Darwin Australia Vacations

In a region known for extreme weather, the Northern Territory is undoubtedly at its best in the Australian winter from May to early September. In Darwin, this season is known as The Dry, a time of gorgeous, balmy weather. The dragonflies are out, the sunsets are glorious and, compared to the rest of the year, and Darwin is positively buzzing.  A visit during the monsoon months of The Wet (January to April) brings vivid green landscapes, electrifying afternoon storms, and the chance to explore with fewer visitors.  Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, avoid Darwin in The Build-Up (mid-October – late December).  This is the pre-monsoon season of humid hot weather that drives the locals “troppo” or crazy, and makes it almost impossible for energy to do anything, like go sight seeing.

All visitors to Australia need a visa − only New Zealand nationals are exempt and even they receive a ‘special category’ visa on arrival.  There are several different visas available, depending on your nationality and what kind of visit you’re making.  See the website of the Department of Immigration & Citizenship for info and application forms (also available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas and travel agents), plus details on visa extensions, Working Holiday Visas (417) and Work & Holiday Visas (462).

Darwin has an international airport which services direct flights from Asia. The domestic airport is linked by various local airlines to all the major cities in Australia.  Darwin airport is situated 6km from the town center and is easily reached by shuttle bus and taxi. Car rentals are also available at the airport.  Quantas, Virgin Blue, and Jet Star are all airlines that fly in and out of Australia.  Qantas is widely regarded as the world’s leading long distance airline and one of the strongest brands in Australia.  Jet Blue, dubbed the low cost airline of the industry, has become Australia’s leading major airline for service, on-time performance and value for money.  And Jetstar is Australia’s new low fares airline. Their aim is to provide consistent low fares to Australian and New Zealand leisure travelers.

Experience one of the most fascinating great train journeys of the world with the Ghan in Adelaide or Darwin. Connections are available on the Indian Pacific and The Overland for guests traveling to or from Sydney and Melbourne.  The legendary Ghan train runs weekly (twice weekly May to July) between Adelaide and Darwin via Alice Springs. The Darwin terminal is on Berrimah Rd, 20 minutes from the city center.

It’s easy to find places in Darwin and even easier to get around. The public transport is great. The buses will be able to take you almost everywhere or you may prefer a taxi, private hire car, mini bus or you could even hire a bike. Walking is a great way to see the sights and there are brochures designed especially for this purpose. They outline places of interest and historical landmarks, and are available at certain spots around town. The series is called “Discovering Darwin”, nine brochures in all, covering the Wharf, Esplanade, City, Gardens, Northern Suburbs, East Point, Darwin, Outer Darwin and Fannie Bay.

Spin Way, Darwin’s public bicycle-hire system, can be found at numerous stations around town.  Just swipe your credit card, select how long you wish to rent for and then get riding. For a list of locations, visit the Spin Way website. Note that you must return the bike to the same station you took it from, and that helmets and locks are included in the rental price.

Darwinbus runs a comprehensive bus network that departs from the Darwin Bus Terminal, opposite Brown’s Mart.  A $3 adult ticket gives unlimited travel on the bus network for three hours (validate your ticket when you first get on). Daily ($7) and weekly ($20) travel cards are also available from bus interchanges, newsagents and the visitor center. Bus 4 (to Fannie Bay, Nightcliff, Rapid Creek and Casuarina) and bus 6 (Fannie Bay, Parap and Stuart Park) are useful for getting to Aquascene, the Botanic Gardens, Mindil Beach, the Museum & Art Gallery, East Point Reserve, and the markets.

Berry Springs Nature Park, is a great location close to Darwin where you can enjoy a refreshing swim and a BBQ. A great place to unwind after spending a day at the Territory Wildlife Park. Please check our website for access to swimming. During the wet season, October-April, the pools may be closed when swimming is considered to be unsafe.

