Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territory, and is the largest settlement in such a huge expanse of land, the next closest ‘city’ is thousands of kilometres away from you. A hugely popular destination for backpackers, Darwin is essentially the party capital of Australia (at least for backpackers). Despite its relatively small size and population, there is a vast amount of things to do here and you’ll certainly be able to keep yourself entertained. Here are my top 12 things to do in Darwin:
Mindil Beach isn’t too far from Darwin’s CBD. Granted that never stopped me getting lost and ending up in a nearby park. At the end of the day, a beach is a beach; and Mindil is a brilliant example of one you’ll want to spend a lot of time on. It’s no surprise that in the heat of the Northern Territory, a lot of people head here to relax on the sand. Just be careful of the water, Darwin is home to massive saltwater crocodiles and box jellyfish; you’ll want to avoid both.
Parliament House is the newest parliament building in Australia, and was completed in 1994. It has a contemporary design and is easily accessible from the Esplanade. At Parliament House you can take a self-guided tour, or you can take part in a free guided tour which takes approximately 90 minutes. The free tour times change depending upon season, so you should check out the NT Parliament website for more information about when they are running. There is also a cafe and library inside which are open Monday to Friday and are well worth a look.
If the sand isn’t really your thing, you can always head to Bicentennial Park (the Esplanade) for a picnic. The luscious green grass, serene surroundings, BENCHES (yeaaaaah you can sit down and stuff) and amazing ocean views make this a pretty amazing place to go and relax. If you get out early enough in the morning for sunrise, some of the views are breathtaking, it’s also a great place to go for a jog if you’re trying to keep fit on the road. The best part though? All of the funky Australian birds that nest, land and feed around the park. You’d have to be mad to miss it.
Part of the fun of visiting a new place is to learn about it’s history. After all, that’s what shaped it into the place it is today. Darwin is no different and played a significant part in the second world war. The aviation heritage centre is one of the top attractions in Darwin – with a B-52 bomber on display. There are a whole bunch of aircraft on display, and it makes for an interesting trip, particularly for those of you with a vested interest in history (particularly wartime). I don’t want to disclose too much info here and ruin the experience, so head over there!
The famous Crocosaurus Cove is a crocodile park located in the heart of Darwin, and is one of Australia’s largest displays of reptiles. They even have a freshwater fish enclosure and a turtle enclosure; who doesn’t love turtles? the Cove is one of the locations where you can swim with the massive saltwater crocs that inhabit Australia’s Top End – the aptly named ‘Cage of Death’. You even get the chance to feed some of the critters and hold a baby croc. What more could you ask for?
Mindil Beach Markets
Thursday and Sunday evenings in Darwin are special. The place essentially migrates to Mindil Beach to visit the sunset markets. Trust me, the sunsets in Darwin are amazing enough, but the atmosphere at the beach is something else. You’ll find people taking all sorts, including rugs and eskies to kick back and enjoy it. Make sure to remember your alcohol and get in early to find yourself a prime piece of beach real estate. Don’t bother eating before, there’s plenty of fancy grub around.
Pretty much every city in Australia has its botanic gardens. Darwin is no exception to that, and the George Brown Botanic Gardens are just as beautiful as any. They’re only a short walk (2km) north of the CBD, so if you’re staying on Mitchell Street (as many backpackers do, at least) it really isn’t too far away from you. The gardens are that much more impressive when you consider that they’ve sustained 130 years of cyclones, and like the rest of Darwin, WWII.
Some of the best things to do in Darwin for backpackers involve actually leaving Darwin. To the east of Darwin lies the UNESCO listed world heritage site Kakadu National Park. If you have a few days to spare I would certainly recommend exploring, and depending on the time of year (and thus water level) I’d also consider heading to JimJim Falls and perhaps taking a dip. Just be careful of the crocs.
Kakadu’s almost neighbour, Litchfield National Park is another of those ‘great for backpacker’ type things near Darwin. By near, it is about 100km away, but that isn’t really that far in the grand scheme of Australia is it? Litchfield is another of those places with some amazing trials, walks and views and you could easily spend a few days (probably a lot more) exploring the place. Both national parks have short tours that you can go on.
Defence of Darwin
The defence of Darwin is a completely different experience to anything else on here. The ‘attraction’ is an immersive experience which you can interact with and covers the part that Darwin played during the second world war (okay, it’s a little bit like the Aviation Heritage Centre maybe). Once again if you’ve got any remote interest in history (which you should!) then it’s worth checking out. Despite how the exhibitions website appears, the centre isn’t actually black and white! It does however, tell you an intriguing and important story regarding the bombing of Darwin (that the garden’s survived – sense a theme here?).
I’d say go visit government house just to see the flowers if nothing else. I’ve honestly never seen such a clean and tidy looking, vibrant ‘home’ in all my life. It’s the home of the Administrator of the Northern Territory and although it isn’t publicly accessible like Parliament House, you can get around outside (you’ll be in the sun anyway) and take a look – besides, its en route to like.. most of Darwin. Just check it out on a walk-by.
Crocodile Boat Cruise
The crocodile boat cruise is a short boat tour that gives you the chance to spot some crocodiles out in the wild. You aren’t guaranteed to see any, but the chances that you will are pretty high – even I managed to spot one! You shouldn’t worry if you don’t find any crocs though, the water sustains all sorts of wildlife and there’s a vast range of bird species to be found there; most of which you’ll probably not have seen before.
Have I missed anything major? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to add it in (with credit)!