A little ashamed to admit that Darwin was not on my travel bucket list pre Covid! But what a fabulous and adventurous surprise package she was! Our getaway to the top end came about to visit our godson, a talented cricketer, who is playing in the Darwin Cricket league which run over Winter due to the heat and wet weather in Summer!
We hired a car for the duration of our stay which we collected at the airport. It was an easy drive to the city and to find our hotel. We used the car most days to explore the area and for day trips out of town so was well worth the cost.
We booked our getaway quite late so were limited with accommodation options however we were very happy with the Oaks Elan Apartments. We paid for a Harbour View room and were thrilled with our corner room which provided 180 degree views of Darwin Harbour and City and glimpses of the sunset behind the neighboring apartment building. If you love a swim in warm weather make sure you choose a property with a pool to cool down as a dip in the ocean is not a recommended option.
Our first day was spent watching our godson play cricket which just happened to be opposite the infamous Mindil Beach. This area has amazing markets twice a week (more on those later), but as the sun was setting on cricket the sky colours lured us to the beach to witness one of the most amazing sunset lights shows I have ever seen! We were the only people on the beach watching this amazing sight and vowed to return on market night to see it again.
With perfect 30 degree weather we spent the next few days exploring Darwin City and close surrounds. We head to the beautiful Waterfront precinct near Darwin Harbour for a swim. Here you find a man made lagoon protected by a seawall which was built to keep the Top Ends deadly critters out! (Crocodile and Box Jelly fish). Sadly, swimming at the beach is not recommended ever in the Top End. We had a fabulous day swimming and sunning ourselves, enjoying the live music from the Beach Club. Within the Waterfront precinct is the Beach Club- think cocktails, and plenty of Instagram able nooks- tepee’s, giant deck chairs, love seats etc. There is an inflatable Water playground, a wave pool and the whole area is surrounded by restaurants, bars and shops. A great relaxing/entertaining day out for all.
Sunday afternoons everyone heads to Darwin Ski Club for sundowner drinks and buckets of prawns when in season. You should reserve a table here. The sunset was insanely beautiful, probably the best I have seen in my life with an amazing array of colours!
Another ‘surprise’ enjoyable visit for me was Crocosaurus Cove. I have a great fear of crocodiles but felt as a travel agent I should check the place out. There are 100 or so crocs right in the heart of the city and Tourist area. Many are rescues that would not have survived in the wild due to their injuries. Here you can feed, hold and learn about crocs and for the very brave adrenaline junkies you can swim in ‘the Cage of Death’ alongside a giant crocodile. There is an underwater walkway to view them from below which was fascinating to see them at such close range!
There is fabulous street art all around the CBD and an art trail you can follow to see them all. Be sure to visit to the Indigenous art galleries also. The artworks are incredible.
An absolute must in Darwin is a visit to the Mindil Beach Markets which are on Thursdays and Sundays (Thursday is the bigger/better market). These start at 4pm and have arts and crafts for sale, plus food trucks from every nationality you can imagine! Everything is so delicious so be sure to go with an empty stomach so you eat your way around the market! As the sunset nears everyone moves on to the beach and for a minute you could think you are in Bali….without the sandy foot massages. Mindil Markets do not sell alcohol but you are allowed to byo, which is a delightful way to enjoy the magnificent sunset. It was seriously beautiful and so many shades of pink, orange and red constantly changing over a 45 minute period.
Adventure awaits out of Darwin and a Jumping Croc Cruise on Adelaide River is sure to give an adrenaline rush! As previously mentioned, my fear of crocodiles made me extremely anxious about this open boat cruise however my anxiety was soon put to ease as the guides were very professional and knew the crocodiles well, as these reptiles are very territorial. We gasped on many occasions as the 5-6 metre prehistoric reptiles leapt out of the water to chomp the meat on offer, only a short distance from us. I did not feel unsafe at any point and actually enjoyed the experience! Be sure to do this with a reputable company as there are many on offer that may not be as professional and safe.
Another must do day trip from Darwin is to Litchfield National Park. It is 1.5 hours easy drive from Darwin to reach the National Park. Our first visit was the giant termite mounds- which are giant!!! Then you can head to the Falls of your choice. Be sure to research which falls will suit you as many involve lengthy walks on uneven ground, or steep stairs. Some can also be closed for swimming due water levels and crocodile sightings!!!
We visit the beautiful Florence Falls which can be accessed by a 1.7km paved hike or the steep 135 step access. The falls and waterhole were stunning with many tourists swimming in the refreshing water. We jumped in to join the throng of Aussies and swam under the thundering waterfall which was an exhilarating experience!
Our next stop was the huge and beautiful Wangi Falls. You can drive very close to these falls, and it is flat access so is popular with coach tours. The falls were closed for swimming due to water levels, so we did the loop hike up and around the falls. The view was amazing but at 34 degrees and steep it was a little tough going!
We rewarded ourselves with a well-deserved refreshment stop at Berry Springs Tavern on the way home. This was the quintessential Aussie outback tavern in looks but the menu and service were amazing were top notch. Well worth the visit!
We discovered many great dining venues in Darwin. Sadly, they are short staffed due to no international back packers so you need to book early to ensure you can get into the venue of your choice. Our most memorable meal was at Cathy’s Place at the stunning Cullen Bay Marina. We were forewarned that ‘Cathy’ is a quite a character (a tad bossy). Fortunately, her ‘recommendations’ Gigantic Mud crab and Red Throat Emperor fish were delicious. Such a fun night. Other great eats were Tim’s Surf n Turf (Hawaiian feel), Moorish (A fabulous tapas restaurant) and Sapphires (great Breakfasts and late night cocktails).
The nightlife in Darwin is very similar to Bali with open air bars and restaurants. All were full and happening every night with many international tourists who are (happily) stuck here due to covid or who just don’t want to leave!
There are e-scooters and e-bikes located randomly around Darwin CBD, Waterfront and Cullen Bay. These are a great and fun way to explore the city and get from place to place if you want to see the sights and the characters along the way. You can buy passes which are quite inexpensive and give 90 minutes scoot er time per day. This is all done online via smart phones.
My hubby is an avid fisherman so booked a days fishing charter from Dundee Beach located 2 hours from Darwin. They caught and released Giant Trevalli, Barramundi, cod and a small shark!
Darwin museum is well worth the visit. Along with interesting history about the city there is an area dedicated to the tragic events of Cyclone Tracey. It is sad but fascinating to read peoples firsthand experiences and see the images of the destruction.
The museum is also home to the remains of Sweetheart a rogue male crocodile who was extremely aggressive and used to attack outboard motors all the time! He was a whopping 5.1m and 780kg when he was captured in 1979 but sadly died during the attempted relocation.
I was truly blown away with what a great destination Darwin was. I had always thought of it as a gateway to Kakadu and Katherine only, rather than a holiday destination itself, but I have been converted. I loved every bit of this holiday; my only struggle was not being able to swim at the beautiful beaches (you CAN still walk and sit on the beach). I would highly recommend a visit to this vibrant, multi-cultural, and interesting destination!
CU in the NT! #cuinthent