Date of stay: June/July 2011
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned
If you want to visit a place in Australia where you can see fascinating wildlife, but still stay in the comfort of a fun and vibrant small city, Darwin is the place for you!
Darwin is the capital city of Northern Territory, the gateway to the Australian outback. It is a city right on the coast that specifically caters for tourists. There is a vibrant night life, with many restaurants, pubs and clubs located in close proximity on Mitchell Street. It is worth checking out Shenannigans Irish Pub, Victoria Hotel and Discovery Nightclub. For food lovers, a sumptuous banquet can be had at the Noodle House, or enjoy local fresh seafood by the ocean at Stokes Hill Wharf. For something a little more romantic, go on a sunset dinner cruise. We went with Cape Adieu Harbour Cruises and they prepared a beautiful seafood and steak banquet for us.
There is no shortage of attractions in Darwin. The Northern Territory is famous for crocodiles, but you can see some monster crocodiles right in the heart of Darwin city at Crocosaurus Cove (costing $28). Here you can not only see some of the largest saltwater crocodiles in Australia, but you can also swim with them in the Cage of Death (costing $148). For maximum thrills, book the Cage of Death at feeding time! Swimming with crocodiles was one of the scarier things I have done, but definitely worth it.
If you don't feel like swimming with crocodiles, you might prefer a swim in the Darwin Wave Lagoon. There are no stingers or crocodiles in this man-made swimming area, which covers 4,000 metres and is up to 2 metres deep. You can ride the waves on boogie boards or inflatable tubes. Keep in mind the waves are not big enough to surf on and there are too many people there to rip, but it is a nice way to escape the heat on a hot day. It costs $5 for a half-day pass.
Another budget friendly activity is to feed the fish at Aquascene Fish Feeding Sanctuary. It costs $11.00 and you get to feed the fish by hand with bread. This is not a fish farm, it is actually wild fish from the ocean that swim to the shallow shoreline. It's a great attraction that all the family can enjoy. Check the website for feeding times as it is only for a couple of hours each day.
For the adrenalin junkies, try a jet boat ride located at Stokes Hill Wharf (costing $55). If you like fast speed and non-stop thrills, this would be the ride for you! If you prefer your pace a little slower, check out Duck About Tours and their amphibious vehicles which drive on land through the city and then dive in the water and cruise Darwin harbour.
Darwin has a rich cultural presence with many museums. I spent hours wandering through the Darwin Military Museum (cost $14), which is set amongst the gun towers built to defend the city in World War II. The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is free and has a large collection of aboriginal art and natural sciences including you guessed it, a large stuffed boat-eating crocodile! It also has an exhibition on Cyclone Tracey which was one of the greatest natural disasters in Australia's history in 1974, including a cyclone room designed to replicate the sounds of a cyclone based on actual sound recordings from Cyclone Tracy.
Darwin is well known for its markets. The pick of the bunch would be the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets which are open Thursdays and Sundays during the dry season. These markets are very cosmopolitan with food from all over the world with food from all over the world, or you can try some of the local delicacies such as crocodile, kangaroo and buffalo. There are all sorts of souvenirs you can buy such as aboriginal art and local crafts. Once you have done your shopping, you can sit back and watch the live entertainment such as bands and street performers. Other markets in Darwin include Parap Market and Nightcliff Market.
The best time to visit Darwin is in the winter months from May to September, as in the summer months it gets very hot and your trip can be interrupted by the summer monsoonal rains. The average temperature in Darwin ranges 19.3 degrees Centigrade (67 degrees Fahrenheit) to 32.6 degrees Centigrade (91 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you time your visit to Darwin right, you will be there on 1st July to celebrate Territory Day. One of the special things about Territory Day is this is the only day of the year, apart from the Chinese New Year, when fireworks are permitted. There are fireworks going off as far as the eye can see that night and it's a great chance to get in touch with your inner youth. Just make sure you do it safely!
As I had the luxury of staying with family, I cannot give a recommendation on where to stay. There is a lot of accommodation in the city centre ranging from backpacker hostels to a 5 star hotel. Various accommodation can be found at wotif and expedia. The good thing about Darwin being a small city is that most of the attraction are within walking distance of the city centre. If you want to explore further out and see the outback the best option is to hire a 4wd vehicle or go on a tour which will be discussed in a future Northern Territory travel blog.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Overall rating destination: 5 out of 5 (during winter)
By: Brett & Kelly