East Point Reserve is one of the largest reserves in the Darwin municipality boasting 200 hectares of green space and recreation spaces. We have been looking after the reserve since 1984 and aim to balance the ecological, cultural and historic values whilst providing recreational areas for everyone to enjoy.  With two playgrounds, a lake, exercise stations, walking trails and more, East Point Reserve has always been a popular place for gatherings, events and recreational activities.  The reserve is host to a range of landscaped barbecue and picnic facilities, a military history that goes back to 1932 and a range of community and tourist facilities including the Darwin Military Museum and the gun turret precinct.

Mindil Beach is one of Australia’s best beaches. Many visitors are surprised to find such a pretty tropical beach so close to a regional capital city. Some locals swim at Mindil during the dry season, but the possible threat of crocodiles and jellyfish makes this unwise for visitors to try. Better swimming is over at at Casuarina, which is patrolled by surf life savers, or alternatively at the Wave Lagoon water park and the free Leanyer Recreation Park. Still, at any time of day, a walk along the splendid Mindil Beach is not to be missed.

The Gardens was established 130 years ago to introduce and evaluate plants for food and flavor to a small developing community and has since become important in the recreational and scientific life of the city.  They have survived numerous cyclones and the direct effects of World War Two. The site extends inland from the sea to a plateau providing a range of planting environments and is one of a few botanic gardens in the world which has marine and estuarine plants naturally in its grounds.

Crocodylus Park is the best place in Australia to come face to face with the largest reptiles on the planet! Built upon 30 years of experience in crocodile research and conservation, Crocodylus Park plays host to over a thousand crocodiles from 30 cm long hatchlings to massive adults measuring over 4.8 m and weighing more than half a ton! Their diverse array of other wildlife, including big cats, primates, birds and other reptiles, ensure the crocodiles don’t steal all the limelight.  

There’s a saying among locals: “If you don’t like sunsets and markets, you won’t like Darwin.” Embrace the first part of this equation with a sunset harbour cruise. These depart at around 5pm from Stokes Hill Wharf, just beyond the city centre. They typically run for two to three hours and include a drink and canapes. The Champagne Sunset Sail by Sail Darwin takes place on a 50 foot luxury catamaran that features inbuilt “floor hammocks”, through which you can peer as you recline and watch the ocean rushing past below.

Descend the rainforest-walled steps near Parliament House to arrive at Deckchair Cinema – “the Deckie” to locals. Under open skies, this Darwin Film Society venue projects a mix of art house and mainstream movies. All screenings begin at 7.30pm; on weekends you can attend a double session. Local eateries such as Thai restaurant Hanuman and Ken’s Crepes operate pop-up food stalls on alternate nights of the week, while the cinema bar sells frozen mango cheeks to keep you cool, as well as a revolving craft beer of the month.

To feast your eyes on a live crocodile, pop into Crocosaurus Cove in the city, where, if you’re really brave, you can go cage swimming with a croc too. Alternatively, hire a car and drive 100 kilometres (60 miles) along the Arnhem Highway to the Mary River to join a jumping crocodile cruise in which wild crocs jump from the water to eat buffalo meat dangling from long hooks. There are three operators to choose from: Adelaide River CruisesAdelaide River Queen and Spectacular Crocodile Cruises. Each offers a one hour journey through croc-infested waters that are also patrolled by brown whistling kites.

While Darwin’s centre is the main hub for the restaurant and bar scene, a further 15 minutes north sits the suburb of Nightcliff – home to an evening food van scene, weekend markets and beach side beauty (owing to the picturesque cliffs and ocean that hug Nightcliff’s extensive parklands). Arrive on a Sunday lunchtime to visit Nightcliff Markets for Vietnamese rice paper rolls, fresh coconut and lime juice or spanakopita (a Greek spinach and feta pie) at the precinct’s hip, artsy café Lucky Bat. Next, head to the foreshore area for a stroll to Nightcliff Jetty, a coffee at the Foreshore Café, an ice cream at Jay’s food van, fish and chips at Jetty & the Fish, or a dip in Nightcliff Pool.

