Darwin is the bustling and beautiful melting pot capital of the Northern Territory, and the cultural centre of Australia’s alternative Top End lifestyle. With a unique history, languid tropical climate and a very real pioneer spirit to give a boost to the laid-back lifestyle of the region, Darwin is one of Australia’s fastest growing areas and is quickly being discovered as a prime holiday destination for both international and domestic tourists. A multicultural and cosmopolitan city, Darwin is Australia’s commercial gateway to Asia. It is renowned not just for its massive natural harbour, but also for its markets, many festivals, beaches, eclectic cuisine and boisterous nightlife.
Darwin is the perfect base from which to explore the many natural treasures of the Northern Territory’s Top End, including the awe-inspiring Kakadu and Litchfield National parks, as well as the equally awesome Katherine region farther to the south. However, before checking out all the things to see and do across the Top End, there are plenty of attractions and venues in Darwin itself to entice a visitor to stay in town.
Things to do in Darwin
Exploring the central business district by day is easy to do by foot or bicycle, and the gorgeous Esplanade skirts the city centre offering great views of the stunning harbour. At night, there’s an electric atmosphere in the pub and nightclub scene along Mitchell Street, or those with the luck can try their hand at the casino on Mindil Beach.
Some of the choice bars and clubs in Darwin include:
- The Darwin Ski Club — a laid-back waterski club on Vestey’s Beach offers a popular beer garden and live bands on most nights.
- Tap on Mitchell — located in the heart of the nightlife district on Mitchell Street, the Tap is always bustling, with inexpensive food to complement the nice range of wine and beers.
- Victoria Hotel — the old stone Vic on the Mall was built in 1890 and today is Darwin’s favourite backpacker pub, with cheap meals, pool tables, DJs and a dance floor. The downstairs pub offers occasional live bands.
- Fox n’ Fiddle — offers a rowdy atmosphere, with hermit crab races every night at 6:00 P.M. followed by live music acts on most nights.
- Discovery & Lost Arc — Darwin’s largest dance venue and nightclub, the place rocks with three levels of techno, hip hop and R&B tunes.
Darwin is also famous for its eclectic mix of cuisine offered by a range of restaurants:
- Hanuman — offering sophisticated Thai Nonya and Indian cuisine, the Hanuman is Darwin’s top fine-dining establishment.
- Crustaceans — seafood, nothing more needs be said.
- La Beach — a French accent to Top Ender fare.
- Saffron — one of Darwin’s newest restaurants, specializes in Indian cuisine from across the subcontinent, from Kerala lamb curry to Goan beef vindaloo to any number of vegetarian dishes.
Aside from the nightlife and fine dining, Darwin has a host of activities, attractions and venues to explore.
A unique and special attraction in the heart of Darwin at Doctors Gully where hundreds of fish come ashore at high tide to be fed by hand, a truly magical and family-friendly attraction. Hordes of mullet, milkfish, barramundi and bream swarm to the shallows for a free meal.
George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens
Established in the 1870s, the 42-hectare gardens showcase the tropical flora of the Top End and other tropical habitats from around the world. Wander through monsoon rain forests, coastal mangroves and see orchids, bromeliads and aroids up close like nowhere else.
Crocodile adventures and thrills abound at Crocosaurus Cove in the heart of Darwin, home to the largest display of Australian reptiles in the world. On display are many of the species unique to the Top End eco-region, and there is a turtle sanctuary and a two-storey freshwater aquarium to view as well.
Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT)
Set on Darwin Harbour at Bullocky Point, the MAGNT is the Northern Territory’s premier cultural institution, with a range of collections encompassing Aboriginal, Southeast Asian and Oceanic cultural artworks as well as exhibits on the natural history of northern Australia.
The Deck Chair Cinema
One of Darwin’s most popular entertainment venues during the dry season, the Darwin Film Society puts on a show under the stars at the south end of the Esplanade where patrons can relax on deck chairs and catch a film while munching on food or sipping beverages.
Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
The Mindil Beach Markets are famous across Australia, and are held every Thursday and Sunday from May through October. Set in a relaxing beachfront atmosphere, just about anything can be found, from food stalls serving cuisine from around the world, to unique hand-made arts and crafts, clothing, pottery, sculpture, crocodile leather goods, puppets and even didgeridoos