Darwin City Guide

EVER been face to face with a crocodile? If not, then the northern most capital city in Australia's Northern Territory is the place where you will most likely do it - only if you dare, of course.

Sunset on Mindi Beach on the Arafura Sea in DarwinDarwin, a relaxed, particularly hot, tropical and multicultural city with a population of more than 100,000 sits on the far northern coastline overlooking the Timor Sea and was first named in 1839 by Captain John Stokes of HMS Beagle after his colleague Charles Darwin. The aptly named city is capital to the Northern Territory, a vast area more than 5 times the size of the UK with a quite extraordinary range of unique flora and fauna and home to some of the world's oldest races, the Aboriginal tribes.

A common fast fact that best illustrates the vast nature of the Northern Territory, if not Australia as a country and continent, is that Darwin is actually closer to Jakarta, Port Moresby, Dili and even Singapore than it is to any of the other capital cities of Australia.

But being so remote only enhances its appeal, according to most travellers who have experienced the city's heartbeat. Darwin is blessed with unique features when compared with the rest of Australia and has a very distinct Aboriginal presence in both its culture and history. Most notable is the town's relaxed, cosmopolitan vibe, ethnic diversity and the very fact it is so close to tourism hotspots and cultural icons such as a resort on the beach, Tiwi Islands, Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, Katherine Gorge, arid land in the south, the red crags of the Kimberleys, the Red Centre and the piece de resistance, Ayers Rock (Uluru). Darwin is obviously the perfect place from which to hire a campervan from and explore the Northern Territory.

Aside from all the spoils that surround the city, it must be said the allure of Darwin herself will have you parking your campervan for some time and discovering its own special highlights. There's superb nature walks, great markets, trendy cafes, tasty eateries, buzzing nightlife, a casino by the beach and much more. Don't ever let anyone fool you into believing its remote location means you'll be bored stiff; quite the contrary.

The weather is worth keeping an eye for when considering a wise time to visit. There's two very different seasons to keep in mind. The wet season generally runs from November to March, in which torrential rain hits hard for a few hours a day. The dry season sets in from April to October and is considered heaven on earth for humans as far as climate goes - sunny, warm days followed by refreshing, cool and crisp nights.

Crocodile in the Northern Territory, AustraliaAnd as for those crocs lurking in the swampy waters? Well, let's just say in Australia there's a rule one should always adhere to - never stare at a crocodile!







Car & Campervan Rental

Distances in Outback Australia, and the Northern Territory is no exception are huge, there's no other way to describe it. In remote areas locals will think nothing of driving 3-4 hours for dinner! There's really is no better way to get around the Top End than a Car rental or hiring a Campervan. Drivenow has partnered with all Australia's and Darwin's leading rental companies to bring the latest deals in both car and campervan hire, allowing you to compare rates, suppliers and availability on one screen in a simple, no nonsense format. Book your car or campervan hire with DriveNow prior to your trip and the rest is easy once you arrive at one of the car rental pick up points in central Darwin or at Darwin International Airport. The booking process is quick, secure and easy with everything up front and no hidden charges, fees or surprises. An email confirmation provides you with all the details of your booking and where to collect your vehicle.

DriveNow covers all major cities and airports in Australia, none more so than Darwin and the Territory, providing travellers with the perfect vehicle for hiring a car or campervan.

Cuisine

AS mentioned, Darwin is a melting pot of multi-culture and with it comes the flavours of Asia and Europe, therefore the city is overflowing with scrumptious food. Gone are the days of pot-bellied men in Stubbies shorts and singlets eating counter meals at the local pub and in with the cosmopolitan style of outdoor bars, noodle houses, classy restaurants and waterside cafes - and maybe just the occasional pot-bellied man in Stubbies shorts and singlets!

Redsalt Bar & Grill

Crowne Plaza Hotel's premier restaurant is a classy, grill-style eatery boasting seafood and steak dishes that will have you salivating for more. Serving Darwin's best Grainge fed beef and local, freshly caught Barramundi, this all-day restaurant has fast become one of Darwin's best.

Hanuman

A showpiece of the Holiday Inn Esplanade complex, Hanuman has been rated by many as Darwin's best restaurant and offers a mix of Thai, Nyonya and Tandoori cuisine. Features include a beautiful deck alfresco dining area and stylish cocktail bar. The food is sublime, with amazing small plates, tandooris, and seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes to tantalise the taste buds.

Garam Masala

Chunky wooden tables, deep red curtains and Indian food to die for makes Garam Masala a "can't miss" restaurant in Darwin. Covering both southern and northern Indian cuisine with Tandoori as its forte, Garam also boasts an extensive vegetarian menu. Do yourself a favour and sink your teeth into this supreme Indian gastronomical experience.

Lizards Outdoor Bar & Grill

FOR some tasty Australian modern style cuisine that doesn't crunch your wallet or purse, don't look any further than the Top End Hotel which prides itself on serving "traditional tucker in the tropics". Sprawling fig trees shade the tables in this beautiful setting as you tear into one of the many steak varieties on offer, seafood and other yummy dishes.

