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Tours and what to do in Darwin
Most popular Darwin tours
Darwin is surrounded by Aboriginal reserves and islands so this is one of the best places to experience and learn about Aboriginal culture.
Arnhem Land is a huge Aboriginal reserve, and normally
difficult to access as entry permits are required, and they are
not given to just anyone. This 3 day up-market camping safari takes
teh worry out of things for you and combines some of the best of
Kakadu National Park with the special experience of traveling in
Aboriginal Arnhem Land.
You can also do it in two days, more info on this tour....
A shorter tour that does it all in one (long) day
is also available; View Aboriginal rock art at the famous
Ubirr artsite that is thousands of years old. Cruise the East Alligator
River and by special permission, take a short walk into Arnhem Land.
More info on this tour....
- Gulwiddi Tours runs trips varying from one day Litchfield to one week Arnhem Land and Kakadu - phone 1300 656071
- Peppi Tours runs two day camping tours to meet the Ngangikurrungur people - phone 1800 811633
- Tiwi Tours flies you out to Tiwi and Bathurst Island for one or two days - phone 1800 811633
All the highlights of the Top End
If you happen to be in Darwin at the right time then you can catch some of their many annual events and festivals;
Arafura Games - Sports people from the Asia/Pacific region battle it out every two years in May but the 2003 games were cancelled to keep the SARS epidemic out of Australia.
Barefoot mudcrab tying competitions - held every year, contestants have to tie up as many mudcrabs as possible in a certain time, and the fact that they are barefoot makes it all the more exciting!
Smoke-in - Held annually since 2002 in
Darwin's Raintree Park but at varying times so for this year's
date check the website of the Network
Against Prohibition (NAPNT) who organizes this annual
event to protest against the Labor government's drug-house
laws and as an expression of human
More than forty years ago someone started feeding fish at Doctor's Gully in Darwin city centre. It has grown into an institution where an amazing number of huge milkfish, mullet, batfish and catfish come for a feed at high tide here. This used to be a free activity until a politician bought it in the 1980s and now there is a $5.50 (child $3.50) charge, opening times depend on the tides.
Darwin has an impressive botanical gardens which appears to have recovered well from the devastation of cyclone Tracy, there's even a Daintree-like section of rainforest where they keep the sprinklers going all the time.
On the Adelaide River near Darwin you can see crocodiles jumping
high showing off their attack skills.
This is not a circus trick they have been taught, they naturally do this to catch low flying birds.
Click here for more info or to book this tour...
A wildlife park that is mainly centred around crocodiles but also has many other animals. You can see some really big salties here, handle a baby crocodile, and see feeding and croc jumping shows.
A lot of Australia is not very bike friendly but Darwin has an excellent network of bicycle tracks. If you're from overseas be aware that Australia is the only country in the world where it is illegal to ride a bicycle without a helmet!
A short drive from the city centre in the suburb of Fannie Bay is East Point, a nature reserve where you will find a war museum and some gun turrets left over from World War Two. Darwin actually was actually the only place in Australia to get seriously bombed, in february 1942 a Pearl Harbour style attack on Darwin by 188 Japanese planes killed 243 people and sunk numerous ships. They came back another 57 times over the next two years doing more damage. During the war many allied forces were based in the Top End but to be safe from Jap attacks they were spread out along the Stuart Highway where you can still see the old air strips going hundreds of kilometres inland.
Darwin's city centre has lots of eateries and bars
catering for the tourists, but if you venture out of the city centre
where all the accommodation is centred you will find some great
food at the markets that are held in various parts of Darwin. A
lot of Asian immigrants live in Darwin and they cook the food just
like back home and are always found at every market where they have
The most well known of course is Mindil Beach markets on Thursday and Sunday nights in the dry season, but there are other markets with spectacular Asian food too, more info below.
Barbeques: Darwin is well endowed with barbeques, in many of the parks there are free gas barbeques, or barbies as the locals call them. Find one and have a real Aussie barbie!
The Darwin Stubby:
Cullen Bay : Located near the end of Smith St., on the way to Mindil Beach, this marina development has numerous cafes and restaurants and is a popular place to wine and dine on the waterfront. It is also the departure point for ferries across the harbour, scuba trips etc.
Markets : The most famous place to eat in Darwin is
Mindil Beach where during the dry season there is a market every Thursday
(and on a smaller scale Sunday) night. The markets have been a Darwin
tradition for 18 years now and it is hard to believe now the organizer
actually had a really hard time getting permission from the council to
run this market! Thousands of people converge on this beach where they
cruise the stalls full of craftwork, more than 200 craft and general ware
stalls stock jewellery, art, adornments, trinkets, souvenirs, ceramics,
clothes, music, didgeridoos, coffees and much more. But the most popular
is the foodstalls where you will find food from just about every country
you can think of, while the sun sets over the sea not far from Darwin's
city centre, market-goers can tuck into spicy Asian dishes, traditional
Greek, Italian, English or South American food, crocodile, buffalo and
barramundi. Add to this Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Turkish, Indian, Swiss,
Chinese and, of course, Aussie dishes and you won't go hungry.