Amid the breezy dry season air on Thursday and Sunday evenings, Mindil Beach Sunset Market hosts street performers, musicians, craft stalls and a large collection of international food stalls on the stretch of parkland behind Mindil Beach. Arrive early (about 6pm) to beat the crowds. Immerse your taste buds in Darwin’s Asian food culture with a Malaysian laksa, a savory Japanese pancake or a Thai green papaya salad. For dessert, visit Petra’s Raw Cakes and munch on a raw brownie ball, or a slice of lime and macadamia cheesecake.

Hire a car and drive 45 minutes south of the city centre to Berry Springs Nature Park. Here you can snorkel and swim in a series of three adjoining waterholes surrounded by flocks of bright-winged birdsThe park’s lawns are great for barbecuing or sun baking, and the kiosk is run by local mango farmers, who produce a collection of homemade ice creams (including mango flavor, of course). If you have time, visit the mango farm itself: Crazy Acres is just 2 1/2 miles from Berry Springs, and has an on-site restaurant featuring plenty of mango on the menu.

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Beneath an old elevated house by the sea, Char Restaurant is where Darwin’s power brokers dine. The steak-and-seafood-focused menu includes the standout numus of pickled local fish and scallops with lime and coconut cream (a popular dish in the Northern Territory). Wonderful little sides and an extensive wine list seal the deal.  For more information call 08 8981 4544, or visit them on the web at Char Restaurant.

Pretty as a picture with its striped wallpaper and ornate mirrors, The Pearl is worth seeking out for elegant cocktails and Frenchified Australian food. À la carte and prix fixe menus offer the likes of trout rillettes and lobster tortellini with scallops on cauliflower purée.  For more information call 04 2372 5885, or visit them on the web at The Pearl Darwin.

Pee Wee’s offers a special dining experience: tables at the water’s edge facing the lights of the city and dishes such as kangaroo carpaccio and nut-crusted wild-caught barramundi. Time your booking to catch the sun setting over the sea – at about 6.30pm to 7pm depending on the season.  For more information call 08 8981 6868, or visit them on the web at Pee Wee’s at the Point.

Darwin’s first tapas restaurant, Moorish Café still has it. There’s always a tagine of the day, as well as 30-plus excellent tapas dishes. Sample grilled local eggplant with pomegranate and yoghurt; Berber-spiced kangaroo with tomato jam; or pumpkin and fetta salad with basil and pine nuts.  For more information call 08 8981 0010, or visit them on the web at Moorish Cafe.

Chow is a ton of fun. Choose between the air-conditioned dining room or the palm-fringed outdoor space and order up a taste of tropical Asia: maybe Vietnamese pho, Malaysian laksa, chilli-salt chicken wings or a dish to share. After dinner, enjoy a cocktail, a whole fresh coconut or an icy, fruity slushie.  For more information call 08 8941 7625, or visit them on the web at Chow.

While no longer as hot as it once was, Viva La Vida is still a popular haunt for city workers on a Friday night, who throw back jugs of sangria and craft beers on the outdoor terrace. Despite this being the only real wine bar in town, there are only a handful of non-Australian bottles on the extensive menu and barely any by the glass. That said, a gin cocktail and a mezze platter served by the very efficient staff is a pleasant way to pass an evening in town. On Friday nights there is live blues jazz and Motown tunes, while on Saturday night there’s a house DJ from 9pm.  For more information call 08 8942 0544, or visit them on the web at Viva La Vida.

There’s no better place in Darwin for a sun downer than this laid-back beach bar, which is also the club house of the Darwin water-skiing association. Despite its million dollar sunset views, it’s little more than some plastic chairs and tables dotted among the palm trees, which is how us locals like it. Don’t leave as soon as the sun goes down. Grab another cold beer and watch the real magic in the sky happen. There’s live music on Friday and Sunday afternoons and standard pub grub, including the terrifyingly tall Bad Boy Burger stuffed with beef, chicken, bacon and egg.  For more information call 08 8981 6630, or visit them on the web at The Darwin Ski Club.

At the slightly more low-key parliamentary end of the street you’ll find Deck Bar, with its eponymous outdoor area shaded by large trees. It’s a nice spot to kick back with a couple of drinks, and it always feels a lot less intense than the pubs down the road. Owned by the same mob who run Chow, the food is also tasty – particularly the Malaysian curry laksa, which goes down well with one of the 80 plus varieties of beer. Brunch is served here on weekends, too.For more information call 08 8942 3001, or visit them on the web at The Deck Bar.

