Never Been to Darwin? Here’s A Visual Guide to Why You Need to get to the Top End ASAP

12 May 2017
Read Time: 8.2 mins

Darwin might be the gateway to the enigmatic Top End, but the capital of the NT is often overlooked for landscapes further afield. It’s not all about Kakadu and the Red Centre, as I found out on a recent whirlwind tour up north. Darwin is a vibrant, eclectic city in its own right.

tolmer falls litchfield national park Following the wet season, Tolmer Falls in Litchfield National Park flows faster and stronger than any other time of year. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)
hikers above waterfall litchfield national park Taking in the serenity above a waterfall in Litchfield National Park. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

National Parks

Without a doubt the main reason to visit the Top End is its natural beauty. Less than a two hour drive from Darwin is the seriously incredible wilderness of Litchfield National Park. Join the locals for a dip at Buley Rockhole or Florence Falls, do the circuit walk at Tolmer Falls or take in beautiful Wangi Falls. Further afield you’ll find the unwavering beauty of Kakadu, too.

Fog Dam conservation area water lilies below trees Fog Dam, just a 45-minute drive from Darwin, is a beautiful natural wetland, where boardwalks allow visitors to weave through the trees to spot flora and fauna. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

Closer to town, however, Fog Dam Conservation Area provides a glimpse at the often forgotten, yet very common wetlands that grace the Top End. You’ll see an incredible amount of birdlife, flora, and maybe even a saltwater croc or two!

Girl walking into Darwin Ski club with alfresco seating The Darwin Ski Club is the ideal place for a post museum drink and bite to eat, overlooking the azure waters of Fannie Bay. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

Outdoor Pubs

Darwin’s dry season (May to August) is the perfect time to be outdoors – all of the time. Along the waterfront in Fannie Bay, you’ll find The Darwin Ski Club, the Darwin Trailer Boat Club and the Darwin Sailing Club, all providing the ultimate spot for a tipple with water views. Along the waterfront in Darwin Harbour there are also a few restaurants, pubs and nice bars where you can sit outside with the breeze in your hair.

Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory facade The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is an impressive building overlooking the water at Fannie Bay. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

History, Art and Politics

The Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory is all rolled into one comprehensive but not overwhelming attraction. Sidle up alongside Sweetheart, who was until recently the largest crocodile caught in the Northern Territory, explore the harrowing Cyclone Tracey exhibit, and wander through the very well curated art galleries of both local indigenous and some international art. When you’re finished grab a bit to eat on the deck, or walk across the car park to the Darwin Ski Club for a beer on the grass.

Legislative Assembly Darwin The Legislative Assembly and Library in the centre of town is an impressive cyclone-proof building and study in tropical architecture. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

In the centre of town, you’ll find the intriguing cyclone-proof buildings of the Supreme Court and the combined Legislative Assembly and state Library, which are worth a visit too. If realistic history is more up your alley, head to the WWII Oil Storage Tunnels, where you can enter the dark, damp environment used to store oil and fuel following the bombing of fuel storage tanks in 1942.

Oil storage tunnel Darwin The WWII Oil Storage Tunnels are a must see when in Darwin for a unique history experience. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)
Laneway Specialty Coffee Parap Darwin Laneway Specialty Coffee in Parap serves up delicious brekky and brunch options in a cool, industrial-inspired space. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

Local Eats

Darwin might be big, but for its size it has some very noteworthy eateries. For coffee, head to Laneway Specialty Coffee in Parap, and fresh baked goods and breakfast can be found on the Stuart Highway at SweetBrew.

Clothing stall at Nightcliff Markets Darwin The Nighcliff Markets, on each Sunday morning are filled with everything from international cuisine to local handmade crafts and clothing. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

On Sundays head to Nightcliff for the markets, which are filled with local arts and crafts as well as a decent selection of food stalls. With the weather better than good in the dry season, you have to try Cucina Sotto Le Stelle, an Italian food truck serving up wood fired pizza in a park in Nightcliff. BYO bottle of wine and picnic rug in case the tables are all taken. 

Cucina Sotto Le Stelle pizza food truck darwin Cucina Sotto Le Stelle is a popular food truck serving up pizza with a distinct Italian flare, complete with red and white checkered table cloths and fairy lights. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)
Darwin harbour waterfront Darwin's waterfront is where you'll find locals and tourists alike cooling off in the midday sun. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

Changing Coastline

Darwin’s coastline is surprisingly diverse and unique. The waterfront is a popular spot with restaurants, a wave pool and swimming area, where you’ll find locals and tourists cooling off in the midday heat. Further along the coast however, tropical gardens hug the top of cliffs before brilliant marbled red and white rock give way to the clear blue water at Fannie Bay and East Point Reserve. 

rock formations along water East Point Reserve Darwin Sunrise and sunset, with soft golden light, are the best time to enjoy the rich rock colours and formations along East Point Reserve and Fannie Bay. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)
couple jumping on beach infront of sunset in darwin Darwin is renowned for its vibrant sunsets and Fannie Bay is one of the best places to sit back and enjoy one. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals.


Vicki Fletcher

A writer and photographer for Flight Centre, Vicki loves road trips down unknown tracks, hiking into mountain ranges, following locals to the best food in town, and spending long afternoons people watching in city squares. She's written for publications across Australia and Europe. Top travel tip: always look up. Follow Vicki on Instagram @vickijanefletcher.