When you have made your choice head down the beach with your food and esky full of cold beer and settle down to enjoy one of the magic sunsets that this place is famous for. And to top it off, buskers, tarot readers, masseurs/masseuses and a variety of local and travelling musicians provide the entertainment. The markets are within walking distance of the city centre so are easy to reach. A scaled-down version of the Thursday night markets is held on Sunday from 4pm to 9pm.
Markets on other days are held at Parap on Saturday mornings, and Nightcliff and Rapid Creek on Sunday mornings, they all have sensational Asian food that will beat a lot of restaurants.
Pubs : Drinking has always been a very important part of life in Darwin, and up until the 1980s it used to be the town with the highest beerconsumption per capita in the world. The Victoria Hotel in the Smith St. Mall is one of the longest running establishments and has changed from a very rough place in the old days to a bar where backpackers party the night away, they also do meals here. The other two are also popular places for a drink and located conveniently close in Mitchell St. in the city centre where most of the backpacker hostels are.
Subway :Darwin also has a Subway branch,
one of the few fastfood franchises where you can eat healthy.
Find them on Knuckey St. between the Smith. St. Mall and Mitchell St. There is another one in Nightcliff.
Wharf precinct : A good place for a meal and a drink while catching a few cool breezes on the waterfront, and a very good place to see some of Darwin's spectacular sunsets.
Near the other museum this ex-jail has been in use from 1883 till 1979 and numerous people have been hanged here.
From the marina in Cullen Bay, an easy walk from Darwin city centre, you can catch the boat out to the harbour and across to Mandorah, the other side of the harbour, where the Mandorah Hotel will have a cold beer waiting for you.
National Park is one of the main natural wonders of Australia.
Located 150km from Darwin, it is a huge national park, measuring 200km
by 100km. Its landscape varies from dry scrub and rock with Aboriginal
rock art to majestic waterfalls and wetlands with thousands of birds.
Quite a variety of tours operate from Darwin to take you out there and
show you this amazing place.
- Two days/one night is about the minimum to take in all the highlights but if your time is limited then this is a good option. More info....
- Three days/two nights allows you more time to take it all in and experience this awesome place. More info....
Katherine Gorge, or Nitmiluk, is located about 300km. south of Darwin. The Katherine River cuts through the dry outback country and over the years it has carved a deep gorge. You can see this magnificent gorge on a daytour from Darwin that also includes a stop at the beautiful Edith Falls. More info...
Located on Stokes Hill Wharf, this is a good aquarium where you can even see the deadly box jellyfish from a safe distance.
Litchfield Park is closer to Darwin than Kakadu and also smaller so you can do it in a day trip, another advantage is the fact that it has great refreshing waterfalls where you can swim. National Park rangers maintain crocodile traps to keep the waters safe for you. Besides great waterfalls you'll also see the amazing magnetic termite mounds here. More info....
You can also go on a tour that will take you around all the Top End's highlights, Kakadu, Litchfield and Katherine Gorge, in three days/two nights. More info...
Only about four km. from the city centre is the Museum and
Artgallery of the Northern Territory in Fannie Bay. Here you can see a
wide variety of things;
- the preserved body of Sweetheart, the legendary 5metre, 780kg. crocodile that used to bite outboard motors and overturn fishing boats. When he was caught in 1979 he became so tangled in the ropes that he drowned.
- Aboriginal art from the nearby Tiwi isalnds and Arnhem Land.
- A maritime display of several interesting boats
- A display on cyclone Tracy with photos, eyewitness accounts and a soundroom where you can get a feel of what it would have been like to go through this disaster.
This $117 million building houses both the library and the
Territory Government and is open to the public from Monday to Saturday.
As the Northern Territory is not a state it has so far only been granted limited self government by Canberra. Basically this means they can do what they want in Darwin but if Canberra doesn't like it they can reverse their decisions. This happened a few years ago when the Northern Territory became the first place in Australia to legalize euthanasia. Several terminally ill people managed to end their suffering but Canberra moved swiftly and put an end to this.
For books and book exchange go to Rapid Creek Business Village, 48 Trower Rd, in Millner where Alan Marshall has around 15 thousand books to choose from. Phone 08 8985 6466 , EFTPOS is available. Contact him via email or visit his website .
Cullen Bay Charters can take you out to ship wrecks in Darwin harbour.
On Berrimah Road you can see the remains of a Toyota 4WD that was bombed in an airforce blunder in 2000. More info...
Though Darwin is surrounded by beautiful beaches it unfortunately has the infamous box jellyfish from October till May. Mindil beach is an easy walk from the city centre, if you go out a bit further there are several more beaches along Nightcliff and after that there is 7 km. long Casuarina beach, a part of this is an official nude beach as well. For safe swimming in stinger season head to Lake Alexander at East Point in Fannie Bay or if you've got a car head down the road to Berry Springs, this gets busy on weekends with locals but on weekdays it is a great place for a swim.