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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.