Discovering Darwin: an adventure in the Top End

There were only two facts that I knew about Darwin before my recent visit to the capital city of the Northern Territory. The first was that it was attacked and bombed by the Japanese in WW11 causing widespread damage and unfortunately taking 243 lives. 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. Seventy 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 is a thriving metropolis with a growing population of 157,920 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’re visiting Darwin at the end of May and the temperature is perfect, averaging 28 degrees Celsius with a balmy tropical breeze and negligible humidity.

Before we venture out on our first walk, which is down to the Darwin waterfront, we indulge in a delicious breakfast at the hotel, a chance for me to start expanding my holiday breakfast buffet body!

Stepping out, we feel the city’s languid atmosphere and pace as we head down to the harbour. Seeing the waterfront for the first time I know it’s somewhere I’ll be spending a lot of time.

Apartments have been built here to take advantage of the views, recreational 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 have some well-earned pool time before our next exciting adventure, which is only down the road at the Crocosaurus Cove. This is one of Darwin’s most popular tourist attractions. It’s classified as a wildlife park with exhibits including turtles, snakes, reptiles and a variety of fish including barramundi, and of course the main attraction – crocodiles!

There are up to 200 crocodiles varying in size from babies to several giants. A few of these saltwater behemoths weigh in at just over 800 kilograms and are more than five metres in length with a hideous amount of massive, serrated, sharp teeth. Even though you view them in complete safety, their sheer size and girth cause your heart to start beating at a frantic pace.

Available for the Crocosaurus adventurous is the ‘Cage of Death’. 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 these primeval monsters close up.

Later that afternoon, we make 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 disappears into the Timor Sea.

The next night, we indulge in an Australian classic feast of fish and chips by the seashore. The place to do this in Darwin is Cullen Bay and along with our moreish gourmet delight, we are blessed with a sunset that will be etched into our memory (and memory stick) for a lifetime.

We lucked our time in Darwin to coincide with Darwin’s popular Mindil Markets, located only a few kilometres from the city centre. Open between 5pm to 10pm Thursdays, and 4pm to 9pm Sundays from April to October, it’s buzzing with locals and tourists. There’s a vibrant atmosphere with live entertainment and more than 200 stalls selling all kinds of food and products. This is a must-do visit when you’re in Darwin.

Keep reading: The 10 must-see sights to visit in the Northern Territory

I love Darwin, and our next adventure iced the cake. Only about a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Darwin is the beautiful Litchfield National Park. We opted to hire a car and drove there ourselves, otherwise, there are many types of tours available.

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, but it was magnificent. A word of advice: 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.

Photography by Daniel Resnik.


Where to stay
Hilton Darwin delivers premium comfort, harbour views and all the mod-cons in an excellent central location:

Getting there:
Qantas flies to Darwin:

Find out more:

This article was first published on 8 September 2017 and updated on 15 September 2020. 

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