21 Jul 2017
WATCH: Jump on the Darwin City Explorer bus with the G’DAY crew and get a taste of what’s to see.
Late April until October brings the dry season’s perfect weather. Holiday parks are packed with peak season adventurers making their way from Broome toward Lake Kununurra, Darwin and back again. The Top End of Australia’s Northern Territory is beautiful no matter what time of year you go but there’s something special about winter. Darwin is a beautiful city surrounded by a sparkling blue harbor – begging to be explored.
There’s no doubt about it, Darwin has balls. Northern Territory’s capital and gateway to Kakadu National Park endured bombing during WWII, and on Christmas Eve 1974, the city was devastated by the relentless power of Cyclone Tracy. Unless you were there, it’s difficult to imagine what those tragedies were like, but the city is devoted to keeping memories alive. The former frontier outpost is a mecca of top-class museums and experiences devoted to war and aviation history.
Pic: Defense of Darwin Museum.
“Those beaches look inviting,” our Darwin City Explorer guide warns.
“But the vast majority of people who get attacked by crocodiles don’t get away.”
For an up-close-and-personal ‘encounter’ with one of the region’s saltwater crocs, do it within the safety of a tour.
A less adrenaline-packed option is the NT Museum where ‘Sweetheart’ is on display. The long-departed large male estuarine crocodile gained notoriety in the 1970s for attacking dinghies at a popular fishing spot. The museum has a fantastic display of native taxidermy animals and a chilling, interactive and informative exhibition dedicated to Cyclone Tracy.
Darwin is known for its laid-back, tropical lifestyle, its sense of humour (just take a look at the local newspaper’s headlines) and hot temperatures. It is possible to take a dip – if you know where to go. Stokes Hill Wharf is home to the Darwin Waterfront development Wave Lagoon, which has a wave pool and free swimming lagoon. It’s croc and stinger free and lifeguards are on hand to make sure tourists and locals are safe. The wharf is also a great place to grab a bite to eat, cast a line for Spanish mackerel and Jewfish (in designated places) and take a boat tour or sunset cruise.
Pic: George Borwn Darwin Botanic Gardens. Credit: Shaana McNaught.
There’s plenty of greenery to explore in and around Darwin. Bicentennial Park, George Brown Botanic Gardens, Gardens Park Golf Link and Charles Darwin National Park are beautiful.
Fannie Bay is also worth a visit. You could spend a whole day exploring the nature walks, Darwin Military Museum, Defense of Darwin Museum, and Qantas Hangar (the ultimate bloke’s shed). The shed, built in 1934, is packed with classic cars, antique machinery, motorcycles and tools. Look closely and you’ll see bullet holes in the walls – a reminder of 1942.
Pic: Darwin Military Museum. Credit: Tourism NT.
Make sure you drop in to the Outback Bakery when you’re in Fannie Bay. The baked goods are something special.
Squeeze in a bit of time for shopping and eating at one of Darwin’s many markets. Mindil Beach Sunset Market (Thursdays 5pm to 10pm and Sundays 4pm to 9pm) has a great atmosphere, Parap Village Markets (Saturdays 8am to 2pm) are great for souvenirs and food (lush popsicles are great on a hot day).
Pic: Parap Markets. Credit: Tourism NT.
Pic: Mindil Beach Markets. Credit: Tourism NT.
Pic: Mindil Beach. Credit: Tourism NT.
When you’ve finished exploring the delights of the city, head to Kakadu National Park (171 kilometres south east of Darwin) and Litchfield National Park (100 kilometres south west of Darwin). Both parks are packed with native flora and fauna, unforgettable scenery and jaw-dropping photo opportunities.
DARWIN CITY EXPLORER
How much of Darwin can you see in five hours? A lot – if you’re in the right hands.
Pic: Darwin Military Museum.
Board the air-conditioned Darwin City Explorer bus (it picks you up at Discovery Parks - Darwin) and let your knowledgeable guide take you to the WWII Oil Storage Tunnels (you’ll feel a bit like Indiana Jones down there), Darwin Military Museum, the NT Museum and Art Gallery, Fannie Bay Gaol (see where hangings took place – spooky), the antique-packed Qantas Hangar, Parap Markets and the Aviation Heritage Centre (plane-lover’s heaven).
Pic: Fannie Bay Gaol.
For history buffs, this is an information-filled tour. On 19 February 1942, the largest single foreign attack on Australia took place and the short film screened at the Darwin Military Museum is as close as you’ll get to experiencing it yourself. There’s a stop-off for lunch at Fannie Bay and plenty of time to explore each attraction.
Pic: Qantas Hangar.
If you’re only in Darwin for a day or two, this is a great way to familiarise yourself with your surroundings. Departs daily at 9am, $110/adult, $60/child.
CAPE ADIEU HARBOUR CRUISES
It’s sunset, you’re on a boat on the Timor Sea, glass of sparkling wine in hand and a plate of gulf banana prawns and Coffin Bay oysters in front of you. Yes, it’s a little slice of Darwin heaven. Cape Adieu Dinner Cruises take place on a 22-metre traditional fishing ketch and there’s enough room for 50 passengers over three decks. Manager Matt Mitchell and the team make sure your glass and belly are full (there are four courses to get through).
Credit: Cape Adieu Harbour Cruises.
The company is owned and operated by NT commercial fishermen, which means the menu specialises in wild-caught local seafood. The pan-fried white salmon is out of this world. There’s a prawn platter or cruise-only option if you want the views but not the bulging belly.
The tours leave from Stokes Hill Wharf at 5.10pm and return at 8pm. Best of all, it’s BYO. Prices start at $55/adult, $30/child (cruise only).
WATCH: See the beautiful sunset of Darwin Harbour aboard the Cape Adieu Dinner Cruise.
Click here to find out more about Discovery Parks – Darwin
This travel feature was published in G’DAY Magazine.
Header image of Darwin Harbour. Credit: Tourism NT.