Australia Vacation: How to Spend 48 Hours in Darwin City
Darwin has something for everyone. Photo/NT Tourism
The Northern Territory is renowned for crocodiles, barramundi fishing and ancient and iconic landscapes from Litchfield to Kakadu, Arnhem Land and Nitmiluk Gorge. Darwin is the ideal launching pad for these adventures, writes Nannette Holliday.
CUT HERE This laid-back, oversized country town and Australia’s northernmost capital is a vibrant melting pot of indigenous culture, exotic Asian market cuisines, wartime history, expressive street art, cafes cool back streets, funky hidden bars, a spooky waterfront and jaw-dropping kaleidoscopic sunsets all year round. Darwin has something for everyone, even if you’re only in town for 48 hours or less. END OF CUT
A Big Bus hop-on hop-off pass is the best way to get your bearings and get a glimpse of the city’s history. It has a stop on Ross Smith Avenue near Parap Village. If you are in town on a Saturday morning, enjoying breakfast like a local at the Parap village markets is a must. Open 8am-2pm year-round, a Mary’s or Yati’s laksa tops the list. You can’t miss the long queue, but your belly will agree that the wait is worth it. CUT HERE Alternatively, enjoy stuffed chicken wings, dumplings, satays and freshly squeezed juices while browsing the myriad of exotic fruits, Asian vegetables and local arts and crafts stalls – the freebies perfect to take home. END OF CUT
Every day, the permanent shops of Parap Village are a must. Discover old stories with a new twist at the 1970s laundromat, now Laundry Gallery; it is a vibrant Aboriginal creative hub. Laneway Coffee is always packed, or indulge in the aromas of fresh breads, pies and pastries emanating from Parap Bakery. Parap Fine Foods’ continental delights are perfect for a picnic near Alexander Lake, East Point or the Nightcliff Foreshore.
A few streets away is the unassuming 1934 Qantas Hangar that survived WWII bombings and Cyclone Tracy. It’s free to browse overflowing memorabilia, old vehicles, bikes and more.
Hop back on your Big Bus and continue to Crocosaurus Cove for up-close experiences with prehistoric saltwater crocodiles. At high tide, hand-feed milkfish at Aquascene. See award-winning Aboriginal artwork and the 5m stuffed crocodile, Sweetheart, who had a fondness for fisherman outboard motors and learn about Cyclone Tracy at the Museum and Art Gallery (MAGNT). Learn more about Darwin’s wartime history at the East Point Military Museum. Disembark at Stokes Hill Wharf around 3:00 PM to experience the Royal Flying Doctor Tourist Facility, its history, aircraft and WWII virtual reality experience.
Board the Cape Adieu or the Charles Darwin for a sunset cruise in Darwin Harbor at 5:00 p.m. Get a different perspective of the city as you toast to the scorching Darwin sun as it sinks into the Arafura Sea with delicious seafood and bubbles before returning to Stokes Hill Wharf at 8pm.
If cruising isn’t your thing, watch an independent film under the stars at the Deckchair Cinema next to Darwin Harbor on the waterfront. Food and drinks are available from 5:30 p.m. and movies start at 7 p.m.
Next, head to the CBD and grab a drink at the speakeasy Hanky Panky Lounge next to the Hilton Darwin. Venture upstairs above Austin Lane to Charlies of Darwin for award-winning locally crafted gins. Next to it is the colorful charging bay. In Spain Lane, sample European wines at Stone House, the Chinese heritage-listed opium store. Or relax nearby in Air Raid Arcade at the Renaissance-inspired Birth of Venus and retro-themed Babylon bars.
If you purchased a two-day Big Bus pass, hop on and off at the Mindil Beach Casino stop. Cross the road and walk past the Old Gardens Cemetery to the George Brown Botanical Gardens. Alternatively, Uber, e-scooter or e-bike hop off and enjoy a casual breakfast amidst nature’s beauty at Eva’s Cafe, originally the relocated Methodist Church of the Esplanade, before strolling through these natural gardens.
The city of Darwin features massive street art, which is added every year during the Darwin Street Art Festival. To fully experience the plays and artists as you wander around, especially Austin Lane and Shadforth Lane, download the self-guided app.
Steps from Smith Street Mall, make a splash at the Waterfront Precinct. Relax under huge shady trees on the daybeds, swim safely at the Beach Lagoon and Wave Lagoon, surrounded by a myriad of dining and dining options. CUT HERE Your hardest decision will be whether to indulge in big succulent oysters, big juicy steaks, spicy Asian dishes, fish ‘n’ chips, pizzas, burgers, freshly made pastas, Mexicans, ice cream or ice cream.
If you want a little more excitement, opt for an Airboat Tour in Darwin or a 00Seven Adventures Jet Ski Tour in Darwin Harbour. 00Seven also offers mountain bike tours in nearby Charles Darwin National Park. Or see the city and harbor from a bird’s eye view on a scenic Remote Adventures or Airborne Solutions helicopter flight. END OF CUT
Toast to fabulous sunsets with 360 degree views of the city and harbor at Zen Rooftop Bar. For award-winning Thai/Indian/South East Asian cuisine, head to Hanuman Restaurant next to the Darwin Entertainment Centre. Venture to the Mindil Beach Casino Resort and take a front row seat as the sun sets at the Sandbar, then end the evening next door at Il Piatto with an authentic Italian dinner. Or stroll through the Mindil Beach Markets between 4pm and 9pm on Sunday and Thursday (May to October).
CUT HERE Want something more relaxed that still captures those amazing sea views and sunsets? Sit on the lawns of Cullen Bay with fish ‘n’ chips at La Beach, or have a picnic in Cullen Bay to create the perfect romantic picnic setting for you. Or sample Asian and Australian fare at the Darwin Trailer Boat Club and Darwin Sailing Club facing Fannie Bay Beach. END OF CUT
Where to stay
Adina Apartments or Vibe Hotel at Darwin Waterfront. Oaks Darwin Elan Hotel or Palm City Resort in the CBD. Cullen Bay Resorts in Cullen Bay or Mindil Beach Casino Resort on Mindil Beach.
when should we go
Darwin has two seasons, wet and dry (May to October), each with maximum temperatures reaching 30°C; the latter has little humidity, but like its inhabitants, it is still warm for visitors.
To find out more, visit the northterritory.com