The pub promises a great outback experience, and to a certain extent that’s what you’re going to get. Along with the cold, cold beer and the decent pub grub, there’s a range of travelling entertainers that will make you cringe or guffaw, depending on the night. Chilli is the resident showman and he keeps the grey nomads happy with stories from the early days of the Territory. Memorabilia adorns the walls, from Irish football jerseys to bras.  For more information call 08 8975 9927, or visit them on the web at Daly Waters Pub.

Monte’s is a really lively, laid-back drinking hole with a fantastic beer garden that is beautifully lit up at night, and an interior with the feel of a circus. It attracts everyone from backpackers to public servants who favor the eclectic menu and boutique beers on tap, including Western Australia’s Little Creatures, Vale Ale and Hills Cider. Kids will be kept amused by the giant rocking horse and swings. If you are sitting outside and planning on eating later in the night, make sure to sit at one of the designated non-smoking tables or you’ll end up losing you seat.  For more information call 08 8952 4336, or visit them on the web at Monte’s Lounge.

Conveniently located in Darwin, Darwin Waterfront Luxury Suites is a great base from which to explore this vibrant city. From here, guests can enjoy easy access to all that the lively city has to offer. The property offers impeccable service and all the essential amenities to invigorate travelers. The ambiance of Darwin Waterfront Luxury Suites is reflected in every guestroom with a desk, air conditioning, LCD/plasma screen TV, refrigerator and microwave. Recreational facilities available at the hotel include an outdoor pool and fitness center. Darwin Waterfront Luxury Suites is a smart choice for travelers to Darwin, offering a relaxed and hassle-free stay every time.  For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Darwin Waterfront Suites.

Kakadu @ the Kube (Darwin City) in Darwin offers accommodation with free WiFi, a 4-minute walk from Crocosaurus Cove. The Darwin Entertainment Center is within 600 meters of the apartment.  This air-conditioned apartment has 3 bedrooms, a Fitness centre flat-screen TV, and a kitchen with a dishwasher. The apartment also features washing machine and a bathroom with a shower.  For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Kakadu @ The Kube.

Wake up to sea views from your private balcony when you stay at Sky View. Guests enjoy free WiFi and a complimentary breakfast pack and bottle of wine on arrival. There is access to an outdoor pool.  Sky View Apartment is located in the heart of Darwin. Darwin Convention Center is a 10-minute walk away and a 4-minute drive from Mindil Beach Sunset Market.  This 3-bedroom apartment features modern interiors with a burst of color. It offers a fully equipped kitchen and indoor/outdoor dining areas. There is a laundry and a lounge area with a flat-screen TV and DVD player.  For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Sky View.

The stylish property offers 186 rooms and suites providing guests with modern comforts such as crisp linens, luxurious pillow top beds, deluxe bathroom amenities and a curated selection of minibar treats. Most rooms showcase spectacular views over Cullen Bay and the Cityscape, with other comforts including complimentary parking and high-speed internet, FOXTEL streaming in-room movies & sports channels and a rooftop gym.  For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit the H Hotel.

Crocs on Cavenagh has self-catering accommodations with a balcony and free WiFi. The property is a 3-minute walk from Crocosaurus Cove and 1,500 feet from Darwin Entertainment Center.  Featuring city views, the apartment features a flat-screen TV, air conditioning, a seating area, a desk and 2 bathrooms. There’s a dining area and a kitchen equipped with a dishwasher.  Non-stop assistance is available at the reception.  The property has a fitness center. A grill and a terrace are offered at the property.  For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Crocs on Cavenagh.


  1. stefanie taylor

    I lived in Oz as a kid, but never visited Darwin. Australia is so big that often if you live there you don’t ever see it all, not like England where I am now; you can get from one end to the other in about 5 hours I reckon haha.

    I love the fact that it had Aboriginal influences as I really love their artwork; what amazing people they are and it’s great to look back through their history.

