Things to see and do when visiting Darwin
As the gateway to the Top End, Darwin boasts the best lifestyle in Australia. This tropical city is influenced by spectacular landscapes, Aboriginal culture and extraordinary wildlife. Let me show you some of the best things to do when visiting Darwin.
The traditional owners of this land are the Larrakia people, an Aboriginal clan known as the Saltwater people.
Darwin boasts the best lifestyle in Australia with beautiful balmy weather, stunning landscapes, crystal clear waterfalls and amazing wildlife.
What more could you want! Visit us soon, we’ve got so much to show you!
Darwin is a fun place to visit
We’re welcoming, our lifestyle is laid-back, we’re very social and have been known to enjoy a cold beer on a hot summers day!
We really do love our Darwin lifestyle but Darwin’s history has not always been so calm and peaceful.
Did you know that during World War II, Darwin city endured 64 bombing raids by Japanese forces? The city was devastated and sadly, many lives were lost. After the war Darwin rebuilt its city.
Sadly it was only to face further devastation from Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Striking during the early hours of Christmas morning, Cyclone Tracy left over 70% of Darwin residents homeless. Undefeated, Territorians rallied together to rebuild their city … yet again.
Today Darwin is a thriving hub, jam-packed with amazing lifestyle experiences.
Enjoy spectacular sunsets across the Top End
There is nothing quite so magical than the bright golden sun setting over the Arafura Sea. Enjoy your favourite beverage at one of Darwin’s beachfront clubs and cafes as you watch the sun go down.
A visit to the Darwin Sailing Club, the Darwin Trailer Boat Club, the Ski Club or the Nightcliff Foreshore will reward you with some of the best sunset vantage points in Darwin. Don’t forget to bring your camera and take this experience home with you!
We love our Markets
Markets are the thing to do whilst visiting the Top End.
Street stalls with exotic food to choose from. Malay, Indian, Indonesian, Greek and many more .. fresh seafood, mellowing music and the buzz of the crowd. The markets are a popular meeting place for visitors and locals alike.
Take an opportunity to shop for a new sarong or treat yourself to an original Aboriginal art direct from the artist. There is something for everyone!
Where to find our favourite markets?
- Mindil Markets – Thursday & Sunday nights, late April until late October.
Mindil Beach s famous for its stunning sunsets and should be on everyone’s bucket list! On market nights, thousands of people crowd onto Mindil beach to watch the sun as it dips into the Arafura Sea. Don’t be surprised to hear the crowd cheer when the sun disappears!
- Parap Village Markets – Every Saturday morning, all year round
- Nightcliff Markets – Every Sunday morning, all year round
- Rapid Creek Markets – Organically grown produce, all year round
Museums capture the history of Darwin
Darwin has a number of excellent museums and historical sites well worth visiting. Each showcases a part of Darwin’s history and the impact on the Top End.
- Darwin Museum & Art Gallery: Home to a large range of important historical exhibits, Darwin’s Art Gallery and Maritime Museum are co-located at the Museum. The museum contains an interesting collection of cultural, historical and wildlife exhibits.
- Darwin Military Museum: A powerful and interactive experience reflecting the impact of World War II on Darwin. This museum contains war memorabilia for all over the Territory and other parts of Australia. A very moving experience.
- Australian Aviation Heritage Centre: An award winning display of Darwin’s aviation history with 19 types of aircraft on display including a B52 bomber, a B25 Mitchell bomber and other aircraft.
- The World War II Oil Storage Tunnels: These unique wartime installations are located at the Darwin Waterfront Precinct and should be included on your tour of Darwin.
- Royal Flying Doctors Centre: This exhibit features the story behind the Royal Flying Doctors service to outback Australia. Located on Stokes Hill Wharf.
- Bombing of Darwin Experience: A digital 3D reality experience transporting visitors to realistic war battles in the Darwin Harbour. Not to be missed, this highly recommended experience is on Stokes Hill Wharf.
- Chinese Temple and Museums: Stone lions were crafted in China to guard the entrance of the Chinese Temple. The Temple was originally used for social gatherings and was the forerunner of Chung Wah Society.
- Fannie Bay Gaol: Built in 1883 on the foreshore of Fannie Bay, the gaol reflects the hardships of penal life in early settlement days with small cells complete with a set of gallows.
Tropical Botanical Gardens
The George Brown Botanic Gardens is renowned for a stunning collection of northern Australian and tropical plants. George Brown’s gardens are one of the few botanic gardens in the world with marine and estuarine plants growing naturally.
Beautiful shady raintrees, tropical bromeliads, gingers and heliconias, orchids and other exotic flora .. our gardens are a great place to explore.
Drop into Eva’s cafe in the Gardens. It’s a popular cafe with locals and visitors alike and serves a great brunch, lunch or a refreshing drink.
Crocodiles – Choose your Fear Factor
It’s well known that saltwater crocodiles lurk around most Top End waterways so swimming on any beach or waterways in the Territory is not an option.
Most visitors are curious and want to see the predatory saltwater crocodiles whilst visiting the Top End! Choose an experience that suits your fear factor.
