With our Arnhem Land wilderness Conferences sold out – we began preparing info for participants looking to extend their stay post-conference in Darwin. There were so many amazing things to that that we thought we’d turn it into a blog article and share it so all of you could benefit.
Darwin has a sort of quirky charm to it. It’s quite dangerous to swim in the ocean and gets hotter than 30 degrees almost every single day. Regardless of all of that, there is a lot of things to do that guarantee you to have a fabulous time while in Darwin.
As the capital city of the Northern Territory in Australia, Darwin often gets forgotten about by tourists. But it shouldn’t!
Tourists who do venture to Darwin absolutely love it!
If you love the outdoors, waterfalls, sunsets, wildlife, culture, and drinking (Territorians love an ice-cold beer!) then you will love Darwin too!
Things to do in Darwin:
The Mindil Markets are a favourite for locals and tourists alike. During the dry season (May to October) there are night markets at Mindil Beach every Sunday and Thursday night. The markets start at 4pm and go until about 9pm. Most people go to the Mindil Markets for dinner and dessert. The selection of food is amazing, there is seafood, Indian, Chinese, crepes, wood-fired pizza, laksa, and so much more! There are also street performers, musicians, and many market stalls selling all sorts of things! It is an easy way to keep busy for a few hours.
The Lagoon is located on the waterfront right next to the wave pool. Darwin City Lagoon is the only place where it is really safe to swim in the ocean in Darwin. It is a small bay that has a net surrounding it to prevent stingers and crocodiles from entering the area. Of course, there is always a small risk when swimming at the lagoon. The best way to avoid this is to only swim from the months from May to October when the Irukandji Jellyfish is rare in Darwin’s waters.
At the waterfront right in the city, there is a man-made wave pool right on the ocean’s edge. The Wave Pool is a nice place to cool off in Darwin. Around the pool, there are grassed off areas to hang out. The wave pool costs $7 AUD for an adult and is open daily from 10am to 6pm daily.
The Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery are both in the same building located a 5-minute drive from the city center. Even if you’re not a huge art fan you’ll find the museum worth a visit. They have a whole evolution exhibit which was really interesting. If you want to see some traditional aboriginal artwork this is the place to go as well! The NT Museum and Art Gallery is open from 10am to 5pm every day.
Crocosaurus Cove is quite possibly the most popular thing to do in Darwin for tourists. This is the “zoo” right on Mitchell Street in Darwin city. In Crocosaurus Cove they have various things to see and do including the opportunity to hold a baby crocodile or swim with a Saltwater Croc! At Crocosaurus Cove, thrill-seekers have the option to jump into a glass tank and swim with the crocs!
Walking in the gardens is a great way to spend an hour while visiting Darwin! On a nice day, you should go for a gorgeous stroll in the Darwin Botanical Gardens. They are well maintained and pretty. It is a peaceful escape from the city! The gardens are just across the road from Mindil Beach so you could go for a walk in the gardens before checking out the Mindil Markets and watching the sunset.
Yet another sunset activity, but this one includes champagne and cruising on the ocean in a catamaran! There are a number of different sunset cruises in Darwin, but we’re fans of this particular sunset cruise! The sunset cruise included a welcome drink, a 2.5 hour-long cruise at sunset, fish feeding, and even the option to add on a dinner buffet!
Many of the locals favourite pass time in Darwin is fishing. You don’t need a fancy boat and gear either, just a simple rod, some bait, and then head to the wharf right in the city. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of fishing, but deep-sea fishing is a different story and you are pretty much guaranteed to catch something! Be aware, deep-sea fishing is not cheap. Expect to pay $375 for a full-day fishing trip.
Looking for some exercise? Head to the suburb of Nightcliff, there right next to the beach is a huge car park and some walking and bike trails. If you follow the trail you will head along the beach, over a river, through some mangroves, and finish at Casuarina Beach! It is an absolutely beautiful way to spend a morning and do some Darwin sightseeing. From Nightcliff to Casuarina and back again is about 12 km.
Near the waterfront where all the cruise ships come in are some original WWII Tunnels. Darwin has a well-known history of its involvement in WWII, in fact, much of the city was destroyed during WWII. These tunnels are still the original tunnels they built back in the day and were supposed to be used to store fuel. The tunnels are hidden beneath a cliff right in the city. Today, guests can enter the tunnels and walk through them. They are all lit up and have write-ups and pictures about the tunnels and their use all the way through.
