alfresco or inside dining, all giving spectacular vantage points for sunset photography. Get comfortable as you enjoy a delicious Territory-style buffet on Darwin’s tropical waters.
The Bombing of Darwin’s historical cruise will take you through the most iconic wartime sites along our shores. Sea Darwin also offers a WWII by land and sea cruise which includes a land tour followed by a one hour boat cruise.
Darwin is one of the most significant pearling ports in the world. Climb aboard a pristinely restored pearling lugger on Streeter Cruises and take in the sunset while listening to the history and intrigue of Darwin Harbour.
The Darwin Sailing Club in Fannie Bay not only has a beautiful sociable ambience, it also extends sailing courses to kids and adults. Whether you’re experienced or just a beginner, book a lesson in their flexible sailing calendar to learn from an experienced instructor first hand. Private lessons are also available for groups so you can sail on your own terms.
If your visit to Darwin coincides with Territory Day (1st of July), look out for firework cruises where you’ll get an exclusive view of the public fireworks display at Mindil Beach. Afterwards, you can sail back to the harbour as the people of Darwin light up their own crackers and celebrate the anniversary of self-government.
For a short day trip, jump on the SeaLink ferry from Cullen Bay and head over to Wagait Beach. Landing on the Mandorah Jetty, you’re free to drop a line, wander the beaches, check out the wartime relics or head to the Cox Country Club for a cold beer and a meal.
Bare Sand Island is located off the coast of Darwin and is used as a nesting area by Flatback and Olive Ridley turtles. The Sea Darwin Turtle Tracks cruise is timed to coincide with the lunar cycle and the laying and hatching of eggs at dusk. Included in your ticket is your boat ride, guided tour, dinner and drinks and a contribution to AusTurtle to fund ongoing sea turtle research. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience with tickets selling out fast so make sure you book ahead.
Sailing & cruising beyond Darwin
Beyond Darwin lies a sailing and cruising paradise with thousands of kilometres of unspoilt beaches.
Fancy getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city? Just a few hours’ ferry ride away is the Tiwi Islands, a group of small islands with tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal heritage. SeaLink offers a Tiwi Islands Day Tour that covers the return ferry ride. It includes walking tours with a local guide, a visit to Tiwi Design with traditional damper morning tea, a mission precinct visit and then a screen printing workshop. Whatever you make at the printing workshop is yours to take home as a souvenir.
Arnhem Land has some of the best beaches you’ll see in Australia, so if you’re an experienced boatie, hire a vessel from Gove Boat Hire and set sail. If a guided tour is more your style, Bremer Island Cruises offers day tours where you’ll enjoy a fast boat ride to Banubanu Beach Retreat followed by lunch at the resort.
While you’re in Arnhem Land, jump on Wildcard Luxury Cruises 20m exclusive charter around the Wessel Islands, off the coast of the Northern Territory. As well as a comfortable sail around uninhabited islands, you’ll be able to visit sandbars, waterfalls and culturally significant sites.
The Timor Sea
For true lovers of sailing, Sail Darwin can take you on a longer trip, from overnight escapes right through to extended sailing for up to 14 days across the Top End. You’ll see the vast Territory coastline including Bare Sand Island, Bynoe Harbour, and the Tiwi Islands. You can also add-on sites further afield including the Kimberley coastline, Coburg Peninsula, East Timor, the Spice Islands and more.
River & wetland cruises in the Northern Territory
Just because you’ve headed inland doesn’t mean your cruising time is over. There’s lots of great spots to journey along rivers, gorges and wetlands as you head down the track.
Take a relaxing cruise down the Adelaide River to prepare you for the adrenaline inducing Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise. Just an hour’s drive from Darwin, this is a must-do. Keep those arms inside the boat and your camera at the ready as your guides teach you about local wildlife and give you the chance to see crocodiles jumping for food.
Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge
Nitmiluk Gorge is a spectacular site and there’s a range of cruises available. Take a dawn tour to see the gorges spring to life as the sun rises. Add a buffet breakfast to your itinerary after the cruise for a great start to your day.
If you’re not an early riser, the NitNit Dreaming 2 Gorge Tour or the Timeless Land Gorge Tour operate throughout the day. These cruises give you the opportunity to learn all about the areas that are culturally significant to the local Jawoyn people. There’s some walking required in these tours, with wheelchair access available on the 2 Gorge tour.
Top the day off with the Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Dinner Tour. Watch as the walls of the gorge glow as the sun sets, and enjoy a candlelit dinner of local Australian produce that’s cooked before your eyes. This cruise includes some walking.
Mary River National Park is home to the vast wetlands of the Mary River system, an environmentally significant part of the Territory. Join the Mary River Wetlands safari cruise for a relaxed guided tour through the water lilies along the river banks. Keep an eye out to spot some crocodiles, birds, fish and other wildlife that live in the Corroboree Billabong.
Perhaps the most spectacular cruise is the Yellow Water Cruise held in the Yellow Water Billabong. With cruise times running from sunrise through to sunset, you’ll get a front row seat to activities of the crocodiles, birds and fish that make the billabong home. Take a 1.5 hour cruise, a slightly longer 2-hour cruise or even a sunset canapé cruise to mark the Taste of Kakadu festival with native-inspired food and sparkling wine.
The Guluyambi Cultural Cruise is a great opportunity to learn more about the local culture, mythology, bush tucker and medicine. Cruising the East Alligator River, your local guide will give you a complete understanding of the significance of the area and then take you to a traditional hunting and gathering display.
Sailing & cruising in the Red Centre
Instead of sailing down rivers and billabongs, in the Red Centre you can cruise around on a camel, Segway, or even try your luck and participate in the annual Henley on Todd Regatta 'boat' race. Witness some remarkable hand crafted Flintstones-style boat frames compete against each other in a race to the finish line – it’s the most fun you can have without water!
Add some adventure
If all this cruising has made you relaxed, how about adding some adrenaline before you head home? There’s lots of options including:
- Beach fishing, extended reef and game fishing charters – check out our guides to fishing around Darwin and fishing in Arnhem Land to see all the options. Remember to stay CrocWise and check the bag limits and restrictions
- 00Seven Jet Ski Adventures with tours running throughout the day around Darwin Harbour
- Darwin Adventure Boat Tours, starting with a relaxing cruise along the mudflats and culminating in fast laps throughout the harbour
- An airboat safari through the private areas of the Mary River wetlands. You’ll be choppered in from Darwin before speeding through the floodplains
- Half and full-day heli-fishing and airboat adventures offered by star of National Geographic’s Outback Wrangler and channel Nine’s Wild Territory’s Matt Wright.