It’s been almost twenty years since I last visited Darwin so it was exciting to be given the chance to run a conference event there recently. To return back to the Northern Territory was something I was really looking forward to, as I knew there would have been a lot of change since I last there.
To say that it had changed was a huge understatement. Darwin has undergone a complete transformation in recent years, and whereas I’ve often thought of it primarily as a gateway to Kakadu, Litchfield National Park and Katherine, Darwin is now undoubtedly an amazing destination in its own right.
The Darwin Waterfront area is a hotel, convention centre and restaurant precinct complete with wave pool and man-made beach (this is not an area you want to be swimming in the ocean, no matter how tempting it looks!). The variety of restaurants is excellent, we enjoyed a Greek feast that was out of this world at ‘Antiquity’ and an excellent Asian experience at ‘Chow!’, and there was also a wide range of other options that looked fantastic including a Mexican and Australian/BBQ restaurant.
The centre of town and mall, which is less than a ten minute walk from the Waterfront area, is easily accessible and very modern to what I remembered. There are a couple of great pubs – check out Shenannigans (great name for a Pub!) and Monsoon – and also lots of other hotels if you wish to be in the heart of Mitchell Street and downtown Darwin. There is planned refurbishment to this area too, so am sure there will be lots of other enhancements in the coming months, but it already has everything you could possibly want.
Mindil Markets is a definite ‘must visit’. Set on Mindil Beach, which is renowned globally for its amazing sunset, the markets really come alive every Thursday and Sunday during the dry season. With over 200 stalls, 65 of them being food stalls, this is a really great night out and frequented weekly by all the locals as well as the tourists.
Check out the East Point Reserve as the scenery is spectacular, the water a crystal blue (again swimming is not recommended though as it is known to be inhabited by crocodiles) and it really is a beautiful part of the world and the perfect spot for a hike. Pee Wees at the Point is a great restaurant that is set amidst the Reserve, if you are seeking for a special lunch or dinner.
The Territory Wildlife Park is definitely worth a visit, as is Crocosaurus Cove. You cannot visit Darwin without having a crocodile encounter and this is the best (and safest!) way to experience. The Darwin Military Museum is also popular.
Let’s not forget that Darwin is filled with indigenous culture and I highly recommend taking a day trip/s to Kakadu, Litchfield National Park and/or Katherine. Kakadu National Park is a 20,000 sq km world heritage listed site; cruise the calm waters and view the abundance of wildlife, birdlife and spectacular scenery.
Litchfield National Park is stunning and a complete contrast to Kakadu, filled with cascading waterfalls, termite mounds and forest/woodlands rather than flat wetlands. It’s worth visiting both of these to capture and experience the diversity of the Northern Territory, which is quite unexpected. Katherine Gorge is another great spot to visit, a little further away than the others but still readily accessible from Darwin.
As the old slogan went – “You’ll never never know if you never never go” – and the Top End of the Northern Territory is a destination that should be on everyone’s list to check out. It’s spectacular countryside and a vibrant destination with lots to do, lots to see and lots to experience!