- Crocosaurus Cove in the heart of Darwin city has one of the largest reptile collections in Australia. Are you ready to brave Australia’s only crocodile dive in the Cage of Death?
- Crocodylus Park and Zoo is a short drive from the city centre. With over a thousand crocodiles and a diverse array of other wildlife, including big cats, primates, birds and other reptiles. This park is an amazing glimpse into the Top End wildlife and other parts of the world.
- Take a ‘Jumping Crocodile cruise‘ on the Adelaide River. Crocodiles literally jump out of the water to take food offered by the tour guides. You will learn all about the predatory behaviours of these crocodiles.
- Enjoy a Corroboree Billabong Wetland Cruise and see some of the Territory’s extraordinary bird-life, stunning waterlilies and monster crocodiles from the safety of a boat. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and share a wealth of information about the birds, crocodiles and their habitats.
Read next: Crocodile Facts – things to know before you visit Australia
The Darwin Waterfront
The Darwin Waterfront is the ideal place to relax, ride a few waves in the Wave Pool or swim in the safety of the crocodile free sandy lagoon.
There is a great selection of pubs, cafes and quality restaurants at the Waterfront so take time out when you can. Darwin Waterfront’s cafes and restaurants offer plenty of opportunities to refresh after a morning swim or enjoy a delicious lunch.
Many activities kick off at the Darwin waterfront so keep up to date with – Whats on at the Waterfront.
We know Touristing is hard work so be sure to take a break and relax.
Keep cool at the Waterfront
Hang out at the Darwin Waterfront. Laze around on the grassy lawns under a shady palm tree!
Swim in the crocodile-free lagoon, kayak around the lagoon, bounce and dive from the Big Buoy fun park or ride the waves in the waterfront wave pool. The waterfront is a great place to chill out and keep cool in the tropics.
Catch a spectacular Top End sunset from an ocean vantage point by taking one of the cruises that leave Stokes Hill Wharf every evening.
With city lights in the background the beautiful backdrop of Darwin harbour is hard to beat. Another option is to select a sunset cruise with wine and canape’s or opt for a full dining experience while sailing around Darwin Harbour!
The Deckchair Cinema
The Deckchair Cinema is one of Darwin’s great experiences! A unique outdoor cinema, the Deckchair Cinema overlooks Darwin Harbour. For most of us, it’s a great place to step down memory lane and enjoy a night at the flicks!
Grab a cushion and settle into the old fashioned canvas deckchairs. Screenings range from family favourites, Australian movies and foreign films. Hot meals, snacks and a licensed bar is available. What more could you want!
It’s where the possums come out to play and scamper up the big screen silhouetted against the sun setting over the ocean!
Fun day trips to take from Darwin
Visit Kakadu, Nitmiluk & Litchfield National Parks
Take a day trip into into our National Parks – Visit Kakadu National Park or Litchfield National Park or take a roadtrip south to Katherine to see the amazing Nitmiluk Gorge. Enrich your holiday experience by seeing as much of this pristine Top End landscape as possible.
Fogg Dam is one of the local bird and wildlife habitats and only 40 minutes drive from Darwin city.
Its a favourite place for photographers and bird lovers alike. You will see many rare bird species including the Azure Kingfisher and Jabiru (the Black-necked Stork), monitors and freshwater crocodiles. Its an amazing place to visit at sunrise or sunset.
Read more about this Wildlife Habitat at Fogg Dam.
Take a day trip to the Tiwi Islands
Do you want to do something different? Take a day trip to the Tiwi Islands. Learn about the local Aboriginal people and the culture known to be over 60,000 years old.
Want to take some Aboriginal Artworks home? The Tiwi Islands artworks are truly spectacular and uniquely Top End influenced. You will find beautiful wooden carvings reflecting their unique lifestyle, paintings and gorgeous fabrics designed and printed on the islands.
Check out our fun Festivals & Events
The lifestyle in Darwin is influenced by our melting pot of cultures. Popular events such as the Darwin Festival, the Seabreeze Festival, the Glenti (the Greek festival), the Italian Festival, the Indian Festival, and the Barunga Festival to name just a few, reflect who we are.
One of the most popular events is the Beer Can Regatta with crazy floating crafts built from empty beer cans is a must see event! This event is a charity fundraiser.
Our festivals and crazy fun events run from May to September. This is the time of year when weather is perfect for festivals, sporting events, live events and cultural experiences. It’s when the fun begins! Visit when the action is happening.
In the Top End, fishing is a religion. Fishing competitions run throughout the ‘dry season’ and offer significant prizes for anglers and fun seekers.
- Million Dollar Barra
- Top End Barra Competition
- Reel Womens’ Barra Classic
- Dundee Easter Family Fishing Competition
- Darwin Trailer Boat Club Blue Water Classic
Sailing season kicks off in August with the Darwin to Ambon yacht race – a race from Darwin to Indonesia for local and visiting yachties alike.
Car racing fans love the V8 Supercars, Top End Mud Racing and many more events.
