Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory state. Despite this grand title, the centre is practically a few streets long and has the vibe of the Magaluf strip when it hits night time. The pubs become bustling with plastered backpackers and it’s more like an 18-30’s holiday with a tropical beach town facade…We can thank tourism for this. However, this doesn’t mean it is short of some fantastic, local activities.
With temperatures soaring to an average of 34 degrees celsius in its summer months and rarely dipping below 19 degrees in winter, Darwin’s weather forecast is sheer bliss all year round for any sun seeking holidaymakers. Why not try cooling off at the man-made beach and esplanade? There are a number of quaint cafes, restaurants and shops surrounding this area, as well as a few trendy bars where you can grab a drink or two in the evening. The esplanade is also home to a floating water park known as ‘Big Buoy’ which is great for anyone travelling with children or if you’re just a big kid at heart. We decided to brave this and subsequently, I ended up winding myself as I flew belly first off the giant inflatable cushion. Sexy.
Other daytime activities include Crocosaurus Cove which is legendary for its ‘Cage of Death’ where you can float in a glass tank encircled by the Northern Territory’s most infamous predators. For a less nail biting experience, there are a number of ‘Jumping Croc’ tours in which you can sail down the river Adelaide, all whilst your guide provides an informative chat about the local crocodiles. The trips are fairly short and snappy (pun intended) as they only last an hour, but they’re certainly a unique form of tourism and kept us entertained throughout. The guides will bait the animals, which causes them to propel themselves out of the water using the power from their tails.
If you’re looking to travel slightly further afield, you can visit Litchfield National Park. There you can enjoy a number of natural waterfalls and swimming holes. The most famous, known as ‘Florence Falls’, can help to cool you off during sweltering December- March days. You can also explore a few different walking trails which offer fabulous views over the valley. I would advise renting a car, since this usually works out to be fairly cheap and gives you more time to spend in the park. You could also nip and see any of the other quirky attractions on the way, such as the enormous termite mounds that are dotted around the area (cooler than they sound).
If you have a few extra days to spend up North, another famous national park worth visiting is Kakadu. There are various activities to enjoy in the largest terrestrial national park in sunny Australia. These include fishing, hiking trails, croc spotting, waterfalls and some more natural plunge pools. You can even stay overnight in the provided camping facilities or in the peaceful ‘Abinik Kakadu Resort.’
Mindil Beach Casino Resort (formally Sky City Casino) is a notorious Instagram snap opportunity when paying a visit to Darwin. The casino has an outdoor infinity pool overlooking the beach which is surrounded by palm trees blowing in the sea breeze. Idyllic for lazing around and catching some rays on one of your downtime days. Based on our visit in October 2018, there is no entry fee but you must spend a minimum of around $30 AUD on food/ drink in order to keep your sun bed for the entire day. The Pimm’s jug is a refreshing choice but I’d recommend steering clear of the bar snacks as they’re dismal in comparison to the luxury of the hotel.
After spending a day by the pool, in the evening you can head to the local ‘Mindil Beach.’ This is home to a night market which takes place every Thursday and Sunday in the drier May – October months. It’s home to a plethora of food stalls and interesting characters selling their wares. ‘Mick’s Whips’ and his demonstration was a personal favourite! You can fill up here on relatively cheap eats, all whilst listening to Mick murder karaoke down his microphone. Fabulous evening entertainment.
A vital part of Australia is its Aboriginal culture. The sad thing about Darwin is how prominent the divide is between the modern day and Indigenous Australian. If you decide to travel to the Northern Territory, you will notice that there are many Indigenous residents who are homeless, 12 times the national average to be exact. The relationship between locals and the police seems to be a sour one as inequality is rife amidst this compact town. As tourists, it is important to try and learn more about the history of the land and Darwin offers this in the form of local art galleries, tours of the national parks with an Indigenous guide and observing traditional dances on the neighbouring Tiwi Islands.
Darwin is the perfect place for a mini break, away from the city living of Sydney or Melbourne. Despite its smaller size, it has plenty of activities to keep you entertained and a week should provide enough time to explore the area fully. It boasts rural natural beauty, similar to the rest of the huge country and yes, it may be a little bit hectic when night time hits but it’s a cracking way to throw yourself into Aussie culture.