July 5, 2021 • Glenys Gelzinis
6 min read
Every year when winter’s icy fingers get a hold on southern areas of Australia the migration north begins for sun worshippers wanting to escape the freezing conditions, and Darwin is so hot right now, literally and figuratively.
With average temperatures hovering around 31°C in the dry season from May to October each year, it’s no wonder for that reason alone, it’s tempting to head north. But apart from the weather, it’s also the time of year that Darwin turns on the best events and tours for visitors.
An easy option for exploring Darwin City is to buy a ticket for the hop on hop off Big Bus Tours. Ticket prices for adults start at $38.30 for a one day pass which enables you to see some of Darwin’s best known attractions with commentary as you go. You are free to explore any of the twelve locations along the way and rejoin the bus when it returns approximately every 40 minutes, on its loop around the city.
In the city centre you can take yourself on a walking tour, or hire an E-scooter to find some amazing street art. Like many Australian cities, Darwin has a street art festival, which this year will take place from 30 August to 10 September. A few of the murals were recognised as some of Australia’s best, at the Australian Street Art Awards in 2020. The street art and murals have a distinctly Territorian feel in their subjects and colours and a few standouts include Jumping Kangaroo by artist Odeith, Warrior by Peter ‘CTO’ Seaton, and Baru artwork and Dr G Yunupingu portrait created by Andrew Bourke, Jesse Bell and Wendy Yunupngu.
Another area of the city you’ll want to spend a lot of time in, is the Darwin Waterfront precinct which has a free shuttle bus between sites. The waterfront includes a saltwater recreation lagoon with an Aqua park and beach as well as a Wave Lagoon Pool. There are fees to use the Aqua Park and the Wave Lagoon Pool and all of the areas are patrolled by lifeguards. It’s easy for the whole family to spend a day anywhere along the cool and shady waterfront and there are plenty of options for food and drinks with cafes and restaurants surrounding this relaxing spot.
The Waterfront shuttle bus will also take you to Stokes Hill Wharf which is well known for its alfresco dining to enjoy while watching boats coming and going from the wharf. Here you can also visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service tourist facility which also includes historical information on the bombing of Darwin in 1942. As well as having a decommissioned RFDS aircraft, holographs and touch screens bring the history and work of the RFDS to life and in the same facility you can also relive the bombing of Darwin with the help of virtual reality. Ticket prices range from $16 for children to $28 per adult.
A self-guided tour you can take nearby is inside the Oil Storage Tunnels opposite the waterfront precinct. These secret tunnels were constructed to protect Darwin’s oil supplies during World War II, and today you can walk through a couple of these tunnels that stretch for more than 170 metres below the city. Interpretive signage inside the tunnels show stories and photos of the time as well as providing loads of information on Darwin’s waterfront history. This unique attraction is open every day and there’s a small fee to visit.
Don’t forget to use Campermate’s maps to filter and find a heap of activities around Darwin, from fishing charters and cultural experiences to 4WD adventures out of the city.
A large event that everyone visiting Darwin during the dry season is drawn to, is the iconic Mindl Beach Markets, held every Thursday and Sunday evening. Here you’ll find more than 200 stalls selling everything from locally made crafts, clothing, art and more and a mind boggling range of food choices with almost every food culture of the world represented. Weather your tastes range from Asian, Mexican, Greek, or Italian cuisine or you can try a bit of Aussie ‘road kill’, it’s all there.
You can wander through the market from 4pm onwards, before settling in to watch some live entertainment then walk over the dunes to watch a glowing tropical sunset. After dark the market takes on a whole different feel in the balmy evening and you can spend more time under lights browsing and buying goods until the market closes at 9pm.
For a real taste of the Territory make sure to plan a trip to Litchfield National Park. Litchfield is only an hour south of Darwin and you can experience swimming in waterholes, and under waterfalls in areas designated safe and crocodile free. Be sure to heed the signs letting you know which areas are safe to swim in or not.
Some of the falls are easier to get to than others so you need to take note of the information provided and decide where your fitness level allows you to go. One of the less populated spots to enjoy a cooling dip is The Cascades. That’s probably because it is a little more difficult to get to than some of the other options, but the reward for having to scramble over a few rocky patches are some Garden of Eden type views and deep pools with ledges to sit on and enjoy the spa-like falls.
A couple of other spectacular sights not to be missed in Litchfield are Wangi Falls and the termite mounds. Wangi Falls has two cascading waterfalls surrounded by a lush rainforest with various walking tracks you can take for different vantage points. Termite mounds are readily seen throughout a lot of the Northern Territory scrub but the ones in Litchfield are quite incredible specimens which dwarf even the tallest of adults, and are estimated to be more than 50 years old.
You can’t think of holidaying in the Northern Territory without seeing crocodiles at some stage, and as long as it’s on safe terms, that’s a good thing. The best way to see them in the wild is to take a cruise with an organised tour group on a wetlands or billabong tour. The amount of birdlife you will see and the beauty of the natural billabongs especially with waterlilies in flower, is staggering and yes there are bound to be crocs too, just don’t smile at them.