What springs to mind when you think of Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia? The heat is probably high up on your list, closely followed by crocodiles.
Well, the heat plays such a big part in your average day in Darwin that they’ve even coined a phrase about it. In good ol’ Aussie vernacular, ‘going troppo’ is when people start to go a little crazy when the heat intensifies during the build up to the rainy season.
So, whilst I’m not being totally accurate in my usage of this phrase I wanted to emphasise how much I enjoyed my time in the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory.
Here are a few not-to-be missed suggestions to get you started.
A Stroll Down Town
Take a slow stroll down town in the CBD area. I say slow because nothing can be done quickly in the heat. It’s also not a big place and so it won’t take long to explore the centre anyway. Darwin still manages to have a bustling feel with a selection of shops, cafes and small art galleries. However, look a bit closer and you will notice a few quintessentially older Australian buildings with their corrugated rooves and wide verandas. These have survived the destructive cyclone of 1974 (unlike the poor old city hall building pictured below!)
When the heat is on you do not necessarily want a hot coffee, but a caffeine fix is often nonetheless needed. In the heart of the CBD the cute little Alley Cats Café is tucked away off of Mitchell Street and serves a fabulous cold drip coffee. Perfect to team up with one of their eye-boggling beautiful cakes on display, or simply enjoyed in the shade of their outdoor seating.
Mindil Beach Sunset And Night Markets
There is nothing more soothing than watching the sun set into the ocean. Darwin has you covered on this front. I happily sat on soft sand as the beach became bathed in a beautiful orange glow. Many other fellow travellers and locals sat in groups to witness the simplistic beauty of the sunset over the Indian Ocean.
During the winter months the sunset is complimented by the night market held at Mindil Beach on a Thursday and Sunday each week from April to the end of October. A huge array of stalls greet you along with a wave of vibrant music, food trucks, dancing and entertainment. It’s a great place to wander, people watch and take your pick at the endless choice of food on offer.
The Museum And Art Gallery of the NT
This beautiful, modern museum is well worth a visit. I really enjoyed the vibrant Aboriginal art works in the gallery and coming face to face with a famous crocodile called Sweetheart. However, most striking for me was the information about Cyclone Tracy, which destroyed more than 70% of the city on Christmas Day in 1974. A sobering and at times harrowing exhibition, it certainly meant that I viewed the city in a whole new light. Not to be missed.
The State Library of NT
It may seem a little odd to you but I love seeking out a library on my travels. They are often the most beautiful buildings, with access to so much local history and culture. The State Library of the Northern Territory is no exception. It can be found in the Parliament Building on the corner of Bennett and Mitchell Street and is such an imposing place that you can take part in a tour to find out more about it. There is also a lovely little café on the ground floor with an outside patio overlooking the turquoise blue ocean. A perfect setting to enjoy a tranquil cup of coffee.
My overall positive impression of Darwin was certainly helped by the huge array of trees in the down town area. This may sound strange to you, however, I really enjoy a green city space. I loved the variety of the trees, ranging from the palm tree to the beautiful banyan trees in the city’s parks. A great place for a stroll is through Esplanade Park. The park overlooks the Indian Ocean and you can spot impressive looking naval vessels on the horizon from the nearby base.
Living up to an Aussie stereotype that we all love to fear, Darwin’s waters are teeming with little (and not so little) critters that will cause you harm should you go for a swim. Box jelly fish and crocodiles can be found off-shore, so it’s best to stick to designated safe swimming spots. Luckily, Darwin has a beautiful lagoon area down at the city’s Waterfront, where you can take a dip. Surrounded by verdant green lawns, palm trees and a selection of great bars and restaurants, this area is a real pleasure to spend a lazy afternoon in before sipping a cold drink as the sun sets.
For the kids – or the energetic big-kids – there is a purpose built wave pool at The Waterfront, too. For just a few dollars you can spend hours jumping the waves in a safe environment.
Outdoor Deckchair Cinema
You can sometimes be forgiven for feeling like you spend too long in air-conditioned buildings in a hot climate such as Darwin. So the thought of sitting in a deckchair on a balmy evening to watch a movie under the stars is very appealing. The Deckchair Cinema runs from April until November and can be found close to The Waterfront Precint. I loved the fact that cushions and blankets were provided with your deckchair. Beautiful fairy lights twinkled from the trees by the wonderfully stocked bar. I enjoyed a beer to accompany some Japanese food I bought from a food stall on the premises.
A Cracking Night Out
Perhaps it’s the warm nights that make the beer taste better, but it’s no secret that Darwin knows how to party. For a small place it certainly packs a punch on the dance floor. You do not have to walk far on Mitchell Street to find a bar or a club heaving with internationals and locals alike. Shenanigans and Monsoons are packed almost nightly.
However, if that’s not really your scene then there was also a pleasing range of live music on offer in some of the smaller bars such as The Tap.
Yes, you read that right. There are several options available to you should you wish to view saltwater(?) crocodiles up close. First up is Crocosaurus Cove, which is conveniently located in the middle of the city centre. Here you can opt to climb into a cage to ‘swim’ with a crocodile, handle baby crocodiles and learn about all kinds of other creatures.
For those wishing to view crocodiles in a bit more of a natural setting you can head out to the Adelaide River. Here you will learn about the protected saltwater crocodile and witness a feeding session.
Escaping The City
When you think that you’ve exhausted all that Darwin has to offer you must remember that the city is on the doorstep of some of Australia’s most beautiful national parks. Litchfield National Park is only 130km away and can be enjoyed on trips running from one to up to three days. To save you hiring a car, there are many tour operators that take visitors out to this beautiful are Read all about the Litchfield day trip that you’d be a fool to miss and see why I would recommend this stunning area to anyone.
Where To Stay
Along Mitchell Street in the city centre is where you will find an abundance of backpacker hostels. Most of these have a somewhat dubious reputation of being ‘lively and sociable’ places with their own bars within the hostel. I was keen to ensure a better nights’ sleep but not lose out on location, so opted for the YHA, just a five minute walk further along the street. I shared a six bed dorm with its own ensuite bathroom. The hostel had free wifi, a swimming pool and free pancakes for guests three mornings a week. Bonus!
When To Go
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post – and indeed referenced throughout – Darwin can get a little hot and steamy. The dry winter season is your best time to schedule a visit, which roughly runs from April to October. During the wet season the humidity is more intense and there is a chance you may get soaked by a tropical storm or two!
Have you ever visited Darwin? What was your favourite thing to do in the capital of the Northern Territory? If I’ve missed something out then let me know! Share your experiences in the comments.
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