    Thanks for warning us about ‘Tropo Crazy’, I think we need to stear clear of that! I love the sound of the rainy season myself 🙂

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Well, you are due for a visit to Darwin than Stefanie! The rain doesn’t bother me either. I live in the sunshine state, so I don’t need it to be 24/7 sunny on vacation, as long as I have plenty to do. Thanks for stopping by Darwin Australia Vacations.

  2. Nathalie

    The more I learn about the different places in Australia, the more clear it becomes that I definately need to go there as soon as possible!I really miss nature and would check out Berry Springs Nature Park first and finish my trip by wandering around Mindil Beach Sunset Market. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Glad you enjoyed Nathalie! Yes, Australia is one of those bucket list items that any beach or nature lover will enjoy for a vacation. I hope you can vacation to wonderful Australia soon! Please let me know if you need any other information!

  3. wiebren

    Darwin is definitely on my list of places to see. In Australia everyone plans to do the ‘big lap’ which is to drive right around the country. Thank you for this well researched article. Are the night markets all year round or only in the dry season?

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I believe the night markets are only during the dry season. Which does make a lot of sense. Oh, to do the big lap! How fun that would be. Thanks for visiting beach travel destinations.

  4. Gillian

    Wow! I feel like I have a beautiful tour after reading your article. What a beautiful way to end a day at Nitghtcliff watching the sunset and the market at Mindil beach. It makes me wanna have my beach vacation asap:)

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Everyone needs their beach vacation, that is for sure. And you are right about watching the sunset at Nightcliff and the Mindil Market. Great way to spend the evening in Darwin for sure! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. thomas

    Once again, such a solid review. Darwin seems like an awesome place to travel, I’m gonna have to take my family to Australia in the coming years. I really want to take the famous train ride from Darwin to Sydney. And although I really want to see the crocodile park, I’d have to convince my wife that it’s safe for the children 🙂 Any ideas on how to do that? haha

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Well, I don’t know how to convince your wife LOL! I think though, if she saw the place and talked with the locals, she would get a better feel that it really is a safe place. You will love Darwin! Thanks for visiting Darwin Australia Vacations.

  6. John

    Australia has been on my bucket list since my ticket their got canceled the first time. I need to stop talking about it and just get on a plane and go. How far is it to Sydney from Darwin, this is where I would have to fly into the country at.
    I like the list of things to do in Darwin. I think Darwin would be a great train ride to take if it is not too long.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      The flight from Sydney to Darwin is going to be about a 4 1/2 hour flight, not too bad. The train will take you about 3 days, with all the connections they make. It is not a straight thru train. If you have the extra time, you will enjoy the scenery, otherwise it will eat up part of your vacation time.

  7. Mick Krug

    I’ve always wanted to visit Australia. Darwin looks like it has just about everything you would want in a vacation trip. The crocs are a must see once you are there. You’ve provided some great information on your website. The video was excellent.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks Mick, yes when in Australia you have to see the crocs for sure. Darwin is an amazing place, and so beautiful. I hope you can vacation there soon. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Alex

    Before reading your article, I never thought too much of Australia. I always thought it would be a dry, hot, and rather miserable place. I was wrong! Darwin, Australia sounds incredible. As a national park buff, Kakadu and Litchfield appeal to me. I cannot wait to strap on my boots and go on a good hike.

    I also have a question. I really like the idea of swimming with a saltwater crocodile. It gets my heart racing. When you are in the cage, do they let you throw out some food for the crocs to eat? I think the experience would be a lot more interesting with them munching on something.

    Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Darwin is a hikers paradise Alex, and you would really love to vacation here. No, unfortunately the cage is sealed and you cannot feed the crocs. I agree, that it would be a great adrenaline rush to do it! Please let me know if you have any other questions. I am glad you enjoyed reading Darwin Australia Vacations.

  9. Daniella

    Darwin is the perfect place for our next holiday. My son has always dreamed of watching crocodiles from a cage. I will show him this article; I know he is going to get very excited about this trip. Just a question. Isn’t a bit dangerous to go in this cage? I mean, is it safe? It’s quite frightening. Also, is it for everyone? Can small children participate?

