Situated on the edge of a harbour bigger than Sydney's, Darwin is a beautiful, fascinating tropical city – a melting pot of people and cultures that prides itself in its unique and friendly laid-back lifestyle. While a sophisticated, modern city in its own right, it is also one steeped in history, one that has endured many hardships on its way to establishing itself as the gateway to Asia. It is the home of NT commerce and business and with its world-class natural and cultural attractions it is also a thriving hub of activity in terms of tourism, nightlife and retail.
Here are just a few of the attractions well worth visiting while you are in town.
Things to do in Darwin
Australian Aviation Heritage Centre
Open daily, this centre features an impressive collection of the Territory's aviation history from the aviation pioneers and record breakers to the Territory's frontier role in WWII. There is a massive B52 Bomber, Mirage and Sabre jets, a Spitfire replica and Wessex and Huey Cobra helicopters. The development of the jet age is depicted through displays and photographs and the Bombing of Darwin exhibition here is a must see.
Built in the late 1930s, Burnett House is a Heritage-listed National Trust property and an excellent example of early tropical architecture. Here, you can relax in the gardens and enjoy ribbon sandwiches and Devonshire teas at High Tea every Sunday from 3.30-6pm.
Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
Held every Thursday and Sunday night from April 25th to October, these are Darwin's largest and most popular weekly markets. They feature a multitude of stalls offering international cuisine, arts, crafts and entertainment. The combination of great food and an electric atmosphere make it a must visit. Enjoy a picnic dinner on the beach while watching a spectacular tropical sunset.
Other popular markets worth visiting are the Saturday morning Parap Village Markets, the Sunday morning Nightcliff Markets and Rapid Creek Markets (Darwin's oldest markets) and Palmerston's Friday night markets.
Museum & Art Gallery of the NT
The museum, situated at Bullocky Point, features collections of the region's art, natural science, history and culture. Encompassing Aboriginal art and culture, arts and craft from south-east Asia and Pacific regions, maritime archaeology and Northern Territory history, the museum also houses a great Cyclone Tracy exhibit and the chance to meet Sweetheart, the Top End’s most famous crocodile.
Charles Darwin National Park
Just a short drive from the city, this park was developed to show visitors the rich mangrove habitats of Darwin Harbour. Relics of Darwin's involvement in WWII can also be seen here. These reinforced concrete bunkers were used for safe storage of munitions during the wartime action.
WWII Oil Storage Tunnels
One of the most interesting constructions in Darwin during WWII was the oil storage tunnels located near the Darwin Waterfront Precinct. Today, there are two tunnels open for viewing featuring a collection of photographs of Darwin and the men and women that served here during the war. An experienced guide will take you through the tunnels with informative commentary.
USS Peary Memorial
Salvaged from the wreck of the USS Peary, the gun, now situated on The Esplanade, serves as a memorial dedicated to the officers and crew who lost their lives when the vessel was attacked and sunk during the first air attack on Darwin by the Japanese during WWII. Also honoured here is Lt. Robert Buel, a US Air Force pilot who lost his life on February 15, 1942 in a heroic attack on Japanese aircraft on a bombing raid over Darwin city.
Darwin Convention Centre
This world class, multi-purpose Convention Centre with its spectacular waterfront location, is only minutes walk to the central business district or a wide choice of city centre hotels and only ten minutes drive to Darwin International Airport. The Centre features highly flexible and adaptive spaces to cater for all requirements.
Indo Pacific Marine
Darwin's only living marine environment centre gives the public an unparalleled opportunity to see and learn about this fragile world. It is one of three such exhibitions in the world and has won 13 awards for excellence and eco-tourism. The centre’s popular ‘coral reef by night’ program, to which bookings are essential, features a tour of the complex followed by a dinner and tour of the reef systems in the dark.
East Point Reserve & Lake Alexander
This recreational area has extensive walking and cycling paths, relaxing picnic areas with free barbecue facilities and safe, year-round swimming in Lake Alexander. The reserve is also home to Darwin's East Point Military Museum, which houses an extensive collection of photographs and informative displays including the Defence of Darwin Experience - an immersive, interactive, multimedia experience of the story of Darwin's role in World War II. East Point is also well known for its wallaby colony and is one of the best sites in Darwin for watching sunsets.
The Top End is host to a wide range of incredible, world-class, unique events. Experience the magic of moonlight cinema at the Darwin Waterfront. Deckchair Cinema is THE MUST-DO outdoor cinema located under the stars and screens films 7 nights a week from 20 April – 20 November 2016. The box office is open nightly from 6:30pm, with films starting promptly at the advertised time. The outdoor setting, on the edge of Darwin Harbour is stunning: watch the sunset over the sea and enjoy the tropical garden setting with a meal and a drink before your movie starts.
Deckchair Cinema is operated by the not-for-profit Darwin Film Society. The DFS programs an eclectic mix of films, putting out four seven-week programs per year.
Darwin Festival is an 18-day feast of music, theatre, dance, cabaret and more in the beautiful tropical city of Darwin. Enjoy the festive atmosphere, delicious food and drink stalls, and free performances at the heart of the arts - Festival Park, and various venues across Darwin, as the Festival activates the city for three weeks every August.
Where to stay in Darwin?
Stay at Skycity Darwin - a casually chic casino hotel on Mindil Beach, just
Relax in the pool, laze on the private white sand beach, and make the most of their 24-hour entertainment choices.
Darwin in the Top End of the Northern Territory has two distinct seasons, the 'wet' and the 'dry'. While November to April is referred to as the ‘wet', and May to October is the ‘dry' season; in the vast expanse of Kakadu National Park, the local Aboriginal people recognise six different seasons. The wet season is characterised by high humidity, monsoonal rains and storms. Temperatures typically range from a minimum of 25°C to a maximum of 33°C. The dry season is typically warm with dry sunny days and cool nights. Temperatures typically range from 21°C to 32°C, and humidity levels are much lower.
January and February is the most beautiful time to visit the Top End. Sunny days and afternoon storms refresh the landscape, and animals and plants flourish. The rivers and waterfalls are flowing and the countryside turns a lush green.
There are many festivals from May to October with relatively cool weather and peak visitor time. Darwin really comes alive at this time of year as everyone makes the most of the clear skies and heads outdoors. This is a great time to recline in a deckchair and watch a movie under the stars at the open-air Deckchair Cinema; or watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean after visiting the famous Mindil Beach Markets.
There’s so much to see and do in the Northern Territory. Plan your trip to the Top End with our suggested itineraries.