A thriving gourmet scene, waterfront beauty and heart-pumping adventure: our guide to things to do in Darwin reveals why you should make the city your next Australian escape.
You may know of Darwin’s tropical climate and reputation for thrill-seeking experiences but scratch the surface and you’ll find there is much more to this frontier city than meets the eye.
With exciting Asian-fusion cuisine at every corner, rich Aboriginal heritage and a thriving festival and arts scene, there’s a kaleidoscopic array of experiences to immerse yourself in.
Once you’ve explored Darwin itself, there’s a wealth to discover beyond. The Top End is the only place in Australia where you can dive (safely) with crocodiles, while Litchfield National Park and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park are both on the doorstep.
Read on to discover the top things to do in Darwin and why the city should be on your Aussie travel wish list.
1. You can experience the thrilling Cage of Death at Crocosaurus Cove
The ultimate experience for adrenaline seekers, the Cage of Death invites those who dare to be submerged in the water and come face-to-face with a five-metre saltwater crocodile. See this incredible predator, which has walked the Earth for 65 million years, at close range and feel the power of its bite as it’s fed before your eyes. Don’t fancy getting up close and personal with those razor-sharp teeth? You also have the option to watch an interactive show or ‘cuddle’ a snake or lizard on dry land.
2. Darwin Waterfront Precinct and Mindil Beach are on your doorstep
The jewel in Darwin’s crown is its waterfront, a resort-style destination where locals and travellers alike gather to dine, drink, splash in the man-made saltwater lagoon and head off on harbour cruises. Cocktail bars, restaurants and coffee shops are abuzz with lunch-goers or those simply looking to escape the heat with an ice cream. The kids’ playground keeps little ones entertained with boardwalks and a climbing wall, while the Deckchair Cinema is a sweet touch for balmy nights. Another gem along Darwin’s coast is Mindil Beach, a thriving waterfront hub inviting beachgoers to stroll from the sands to the green, where events, festivals and the popular Mindil Beach Sunset Market take place.
3. Litchfield National Park in just an hour’s drive away
Just an hour’s drive from the city, Litchfield National Park is a must-see when visiting Darwin. More accessible than the famous Kakadu National Park but just as beautiful, this ancient land is home to cascading waterfalls, crystalline pools for wading and swimming, and some of the Top End’s biggest termite mounds, standing at two metres apiece. Birdwatchers will be in their element here, as areas around the waterfalls are home to colourful species such as the rainbow bee-eater. You can discover the park on foot or take a 4WD tour to go off-piste.
4. It’s easy to take a day trip to UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park
Darwin is just a three-hour drive from Australia’s largest and most magical national park, where ancient history lives and breathes to this day. It’s home to some of the oldest Indigenous rock art in the world, with more than 5,000 sites telling the stories of the Bininj/Mungguy people. The landscape is diverse, from rocky gorges to wetlands, waterfalls and verdant rainforest. Needless to say, there is an abundance of wildlife here, with countless birds and exotic animals calling the park home. A cruise on the Yellow Water Billabong is the best way to spot them in their natural habitat. Secure your experience here.
5. There's a thriving food and bar scene
The Top End’s proximity to Asia means Darwin enjoys a melting pot of culinary influences, which can be experienced through everything from street food to fine dining. Mindil Beach Sunset Market has 60 stalls offering everything from native kangaroo and crocodile to world cuisine, but it’s best known for its laksa. Head to Parap Village Markets for exotic fruits and freshly
-roasted coffee. Looking for luxury? Treat yourself to chef-hatted, waterfront dining at Pee Wee’s at the Point or Char Restaurant. Darwin’s bar and craft beer scene could give Melbourne a run for its money, with hidden bars such as Charlie’s of Darwin and breweries like One Mile providing refreshment in the tropical heat.
6. Amazing Aboriginal art galleries are at your fingertips
Darwin’s incredible Aboriginal heritage is evident in its street art and galleries alive with colourful works. Immerse yourself in the oldest culture in the world at Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory (also home to ‘Sweetheart’, a five-metre-long saltwater crocodile that developed a taste for dinghies in the 1970s), Mason Gallery and Aboriginal Bush Traders.Richly textured paintings, carvings and textiles give an insight into ancient customs and traditions. The annual street art festival is also well worth checking out, with the works of Aboriginal artists showcased on buildings across the city.
Ready to experience Darwin? Check out our exclusive Darwin escapes.
Featured image credit: Tourism NT/Taylah Nilsson