Located in the “top end” of Australia, Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territory. With a diverse population of 150,880 including a large Aboroginal community and Asian culture due to its close proximity to the continent. For those who have not seen saltwater crocodiles Darwin also offers the opportunity to see them. It is a city steeped in history, due to the Second World War where it almost disappeared twice due to being bombed 64 times by the Japanese. Although there are many things to do in Darwin is it also a good geographical location to continue your travels if you want to visit to Bali, The Philippines or Guinea for example.
When to visit Darwin
The best time to travel to Darwin is during the dry season from May to September. The temperature is hot but dry. You will be treated to no clouds or even rain. We also recommend you visit Darwin during July and August as many festivals and events take place during these months. One of the most fun being the Darwin Cup Day on August 5th which is a very popular horse race. If you don’t fancy attending, it’s also an ideal opportunity to make some money – due the popularity, there is a demand for event staff. This is ideal work for backpackers due to the fun atmosphere but attractive hourly rate. The Darwin Royal Show also takes place in July which celebrates the diverse talent and art, local produce, plants and wildlife which make the Territory great.
We do not recommend visiting Darwin during the wet season from October to April, the heat is sweltering during this time. You will be stunned by the humidity and rain every day which will prevent you from exploring the region.
Best thing to do in Darwin?
As a small town in the northern territory Darwin is surprisingly lively and there is plenty to do to keep you busy for a few days.
Unfortunately, it is dangerous to swim in Darwin all year round due to the presence of crocodiles as well as deadly jellyfish from October to May. Despite this, Darwin has beautiful beaches which are well worth to visit.
East Point is the ideal place for a pleasant seaside walk (around 3km) and offers a great jogging route for the energetic. From here you can admire the city of Darwin on the other side of the ocean. The landscape is intoxicating with vibrant white sand and crystal clear waters. On weekends, there are even food trucks offering pancakes or traditional fish and chips to fuel your walk. On the other side of the road, situated in the middle of the park is Lake Alexander. This is a prime place for spotting wallabies in the early morning. You can swim in the protected lake and also kayak here, croc free! Note that there are also free toilets and showers for after.
Not far from East Point, there is another very beautiful Vesteys Beach ideal for coming to relax and picnic by the sea with a breathtaking view of the ocean and its beautiful sailboats. If you’re lucky you can also see sea turtles and Dugongs rise to the surface from this beach.
Following to Mindil Beach, known for its night markets every Thursday and Sunday from 5pm. The night markets offer the opportunity to taste Asian, Greek, Australian and Italian culinary specialties. You will also find several jewellery, clothing, cosmetics and organic accessories stalls almost all handmade by local artisans. This is also the prime location where locals and tourists come to admire the sunset and its array of colours.
Important Tip: At Mindil beach it’s important to note the presence of invisible yet invincible bloodthirsty midges that can spoil your night thanks to their irritating bites. They thrive during the early morning and evening at Mindil beach. Unfortunately they are immune to the usual insect repellents causing much despair for visitors. The only way to relieve itching is tea tree and Kakadu essential oils.
Finally, come and visit the Nightcliff district in Darwin where you can take a stroll on the Jetty and enjoy an afternoon fishing. The scenery is also very pleasant here. On weekends, there are food trucks which offer excellent burgers at backpacker prices!
Darwin could be nicknamed the city of a thousand markets, given the number of markets held there each week. In addition to Mindil beach, we suggest you go to the Parap Market on a Saturday morning to taste the delicious acai bowls as well as discover Vietnamese and Japanese specialties. There are also tasty sweet treats such as chocolate rolls which make the perfect dessert. You will also find beautiful handcrafted jewellery and other trinkets which make perfect souvenirs from your trip.
If you are looking for fresh, local fruits and vegetables, head to Rapid Creek Markets where every Sunday morning there are over 100 stalls selling local produce.
Finally, visit the Nightcliff market in Darwin which also takes place each Sunday morning. Here you can find precious stones, essential oils, organic and vegan products.
Casuarina Shopping Center is one of the largest shopping centers. Alongside clothing stores you can find hairdressers, beauty and cosmetic store, Coles, Kmart, Big W and Woolworths. You will also find a food court and cinema – ideal for a bite to eat and something to do if it’s too hot or too rainy outside.
You will find several restaurants and bars located opposite the port of Darwin. Right in the middle you will find the Recreation Lagoon which is a seawater basin protected by nets to stop jellyfish or other dangerous creatures. There is also a free beach volleyball court to be enjoyed and idyllic surroundings including a beautiful green lawn and several restaurants. At the waterfront during August, you can also enjoy cultural events which take place each weekend. In addition, from July to August keep an eye for free films and cartoons which are broadcasted outdoors on the lawn.
If you want a good ice cream Trampoline Gelato is the best hands down! Caramel pear is irresistible. As a tip ask for a sundae, which is $9.50 for 4 different flavours which is much cheaper than 4 scoops individually.
Mitchell Street is the main street in the city center. There are many trendy bars and restaurants, proving it a popular place for backpackers to party.
If you still haven’t seen crocodiles during your time in Australia, there is Crocosaurus Cove which is an amusement park right in the city center. Here, you will be able to see crocodiles of all sizes and even endure the crazy experience of being immersed in a huge cage in the middle of huge saltwater crocodiles – only for the brave!
A few meters walk from Mitchell Street is The Mall, a pedestrian street with a few shops ideal for picking up souvenirs. To get there you will cross a multicolored pedestrian crossing, which is fun for a Beatles inspired photo or two. We recommend a visit to Embella if you are in Darwin, a bohemian style jewellery and clothing boutique with a lot of charm.
Due to the dangerous waters of Darwin, the city offers two large free public pools (Leanyer Water Park and the Palmerston Water Park.) Both are ideal for cooling off during the high and unbearable temperatures during the Summer months. There are also free slides for added fun! Reachable via a 15-20 minute bus journey from the city centre, the parks all have free toilets, showers and barbecues.
The botanic garden is an ideal place to come for a peaceful walk to relax and rejuvenate – without spending a penny! You can admire the diversity of rare plant species from Asia and the South Pacific as well as an exhibition of orchids which are beautiful to photograph.
Located 250 km from Darwin, Kakadu National Park is the largest national park in Australia and is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site . There is an admission fee of $ 40 per person. This park thriving with a wealth of flora, fauna and Aboriginal art that visitors will enjoy and admire. To access the entire park you will need a 4WD as some roads are not accessible to vans or cars. The main points of interest which you cannot miss are: Twins Falls, Jim Jim Falls, Nourlangie Rock, Ubirr.
Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park is an ideal day trip, located 130 km south of Darwin. If you wish to stay longer there are several camping sites and a night under the stars here will be unforgettable.
The Litchfield National Park is totally free. You will find waterfalls, natural pools where you can bathe safely (observe the warning signs) and of course, hikes. There is also wildlife in abundance, such as kangaroos, snakes, spiders, bats and crocodiles. The main points of interest which you cannot miss are: Magnetic Termite Mound, Florence, Wangi and Tolmer Falls.
These are free natural hot springs located 60km from Darwin. There are three pools in total and they are suitable for all ages. The springs also have toilets, barbecues and free showers making it an ideal day trip with family or friends.