A FEW OF DAYS IN AND AROUND DARWIN
There were only two facts that I knew about Darwin before my recent visit to the capital of the Northern Territory.
The first was that it was attacked and bombed by the Japanese in WWII, causing widespread damage and resulting in 243 deaths.
The second is that on Christmas Eve in 1974, Tropical Cyclone Tracey devastated the city. It was one of the most terrifying cyclones ever recorded in Australia. 70 per cent of Darwin’s homes were destroyed, with many of its residents relocated around Australia until the city could be rebuilt.
And rebuilt it was. Today Darwin is the largest city in the Northern Territory, and it’s a thriving metropolis with a growing population of 142,450 residents.
We recently spent five nights at the Hilton Darwin, which overlooks Darwin Harbour, and from its central location most attractions are only a casual walk or short drive away.
We visited Darwin at the end of May and the temperature was perfect, averaging 28 degrees with a balmy tropical breeze and negligible humidity.
Before we ventured out on our first walk, which was down to the Darwin waterfront, we indulged in a delicious breakfast at the hotel, a chance for me to start expanding my holiday breakfast buffet body!
Stepping out we felt the city’s languid atmosphere and pace as we headed down to the harbour. Upon seeing the waterfront for the first time, I knew it was somewhere I’d be spending a lot of time.
Apartments have been built here to take advantage of the harbour views, recreation swimming areas, and parks. Lifeguards patrol the swimming area from 9pm to 6pm daily due to its popularity.
There’s also a wave pool and a wide selection of restaurants, bars, and other businesses in the locale.
On returning to the Hilton we enjoyed some well-earned pool time before our next exciting adventure, which was just down the road to Crocosaurus Cove.
One of Darwin’s most popular tourist attractions, Crocosaurus Cove is classified as a wildlife park, with exhibits including turtles, snakes, reptiles, and a variety of fish including barramundi. Of course the main attraction, crocodiles, are there too!
There was up to 200 crocodiles varying in size from babies to several giants. A few of these saltwater behemoths weighed in at just over 800 kilograms and measured over five metres in length, with hideous grins inhabited by massive serrated teeth. Even though we viewed them in complete safety, their sheer size and girth caused my heart to start beating at a frantic pace.
If you want to take things another step further, the ‘Cage of Death’ is an option worth considering. It’s basically an enthralling heart in your mouth dive where you (not me) are lowered into the crocodile pool in an acrylic glass cylinder, enabling you to eyeball the primeval monsters close up.
Later that afternoon we made our way to the Darwin Sailing Club, which is located on the water’s edge at the delightfully named Fannie Bay, to enjoy a meal and a refreshing ale as the sun slowly disappeared into the Timor Sea.
The next day we explored the city before indulging in an Australian classic feast of fish and chips by the seashore for dinner. The place to do this in Darwin is at Cullen Bay, and along with our gourmet delights we were blessed with a sunset that will be etched into our memory (and memory stick) for a lifetime.
We managed to time our trip to the top end to coincide with Darwin’s popular Mindil Beach Markets. Located only a few kilometres from the city centre, the markets are open from 5-10pm on Thursdays and 4-9pm on Sundays from April to October.
The markets were buzzing with locals and tourists alike, and the vibrant atmosphere was fuelled by live entertainment and over 200 stalls selling all kinds of food, gifts, and other goodies. This is a must visit if you’re ever in Darwin.
While I loved Darwin city, our next adventure iced the cake. Only about a one and half hours drive from Darwin is the beautiful Litchfield National Park. We opted to hire a car and drove there ourselves, but there are many types of tours available also.
Litchfield has a plethora of things to see and do: waterfalls, gorges, walks (long and short), termite mounds, wildlife, and also campgrounds if you wish to stay longer. We only did a day-trip, which was magnificent. A word of advice, though: don’t forget to take your cozzies as the natural rock pools are breathtaking!
This trip has ignited my love for our country and when possible I will be planning many more Australian adventures. Heck, I didn’t even get down to Kakadu this time around, but I will definitely be back!
WHERE TO STAY:
(08) 8982 0000
HOW TO GET THERE:
Vicki Gilden at Rose Bay Travel (02) 9371 8166