Soak up Darwin’s balmy weather and the melting pot of food and cultures in the city’s many outdoor festivals and markets. Then explore the region’s dramatic history – from World War II air raids to Cyclone Tracey – in the museums and galleries. Sail Darwin harbour at sunset, cruise next to crocodiles and bushwalk through monsoon forest. Swim in the crystal-clear waterholes of Litchfield National Park and visit the colourful communities of the Tiwi Islands. This vibrant, tropical capital has a youthful energy you’ll find hard to resist.
Five ways to discover Darwin and its surrounds:
1. At festivals, markets and on the harbour In Darwin, the action happens outside – in markets, parks, by the beach or on boats. You can join the locals with a crate and a plate of sizzling satay at The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets from May to October. Or watch them build boats out of beer or soft drink cans at the annual Darwin Beer Can Regatta in July. At the Deckchair Cinema from April to November you can watch movies under a canopy of stars with a drink from the bar and a picnic dinner. Soak up Darwin’s tropical weather with a harbourside dinner at Cullen Bay Marina or a sunset harbour cruise complete with a history lesson.
2. With wildlife and in tropical parklands
Cycle past orchids and bromeliads and traditional Aboriginal plants in George Brown Botanic Gardens. Swim, have a sunset barbecue and explore sacred Aboriginal sites at Casuarina Coastal Reserve. In Berry Springs Nature Park, you can spot birds in monsoon forest and fish in the crystal clear swimming holes. Get up close to fish, birds-of-prey, nocturnal animals and reptiles in the Territory Wildlife Park, a 45-minute drive from Darwin. Have a close crocodile encounter at Crocodylus Park, the Darwin Crocodile Farm or on a crocodile cruise along Darwin’s coastal fringe and rivers.
3. Hot on the heels of history
Learn more about Darwin’s rich Aboriginal heritage in the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Here you can also relive the tragic Cyclone Tracy which hit Darwin on Christmas Eve in 1974. See the Chinese Temple it nearly destroyed in Litchfield Street. Darwin endured 64 Japanese air raids in World War II, and you can watch dramatic footage of the bombings and visit the bunker where Top End defense strategy was planned at East Point Military Museum. See original B52 bomber planes at the Aviation Heritage Centre and a network of walking trails leading to World War II oil tunnels around the Wharf Precinct. In Myilly Point Historical Precinct you can see some of the few surviving cottages designed by architect B.C.G Burnett in the colonial style popular before World War II.
4. Under the waterfalls of Litchfield National Park
Make time for a day trip to the waterfalls and plunge pools, wildlife and birdlife, ranges and rainforest of Litchfield National Park, a one-and-a-half hour drive from Darwin. Swim in the crystal-clear swimming hole at the base of Florence Falls and bush-walk through monsoon rain-forest to Walker Creek. Picnic next to roosting fruit bats at Wangi Falls and see sweeping valley views at Tolmer Falls. Take a wildlife cruise on the Reynolds River, part of a working cattle station. Explore this Tarzan landscape with traditional Aboriginal owners the Wagait people or peer into a pastoral past in the ruins of Blyth Homestead.
5. On a trip to the Tiwi Islands
Join in the excitement of the Tiwi Islands Grand Football Final, held every March in Nguiu. Browse and buy Tiwi art, distinctive for its strong design, decorative features and vivid colours. Take billy tea and damper tea with Tiwi ladies as they demonstrate traditional weaving and painting. Then watch them perform a traditional dance and a smoking ceremony to clear bad spirits. Catch big barramundi on a fishing tour on the Tiwi coast. You’ll find a warm welcome and a lush landscape of rainforest, beaches and rock pools on Melville and Bathurst Islands, together known as the Tiwi Islands. Explore them on a day or overnight tour, traveling a 20-minute flight or two-hour ferry from Darwin.