A four hour flight from Sydney and you’re halfway to Asia – so say you decide to stop right there. Well, you’ll end up in Darwin, where you’ll get a little bit of both worlds.
A trip to the Northern Territory’s capital sits somewhere between an Aussie city break and an Asian holiday, without the crowds or the chaos. Here’s a few tips on how to spend one day in Darwin.
The day starts early when you’re in the NT. Sunrise is at 6am and the humidity kicks in soon after. Make sure you’re in Parap by 8am, when the Parap Village Markets take over this small shopping area each Saturday morning. Locals come early to stock up on fruit and vegies – trays of pineapples, crates of mangoes, bundles of Chinese herbs and spices, even whole stems of bananas hanging from the shade coverings, the local growers have their produce on show. Make your first stop the juice bars in the centre of the street – with around ten blenders each, all-going non-stop, it’s a noisy spot but there’s always a line for coconut shakes, mango smoothies and pineapple juice. On the way, out, pick up a croc-shaped chocolate fudge for the kids from Territory Fudge or maybe a pair of handmade short shorts or vintage swimming costumes.
By the time the sun is well and truly up, the crocodiles at Crocosaurus Cove are settling into their spots in the sun. This reptile park is right in the centre of town, on the corner of Peel St and Mitchell St. You don’t even have to leave the city to see giant saltwater crocodiles. The Big Croc Feed is at 11.30am, where you’ll see plenty of snapping teeth, but you’ll need to get there early if you want a front row seat. Before the big show draws all the crowds, zip around through the reptile enclosures, handle a snake, hold a baby croc and see just how many different types of lizards are in the Outback. High on my list is the newborn crocodile enclosure, where you can stick your head up into plastic bubbles built into the floor. Eyeball a croc and if you’re lucky, look up at its soft little belly while it sunbakes on your plastic globe. If you’re feeling brave, take on the Cage of Death, where you’re lowered into a crocodile tank enclosed in a clear cage. Not for the faint hearted!
Lunchtime and the hottest part of the day. Take shelter from the heat down at the Waterfront Precinct, where new bars and restaurants have opened up to provide spaces for locals and tourists. With a long history involving everything from World War 2 oil storage tunnels to the Darwin bombing, the site is now home to two swimming lagoons, manicured lawns leading right to the water’s edge and the Vibe Darwin. Grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants (Hot Tamale does good nachos) and hang out in the wave lagoon. Keep an eye out for regular events down by the water – kids will love the open air cinema nights on the lawn.
The locals will tell you the best spots to catch sunset in Darwin are down by the water on Fannie Bay. The Ski Club, Sailing Club and Trailer Boat Club all sit along the waterfront and are the perfect spots for a laid-back drink before dinner. Pull up a plastic chair and watch the sky change colour.
Yes, Darwin does do fine dining. Hanuman Restaurant, Pee Wee’s At the Point and Redsalt Bar and Restaurant are all local spots for a special occasion. Expect lots of Asian flavours and fresh seafood. Families or casual diners will find plenty of Thai food, Italian and casual cafes for a bite to eat. If you’re keen to kick on, the pubs are open late but check out the program for the Deckchair Cinema for a movie under the stars.