10 Things To Do In Darwin

Tourism Top End

Northern Territory’s Darwin is the only tropical capital in Australia, and at times feels a world apart from the rest of the country. It has an intense natural heritage, dramatic history, strong indigenous culture and a lot of saltwater crocs. Here are just some of the things you can get up to in this corner of the world:
1. Take a Dip in Crocasourus Cove
Bang in the middle of Darwin’s main shopping district, this is a great opportunity to get close and personal without leaving the city. It is also the only place in the whole of Australia which offers the exclusive ‘Cage of Death’ experience: put on some goggles and dive underwater in a giant glass cylinder to come face to face with a full-grown crocodile and cross your fingers that the attraction doesn’t live up to its name. Croc Cove has some of the biggest salt-water crocodiles in the country.
2. Meet the Aborigines
Aboriginal culture is a vital part the Northern Territory: Pukadal Aboriginal Cultural Tours is a local operator which provides authentic visits into Kakadu, so you can experience this first-hand. The family-owned business avoids over-commercialisation and focuses on genuine interaction with the hosts. You’ll learn about spear-throwing, didjeridoo, slapsticks, bush tucker and natural medicines alongside traditional greetings, Dreamtime, basket-weaving, all right next to a scenic billabong. About as Australian as you can get.
3. See some Planes
The Darwin Aviation Heritage Centre is one of the most incredible collection or wartime aircraft in the world. The award-winning display, with a range of Australian, American and Japanese planes is easily accessible by bus from downtown Darwin, and worth visiting even if you don’t like planes. The collection is a living showcase of the key players of WW2 in the Pacific, and houses everything from Spitfires to the ‘flying fortress,’ a massive B-52 bomber that barely seems to fit in a hangar. This massive construction is only two contained outside the USA.
3. Cruise the Wetlands
Embark on your journey through Mary River at Corroboree Billabong, which besides the inimitable Aussie-ness of its name, is also a base for seeing some of the planet’s largest saltwater crocodiles. The guided-commentary boat ride will take you as close to the crocs as you’ll want to be, and if you want to stick around the area, the local wilderness has some wild bush tracts, fishing and birdwatching opportunities.
4. Tour Litchfield National Park
No, not the women’s prison. It takes a day tour to fully take in the rich greenery and amazing natural beauty of the place. There are massive termite mounds, thundering waterfalls you can (try to) swim up to and colossal crocodiles lurking around the Adelaide River. To get a good look at them, its best to take a boat trip, then have dinner by sunset before heading home. Definitely not a women’s prison.
5. Go Back in Time
The Defence of Darwin Experience is an interactive multimedia exhibition in the Darwin Military museum which a theatrical depiction of the February 1942 Darwin Bombing which involves nearly all the human senses. The museum is a dark yet fascinating way to learn about the past of the city with nine WW2 military heritage sites, and to understand what makes up its character today.
6. Get Onboard at Darwin Harbour
A cruise is the best way to discover the history and natural environment surrounding Darwin Harbour. From here, you can take a number of water-based excursions, exploring the local marine ecosystems, nearby shipwrecks and war relics, mangrove swamps and even some hatchling turtles if you visit between April and October.
8. Explore the Wildlife Park
The Territory Wildlife Park in Berry Springs is only a short 45-minute drive south from  Darwin. You’ll see dingos, be able to visit a walk-through aviary, a nocturnal house, a goose lagoon, an aquarium, see a billabong and take a walk through the colourful monsoon vine forest. The Flight Deck bird-of-prey show is a favourite with visitors, while a park train will take you between attractions.
9. Visit the Free Leanyer Fun Park
Yes, that’s right. The Leanyer Recreation Park is free, and it’s for all ages. The area has plenty of shade, BBQs, waterslides – and did I mention it’s all free? The water is clean, there are plenty of lifeguards, nice facilities, warm shows and a very reasonably-priced coffee shop, although you could just cook up your own dinner on any of the FREE BBQs. For obvious reasons, this is rapidly becoming a backpackers’ favourite and fantastic day out for local families.
10. See the Sunset at Mindil Beach Markets
After a busy day that probably featured lots of crocodiles, watching the sun set over Mindil Beach is a must  while in Darwin. The markets are held between 5pm and 10pm during the dry season (April to October) on the waterfront by Darwin’s casino. You can browse thehand-crafted goods for a more authentic souvenir, or simply lay back on one of the grass with dinner (you’ll find cuisine from pretty much everywhere) and some seasonal fruit from the region, or perhaps a French pastry. Sunset culture in Darwin is practically a way of life.
Now you know what to do, fancy a place to stay? Melaleuca on Mitchell is a great value backpackers’ hostel that places you in the heart of the action on Mitchell Street. It’s locally owned by a company of fun-loving staff, has a leisure deck, kitchen, two pools, a waterfall spa, an outdoor pool table, 4m big screen and an underground nightclub. Not bad.
By Sarah Morland