Asia meets Oz in this city, with special food, culture and a charm of its own.
With so many amazing Australian destinations to explore, it is easy to forget about Darwin – but overlooking this diverse and quirky city would do it an injustice.
Much closer to Indonesia than it is to Sydney, Darwin’s individuality is intoxicating. Its Asian flavour combines with a sultry, tropical vibe, making it a unique destination to enjoy.
All this becomes obvious on a hot and heady night out. Foodies will love the Mindil Beach Sunset Market, where most of the food stalls cook up Asian dishes (think Malaysian laksa and fish curries), while the streets leading from the waterfront are lined with restaurants specialising in everything from Chinese cuisine to Asian fusion.
Head to Hanuman for soft shelled crab served with tamarind sauce, or to Oishi-Ya for spicy ramen. At Skycity Darwin, Dragon Court serves elegant dishes such as cumin lamb and beef tenderloin with black pepper sauce, all washed down with the city’s most extensive tea menu.
After dinner, Darwin likes to party in a laidback style and there are cool bars aplenty. Many serve dozens of different beers (the drink of choice in the tropical heat). Wisdom has a shady beer garden and live music seven nights a week, or you could enjoy a cocktail at the Pearl, with its vintage mirrors and post-industrial chic. The measures are generous and even Ernest might struggle to tackle his namesake Smoking Hemingway daiquiri.
In the dry season, Darwin harbour is the place to hang out, with the Deckchair Cinema set up to screen blockbusters under the stars. There is culture year-round in Darwin’s art galleries. Get to know indigenous Australian art at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, then seek out the many hip small galleries in town. You’ll also find work by Aboriginal artists on display at Mbantua Fine Art Gallery and Aboriginal Fine Arts: if you buy a piece, you will have a great souvenir to take home or to give to a friend as a present.
HEADING OUT OF THE CITY
Darwin is a great starting point to explore Australia’s ‘Top End’. South of the city is Litchfield National Park, a favourite for a plunge-pool dip. Culture fans and beach lovers alike can take a boat to the Tiwi Islands – the ‘Islands of Smiles’ – to explore indigenous art and idyllic white sand. Then, take in Katherine, where tropics meet Outback. Watch for cockatoos and parrots, and cruise along the Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge. Spectacular Kakadu National Park deserves a stay of several days.