Visiting Darwin - What to See and Do
(Darwin International Airport (DRW), Australia)
Australia's northernmost city puts the size of this country into perspective. Darwin is as close to Asia as it gets, closer to Bali than Sydney. Along the coast, it is a tropical contrast to the barren Outback in the centre of Australia. Here, a unique blend of frontier Aussie attitude and Asian influences are intertwined in this friendly and very accessible city.
Recent renovations of Darwin's waterfront have opened up a whole new part of town for visitors to enjoy around Stokes Wharf. Recreation and urban amenities appear to merge seamlessly in this cool city, with lush shady parks at every turn, and hot destinations like Cullen Bay Marina showcasing the water from its myriad restaurants and bars.
Of course, nature is really the highlight in Darwin. Whether you use the city as a base for adventures in the UNESCO Kakadu National Park or enjoy the closer attractions of the historic Botanic Gardens, it is hard to avoid the abundance of world-class nature on display in and around the city.
Ten things you must do in Darwin
- Spend an easy afternoon strolling through the 104 acres / 42 hectares of the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens. Just minutes from the city, this free park has interesting informative trails showcasing Aboriginal healing herbs and a wealth of tropical flora including orchids, mangroves and every known species of baobab tree on earth.
- Get to know the local wildlife in this corner of Australia at the Territory Wildlife Park, a wonderfully organised place that recreates all of the Northern Territory's natural habitats. Visitors can walk the 6-km / 4-mile informative path or sit back and enjoy the ride on the free shuttle. From aviaries and aquariums to rainforest boardwalk trails, this is a one-stop nature spot just outside of Darwin.
- Darwin has a long history of diving for pearls, and the Australian Pearling Exhibition offers an extensive glimpse into this activity. From the early days of wearing self-contained diving suits to the modern method of pearl farming, the whole timeline is displayed in a pleasantly personal manner.
- Darwin has had a rough go from Mother Nature, not least from the 1974 Cyclone Tracy that destroyed most of the city. Visit the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory to get a thorough perspective on the history of the city through photos and relics, as well as its rich cultural and natural heritage.
- There is a rich Aboriginal scene around Darwin, making this an ideal city to discover a piece of original Aboriginal art to adorn your home. You can drop big bucks on some real masterpieces at the Aboriginal Fine Arts Gallery, which is a great place to simply admire this unique art form. Downtown Darwin is also speckled with smaller galleries and boutiques selling more affordable pieces of Aboriginal artisanship.
- Enjoy a sundowner cocktail with one of the city's reliably impressive sunsets at the Cullen Bay Marina. A wide range of restaurants and cafés line the waterfront here, offering patrons a superb viewing arena over the sea. On Thursdays, you may like to spend the evening hours at the popular Mindil Beach Sunset Market to mix things up.
- Spend a day out of town at the Litchfield National Park, a genuine Garden of Eden that seems untouched since prehistoric times. From the otherworldly rock formations to pristine waterfalls, swimming holes and lush tropical forest, this is the place to spend a day among Northern Territory nature if you have time for just one outing.
- Check out Stokes Wharf, Darwin's latest waterfront development area that is home to an irresistible clutch of restaurants, shops and attractions like its wave pool and lagoon. A very cool elevated and covered walkway connects Stokes Wharf right to the downtown core as it passes over natural bushland.
- Darwin is crocodile territory, so don't miss the chance to see these deadly beasts up close and personal at Crocosaurus Cove. This popular attraction lets you hold baby crocs, feed larger ones and even test your courage by entering the Cage of Death that lowers you into the water with a monster of a croc named Chopper. This place is also a zoo of sorts, featuring Australia's largest collection of reptiles.
- Spend an evening on a cruise around the bays lining Darwin. There are several boat companies that offer three-hour sunset cruises, longer dinner cruises and other daytime excursions. The Cullen Bay Marina is the place to go to launch off into the pastel-infused sunset any evening of the week.