Darwin is Australia’s northernmost capital city, at the top end of the remote Northern Territory. Closer to Asian hubs like Bali than Australian population centres like Sydney and Melbourne, Darwin has a real tropical Asian flair. Darwin is truly unlike any other Australian city, with a laid-back vibe, seaside culture and delicious local food.
In July 2020, the Northern Territory reopened their borders to domestic travellers from most of Australia which gave us the perfect opportunity to travel for the first time since the crisis started. Best of all, with no community cases of coronavirus, the Northern Territory has minimal restrictions allowing you to enjoy the best of what Darwin has to offer right now.
Darwin’s Waterfront is a stunning precinct of quality restaurants, cafés, bars and hotels, as well as beach space, a wave pool and a wharf. On a sunny and hot Darwin day, this is the perfect place to relax and enjoy some fantastic and fresh local fish and chips or a cocktail or two. In the evening, the nearby Stokes Hill Wharf comes alive with some great food offerings. For the more adventurous, head to the nearby WWII oil tunnels to discover another fascinating side of this city.
Speaking of Stokes Hill Wharf on the waterfront, the Wharf is the departure point another must-do Darwin experience. A sunset cruise on Darwin Harbour is the perfect way to see the city from a distance and spot the marine life of Darwin Harbour – including sharks! Sunset cruises are operated on Darwin Harbour by a number of operators, including the Spirit of Darwin which offers a great affordable cruise with dinner and drinks for just AUD$100 (US$73). Spirit of Darwin operates cruises daily, leaving at 5pm and returning at 8pm.
Parap Village Markets
Parap Village Markets are a great way to start any weekend in Darwin. The market is compact in size and predominantly food based offering Asian-inspired food, freshly squeezed juices and produce. There is also some arts, craft and clothing stalls. Mary’s Laksa is a food stall you cannot miss. There are a variety of flavours including seafood, chicken, pork or combination – all of which are delicious and reasonably priced at around AUD$10 (US$7) per bowl. The stall is popular and there will likely be a line of people but it moves quickly. Don’t forget to say hello to Mary the owner who is super friendly and well known with the locals.
Parap Village Markets are open every Saturday from 8am to 2pm. Give yourself a couple of hours at the market and make sure you arrive hungry!
Mindil Beach Sunset Market
At the top of many visitors’ to-do lists when visiting this wonderful city, Mindil Beach Sunset Market is a vibrant multicultural experience full of an amazing variety of food, drinks, clothing, arts and crafts. Of particular fame is Darwin Laksa – another must-eat Laksa experience in Darwin. Unfortunately this stall was not open when we went, however we had some fantastic Sri Lankan curries, Korean fried chicken, and calamari.
Mindil Beach Sunset Market is held between 4pm and 9pm on Sundays throughout the dry season – usually June to October.
Just across the (rather busy) road from Mindil Beach Night Market are the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens. The Gardens are a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon before heading down to the markets for the evening. The Gardens feature a range of zones including tropical rainforest (complete with waterfall), Arnhem Land, the Tiwi Islands and the Africa-Madagascar Garden. The Botanic Gardens also features the popular Eva’s Café, as well as a larger-than-life metal sculpture of the NT’s unofficial mascot – the crocodile!
Another fantastic free public space in Darwin is Bicentennial Park. Take a walk through this park and enjoy the elevated views of the harbour. Throughout the park are monuments and memorials remembering the victims of the bombing of Darwin during WWII – Darwin was the only city in Australia that was bombed during the war. Down some stairs at the southern end of the park is another local attraction – Darwin’s outdoor Deckchair Cinema, with screenings nightly.
This is a special bonus addition to the list, as it’s not on all the time. Usually held during the dry season, Darwin Festival is a weeks-long spectacular featuring cultural events, music, theatre and more. Many of the events – particularly local and up and coming artists – are free, and a range of top quality food and drinks from Darwin’s best restaurants can be found at the stalls scattered throughout the festival grounds. Usually an 18-day event, in August 2020 we were lucky enough to arrive on the final night of the heavily-modified 11-day COVID-safe version of the event, a real treat in these trying times!
Thanks for reading to the end, that’s it for our list of our favourite things to do in Darwin, Australia. What do you think? Have you been to Darwin and what were your favourite things to do? Let us know in the comments below.
One final note…
The global travel situation is constantly evolving throughout the COVID-19 crisis. While international travel is off the table for us Australians for a while, the Northern Territory has opened up to most of Australia and we’re looking forward to more domestic travel opportunities as the situation stabilises. We’re frequently researching the best options for travel once it’s safe again, so be sure to follow our blog and our social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) for the latest updates.