On Saturday mornings and early afternoon (between 8 am and 2 pm), the suburb of Parap puts on markets that the locals love! Many of the same food items are featured as at the Mindil Markets but it is a whole different setting. The Parap Markets are more popular among locals rather than tourists but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth going to! You’ll find a huge selection of crafts and good for sale as well as a lot of food and drinks!
Locals love crocodiles in the Northern Territory, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t eat them! One of the popular things to do in Darwin as a tourist is to try some crocodile! Crocodile is usually served on a skewer or as a jerky. You can get it as an appetizer at many restaurants or even at the Mindil Markets. The crocodile served at a restaurant called Crustaceans on Stokes Hill Wharf is quite good and worth trying.
Stokes Hill Wharf near the Darwin waterfront is a great place to head for dinner. There is a nice restaurant called Crustaceans but if that is a bit too pricey for you, there are some cheaper options. There is a food court type setting but right on the wharf! Bring your own drinks and enjoy the evening watching the sun go down over the water.
Cullen Bay is another great place for sunset in Darwin! I know, you are probably thinking “how many sunsets do I need to see?” A lot! Every night! The sunsets in Darwin are truly amazing and you won’t want to miss a single one, so my best advice is to go somewhere different every evening to watch the sunset. There is a nice grassy area where you can sit and bring a picnic dinner, or there a few different restaurants to choose from. If you are a big eater then the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet at Seafood on Cullen is well worth visiting. But if you are into a chic-pub setting then try Lola’s Pergola, Exotic North Indian for great Indian food, or Yots Greek Tavern for greek!
This is a very unique activity in Darwin! Riding on an airboat will get you going at top speeds as you cruise through the mangroves, spot crocodiles, and get splashed with mud! These airboat tours are fairly new to Darwin but come highly rated. They depart from Stokes Hill Warf which makes it easy to get to right from the city centre. Airboat tours last for about an hour.
Just on the outskirts of Darwin city you can actually go to a real rodeo! The Noonemah Rodeo is on nearly every weekend during the Darwin dry season from September to May. Expect live music, barrel racing, bull racing, freestyle motocross, lots of drinks, and lots of fun! It is a place to go if you want to meet locals.
Litchfield National Park is only an hour from Darwin City and is a must-see attraction! Within Litchfield National Park there are a few different attractions that we recommend, one of them being Buley Rock Pools. Buley Rocks Pools are the one place in Litchfield National Park that we could easily spend an entire afternoon at. There are a series of connected natural pools that you can relax in or jump into. It is the perfect place to have a drink and chill (no glass bottles allowed).
Wangi Falls is another attraction within Litchfield National Park. It is the farthest attraction but only about another 15-minute drive from the Buley Rock Pools. Wangi Falls are two big waterfalls with a pool at the bottom to swim in. There is also a short hike you can do to the top of the waterfall. The falls closed for swimming during the wet season (November to May) as it floods and there is the possibility of crocodiles. But, during those months you can still go and view the waterfall. During the dry season, Wangi Falls is a great place to swim, or even spend the night at the nearby campground.
About a 45-minute drive from Darwin there is the Douglas Daly Hot Springs. This is a perfect place to camp if you have a tent and the time, but if not, it is also a fun day trip from Darwin. The Douglas Daly Hot Springs is a small river that gets hot, like really hot! From the Douglas Daly Tourist Park, you can go straight into the hot part of the river and relax. Again, it is free! Just be “croc-wise” in this area. Saltwater crocodiles have been spotted here. This is mainly after heavy rains. Just be cautious especially if you are camping overnight and swimming in the dark (like we did). Rangers do check the area daily and close the area if crocs are sighted.
If you have more than a couple of days to spend in Darwin then consider going to the town of Katherine which is three hours away. Near Katherine is the famous Katherine Gorge which is absolutely breathtaking! Take a boat cruise through the gorge to enjoy it best. You can actually visit Katherine on a day trip if you prefer, otherwise, organize a multi-day trip here!
Is Darwin worth visiting?
Yes! Darwin is unlike any other city in Australia and offers a variety of incredible things to do and see. Amazing wildlife, landscapes, and activities make Darwin definitely worth a visit!
What is the best time of year to visit Darwin?
May to October is the dry season and the best time to visit Darwin! During these months it is hot, but not humid, and it doesn’t rain.
Is Darwin safe?
The quick answer is yes. Darwin is a relatively safe city even in comparison to other cities around Australia. Petty crimes are the most common including vehicle break-ins (so don’t leave valuables in your car.) At night, it is best not to walk alone.
How hot is it in Darwin?
The temperature in Darwin ranges from as low as 20°C in the cooler months of June to August, and to 35°C in the hottest months of December and January.