    Sorry for all these questions, but the family include young kids too:)

    Thank you very much!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It is completely safe to do the cage and see the crocs. It can be for anyone who is able to swim as you will also be in water. So, I am thinking that smaller kids might not be able to participate in this. I know my son would love to do this cage dive. Heck, it is exciting! Thanks for reading about Darwin Australia Vacations.

  10. Montana

    Your site has such great information!
    This place also interests me – especially the Crocodiles!
    Which would you recommend for families between Darwin and Tasmania?

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Boy, they are both so different, yet both great for families. So, it would really be a personal preference for you. I would tend to lean towards Tasmania though…but for no specific reason 🙂 Just my personal preference.

  11. Phil

    Hi – thanks for the review on Darwin.
    Approximately how large is darwin across and how long walking would it take you to get to all of the sites in the tour guides?
    How close is Berry Springs to Darwin? is it walkable or would you be able to use public transport to get there? How many locals go to Berry Springs daily? does it get crowded on the weekend?
    The sunset harbour cruise sounds idyllic, must look that up when i get there.
    It does sound like an amazing place to visit.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hmmm, I am going to try and answer most of your questions, as some I really don’t know the answer to…I will admit that! Darwin is spread out at 1221 square miles. However, you can walk thru all of the main part of town where the restaurants, shops and hotels are easily. Boy, getting to all the suggestions is really something I cannot gauge. Really depends on mode of transportation, how long you want to spend there, that sort of thing. Berry Springs can get crowded on the weekend. I would arrive early. I cannot really say how many locals go to Berry Springs. I imagine that a lot of tourists frequent it. Thanks for all the great questions and for visiting Darwin Australia Vacations.

  12. Rob

    Leahrae, you have to stop teasing me when it comes vacations like this. Australia is the ONE place I’ve always want to see! It’s so beautiful there. I wish I could go right now. It is on my bucket list for sure.I have two dilemmas. The first one is what time of the year to go and for how long. The other is being on a plane for that long. Do you know how long it is? But it won’t stop me from getting there! Thanks 🙂

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Well, it really depends on where you are flying from. For me, from Florida, it would be about 21 hours …. yikes … but then I have flown to the Canary Islands where it has taken just as long, and so worth it! I would definitely do at least two weeks there. Thanks for stopping by beach travel destinations.

  13. Sammy

    Hi Leahrae, I was looking for some information on the north of Australia when I found your article. It’s a real one-stop place for everything you need to know about that part of Australia.
    So far, I have only been to Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, and everybody I met there said that I should definitely visit Darwin as well. So it’s on my list of must-see destinations.
    Now I have the idea of getting around just using public transport. I want to fly to Sydney and then continue north from there. You mentioned that there is a train connection. I can imagine it will take quite some time to get there but do you think it will be worthwhile? Is there great scenery?
    Also, I quite like the idea of getting around by bike within Darwin. Do you think it’s possible to visit Berry Springs Nature Park and Crocodylus Park by bike or is it too far away?
    I look forward to your reply.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Sammy, The train would be very scenic and well worth it if you want to spend the time doing that. I would not ride a bike to Berry Springs, that will be a bit of a distance on a bike. Crocodylus Park can most definitely rode to by bike, as that will not be far at all, even if your hotel is on the beach (Crocodylus is more inland). I would take a taxi or other transportation to Berry Springs. I hope I answered your questions, and thank you for stopping by Darwin Australia Vacations.

  14. Lane Onson

    Oh, you vixen. Australia is a place that I’d love to visit. I want to cruise over there, take a bit of a land vacation, and cruise back. I wanted to work over there ’cause Australia is 6 months ahead of America in the cuisine and I have a degree in Restaurant Management. I’m afraid of the wildlife, though.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I don’t really think you have to worry about the wildlife too much really. I do believe that they keep them crocs in check 🙂 Of course you will always want to be aware of your surroundings no matter where you are. What a wonderful thing to do, work and play in Australia! Thanks for stopping by and checking out Darwin Australia Vacations!


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