Darwin is Australia’s only tropical capital city. It is the capital and chief port of the Northern Territory of Australia. It is situated on a low peninsula northeast to its harbor, Port Darwin looking to the Timor Sea. Chairs and tables spill out of street-side restaurants and bars, innovative museums celebrate the city’s past, and galleries showcase the region’s rich Indigenous art. Darwin has a cosmopolitan mix with more than 50 nationalities represented. The famous national parks of Kakadu and Litchfield are only a few hours’ drive away, and the unique Tiwi Islands are a boat-ride away.Darwin Australia Vacations will include balmy nights, colorful characters and outdoor adventures. You’ll find strong Aboriginal cultures here, and there is an array of languages spoken in the streets. With that comes vibrant Aboriginal art in the galleries and museums. With Darwin being in close proximity to Asia, you’ll also find strong Asian influences, especially in the food and night markets. For a complete list of Darwin beaches, << Click Here >>.
Weather (When to Go)
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.
Entry & Exit Formalities
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).
Getting To Darwin
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.
Getting Around Darwin
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.
Things to Do
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 Cruises, Adelaide 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 birds. The 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.
Best Rated Area Restaurants
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$$$$ Char Restaurant
Beneath an old elevated house by the sea, Char Restaurant is where Darwin’s power brokers dine. The steak-and-seafood-focused menu includes the standout numus of pickled local fish and scallops with lime and coconut cream (a popular dish in the Northern Territory). Wonderful little sides and an extensive wine list seal the deal. For more information call 08 8981 4544, or visit them on the web at Char Restaurant.
$$ – $$$ The Pearl Darwin
Pretty as a picture with its striped wallpaper and ornate mirrors, The Pearl is worth seeking out for elegant cocktails and Frenchified Australian food. À la carte and prix fixe menus offer the likes of trout rillettes and lobster tortellini with scallops on cauliflower purée. For more information call 04 2372 5885, or visit them on the web at The Pearl Darwin.
$$$$ Pee Wee’s at the Point
Pee Wee’s offers a special dining experience: tables at the water’s edge facing the lights of the city and dishes such as kangaroo carpaccio and nut-crusted wild-caught barramundi. Time your booking to catch the sun setting over the sea – at about 6.30pm to 7pm depending on the season. For more information call 08 8981 6868, or visit them on the web at Pee Wee’s at the Point.
$$ – $$$ Moorish Cafe
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.
Best Area Hotels
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
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.