For horse racing enthusiasts, the Cup Carnival is the place to be ‘seen’. Pop on a chic frock and don your favourite hat and have a fun day at the races. Didn’t bring a hat? Fashion an original and fit in with the crowd.
Cyclists travel to the Top End to participate in the annual Top End Grand Fondo endurance ride. Usually held in July, August or September, cyclists come from far afield to take part in this event.
Every year the football season (AFL, NRL & Union & Soccer) packs out the stadiums with dedicated footy fans. Want to see something special? Catch the ferry across to the Tiwi Islands to get the most out of the footy season in the Top End.
Where to eat in Darwin
Dining in Darwin is a lifestyle experience. So many choices, so many flavours! Our multi-cultural city has a variety of authentic restaurants and with so many fantastic restaurants in Darwin, it’s often difficult to choose where to eat.
Search TripAdvisor, read the reviews or choose one of my favourites for a guaranteed good night out in Darwin city.
- Little Miss Koreain Austin Lane
- Yots Greek Taverna at Cullen Bay
- Hanuman in the City
- Wharf One down at the Waterfront
- Darwin Sailing Club to view Darwin’s best sunsets
- Oyster Bar at the Waterfront
For something a little more casual try one of the famous Mitchelli’s pizzas in Mitchell Street or pop into the Cavenagh Hotel for one of Darwin’s best steaks.
Want more? Check out this post Foodie Paradise: Top 20 restaurants in Darwin.
5 Essential Items to pack for the Top End
- A Good Camera: There will be plenty of great photo moments in the Top End so bring along a good camera. I highly recommend the [easyazon_link identifier=”B00I8BICB2″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”territorymob2-20″]Sony A6000[/easyazon_link]. It’s light, compact and takes amazing photos!
- Sandals – A good pair of trekking sandals are vital in Kakadu and I love my [easyazon_link identifier=”B000ZI7KUK” locale=”US” tag=”territorymob2-20″]Ecco Yukan sandals[/easyazon_link]. Perfect for keeping my feet cool well supported with all the walking that I did. I wore them all day, every day!
- A long-sleeve hiking shirt: I love my [easyazon_link identifier=”B07RS55NB3″ locale=”US” tag=”territorymob2-20″]long-sleeve Simms shirt[/easyazon_link] for great airflow and protection from the Northern Territory sun. At the end of the day, a quick rinse will have it fresh and clean for the next day adventures.
- A Stainless Steel Water Bottle: Stay hydrated in the harsh Territory sun. Get yourself a [easyazon_link identifier=”B07B9T8C3N” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”territorymob2-20″]Yeti stainless water bottle[/easyazon_link] and refill as you go. Australian tap water is drinkable … and free!
- Good Sun Hat: You will need a good sun hat for protection. In my opinion you can’t go past this packable and foldable [easyazon_link identifier=”B07BMY7FJX” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”territorymob2-20″]Furtalk Womens Beach Hat[/easyazon_link]. Don’t ruin your holiday with sunburn!
When to visit the Top End
When the Dragonflies are about, ‘the dry’ is on it’s way!
The Top End of the Northern Territory has just 2 seasons a year. Wet and Dry!
October – April: The ‘wet’ is hot, steamy and humid, with tropical monsoon rains bucketing down (heavily) frequently.
May – September: The ‘dry’ is the most perfect balmy weather you can ever imagine. Temperatures most days are in the mid 20’s and nights come with a pleasant sea breeze. Sunsets overlooking the beaches are gorgeous.
Off-season: There are benefits to visiting the Top End in the off-season. The landscape is lush and green and the rivers are brimming with water after the rainy season. Its the perfect time to go fishing, and a time when photographers, bird-watchers and wildlife-lovers visit in droves. Visit Fogg Dam for an amazing display of wildlife.
How to get to Darwin?
Getting here is easy!
Air: Daily flights arrive from all capital cities of Australia, as well as Cairns and Alice Springs.
Train: One of the most unique travel options is to ‘take the Ghan‘. One of the world’s famous rail journeys, the Ghan travels from Adelaide to Darwin stopping in Alice Springs and Katherine on the way through.
Road: A road trip to the Northern Territory is a great way to enjoy the rich colours of the Territory. Plenty of wide open spaces and long straight roads. Take care, our wildlife has a habit of wandering onto the roads and may put you at risk.
Where to stay in the Darwin
Darwin often gets busy so make sure you pre book your accommodation in advance. Start with these suggestions but if you’re looking for something different, we have included Booking.com links here to make it easier for you.
- Camping & Caravan: Club Tropical Resort Darwin
- Mid-budget: Vibe Hotel Darwin Waterfront
- Luxury: Mindil Beach Casino & Resort
Have we inspired you yet? Pin this to Pinterest for later.
Enjoy the lifestyle in Darwin!
Darwin is a long way from everywhere. Our experiences are unique, and our lifestyle is without question, the best in Australia. It really is an extraordinary place to visit!
- Do the Top End with our 6 day ‘quick visit’ itinerary.
- Showcasing Darwin’s Street Art Festival.
- Foodie Paradise: Top 20 Restaurants in Darwin.
- Escape to Kakadu National Park
- When is the best time to visit Darwin?