Tropical Darwin: Australia’s Waterfront City

The Northern Territory capital looks towards Asia across the Timor Sea, is surrounded by palms and National Parks, and has a deep indigenous culture ready to be discovered.

The denizens of Darwin spend a lot of time outdoors, as you would in such a year-round balmy climate, and with art galleries, great food options and plentiful beaches nearby, it’s a laid-back city that’s perfect for grown-up exploration.

Stroll around, perhaps fortified by a breakfast from one of Darwin’s cool cafes like The Trader (and probably wearing shorts) you’ll find an immense number of things to do. Much of Darwin’s visitor attractions are along its waterfront, studded with pavement restaurants, shops and parkland.

After shopping awhile you can swim in the lagoon, fish off the wharf – then dine out while watching yachts bob in the harbour. There’s history here too, in waterfront mansions and historic buildings, interpreted in walking trails and public artworks.

The tourist trail in Darwin is worth following, to get the city’s special flavour. You’ll see Mitchell Street’s buzzing restaurants and cafes, nose into St Mary’s Cathedral, see the World War II oil storage tunnels, Government House and Parliament House and after all that, relax in the waterfront Bicentennial Park.

Darwin’s art and culture

Darwin places a premium on arts and culture. The Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is free to enter and a great storehouse, including European artefacts and a fine Aboriginal art collection with island carvings, ‘dot’ and bark paintings.

The Maritime Gallery features applied art from the island cultures – and poignantly, a Vietnamese refugee boat. Kids will love the stuffed animals including Sweetheart: a huge saltwater crocodile.

Heading to the dynamic district of Parap, you’ll find contemporary and Aboriginal galleries in arts spaces that show artists of all kinds, plus every Saturday there’s a fabulous market. Darwin is a youthful, affluent and cosmopolitan city: there are over 50 nationalities living here. But while enjoying the benefits of mining and tourism, there remains a laid-back atmosphere.

A natural city

Of course, most visitors leap from Darwin to the famous national parks and beauty spots: Kakadu, Litchfield and Tiwi Islands: not far from Darwin’s centre you’ll find crocodiles on the Adelaide River where you can go on a jumping crocs cruise. You can also swim safely beneath waterfalls at croc-free Litchfield National Park, so you’ll find that nature is always nearby.

After a day’s sightseeing, join Darwin on Mindil Beach market, a great place to see the sunset, browse the arts and crafts stalls. You can try paw-paw salads from Thailand and food from all over Asia, and eat it on the beach with a picnic rug and a bottle of wine.

Talking of eating and drinking, there’s a huge choice in Darwin. You can have everything from fish and chips on Stokes Hill Wharf and noodles to fine dining at Pee Wee’s at the Point, Hanuman or Char. For a place close to the wild, Darwin has it all.

Highlights

• Go to Mindil Beach, and browse the famous market, then choose from a variety of cuisines for dinner, from a Thai to Indian, and Chinese to Brazilian

• Visit the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, the soul of Darwin, showcasing more than 1.2 million natural wonders and 30,000 pieces of art

• Never been to a music festival? Try rocking under the stars at Darwin’s Bass in the Grass, held each May

• Sail Darwin Harbour and see the city from the sea. You can cruise at sunset, have dinner, or even charter a boat yourself. If you’re fishing, you might catch barramundi, jewfish and golden snapper

• Visit Cullen Bay Marina and take a heritage walk round the wharf, then marvel at the yachts moored there

The Best Ways To Explore

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