A Taste of the Territory

HEAD for the marina and enjoy a true Australian Top End dining experience with some buffet and Aussie grill. Open for lunch and dinner every day, choose from a selection of beef, buffalo, emu, crocodile, Barramundi, prawns, bugs, pork, camel, lamb, kangaroo and octopus as well as a soup and salad bar. A whopper organic vegetarian selection is also available.


Shopping

From small charming marketplaces up to large shopping centres, Darwin offers ample shopping opportunities. Here's a handy run down of where to go.

Mitchell Street is Darwin's CBD area and is the heartbeat of the city with restaurants, backpackers and more. But there is the large Mitchell Centre Shopping Centre and plenty of other speciality shops to tempt all types of shoppers. After you've splurged, pop into one of several cafes where you can kick back, rest your feet and revitalise with a scrumptious piece of cake and delicious coffee.

Casuarina Square is Darwin's largest and premier shopping hotspot with more than 200 stores in air-conditioned comfort. Some of the biggies include K-Mart, Big W, Woolworths and Coles all complemented by over 170 speciality shops such as the ABC Shop, Colorado, Dymocks, pharmacies and several cafes.

Smith Street Mall comprises several stores which offer everything from tourism clothing outlets to camera shops, Star Village (Darwin's first cinema), hairdressing salons and more. This is the ultimate mix of eclectic inner city shopping.

Karama Shopping Centre isn't one of your bigger shopping centres but it does have such things as a newsagency, Coles supermarket (open around the clock), bottle shop, several takeaway eateries, family restaurant and tavern, and a pharmacy. Find it in Kalymnos Drive in Karama.

Palmerston Shopping Centre is a fast growing complex, 20km south of Darwin, with an extended hours post office, newsagent, Target, 24-hour Coles supermarket, bookshop, pharmacy and cafes and restaurants. It's the last real opportunity for a big shop before travellers head south to popular Katherine.

Markets

Parap Markets

One of the oldest and best in Darwin, Parap is a colourful market with a vast array of arts and crafts, great food offerings including superb Asian varieties, general bric-a-brac, fresh juice and it's all in a relaxed environment as you wind your way through the stalls. Every Saturday from April to the end of the year. They run from 8am to midday.

Mindil Beach Markets

Perhaps there's no more charming market in the world than Mindil Beach Markets that are held at sunset on Thursday and Sunday nights in the dry season. Soak up the tropical night air and views as you peruse 60 food stalls (Greek, Sri Lankan, South American, Turkish, Indian, South East Asian and more). Then there's hundreds of stalls offering arts, crafts, massage, tarot card readers, artists, jewellers as well as live street theatre and buskers

Nightcliff Markets

Every Sunday from 8am to 2pm the Nightcliff markets come alive with much variety including hemp designer clothing, copper sculptures and lots of crafts, cds, furniture, clothing, massage and, of course, lots of food and freshly brewed coffee. It's only been going since the late 1990s, but it's carving out a big reputation with both visitors and locals. Find it in Progress Drive, Nightcliff.

Entertainment

ONE important thing to keep in mind for Darwin when it comes to entertainment and nigthlife - it's damn hot, so, as a general rule, forget dressing up to the nines and take a more casual approach. You won't be out of place scooting about in shorts, thongs and T-Shirts. With the heat comes no hotter pubs and nightspots that can quench your thirst and provide you with a place to chill with friends, make new ones and enjoy some entertainment. There's always a party in Darwin and perhaps one of the city's most popular attractions, Discovery Nightclub is for you. This hot dance destination in Mitchell Street was named best Australian dance spot for three years in succession and also showcases live bands regularly. If that's not your thing and you're looking for a more Australian pub experience then head to the Blue Heeler Bar on the corner of Mitchell and Herbert streets. This is an Aussie institution and has memorabilia on the walls and ceiling. The beer garden is a highlight, there's DJs, karaoke and beautiful cold beer on tap.

Accommodation

Holiday Inn Esplanade Darwin
Location, location, location! The Holiday Inn faces Darwin Harbour with its beautiful waterfront parkland one way, and the rear of the complex enters on to the main street of Darwin. Some of its features include a restaurant (children eat free), outdoor pool and health centre.

Novotel Atrium Darwin
Another accommodation option overlooking Darwin Harbour, the Novotel Atrium is a hop, skip and a jump from the bustling nightlife and dining area in Mitchell Street. Most impressive is the hotel's indoor tropical rainforest. If you don't want to venture out too far this hotel is perfect as it has a restaurant, bar and outdoor swimming pool.

Skycity Darwin
Now here's some accommodation with a touch of the old razzamatazz, but make sure your wallet or purse is loaded. Set among tropical beachside gardens, Skycity is the Northern Territory capital's famous five star boutique hotel only minutes rom the CBD. Of its features, standouts include the three restaurants, a coffee shop, bars, a business centre, conference facilities and, of course, a casino that matches the best of them. It doesn't stop there as guests also get to indulge in other facilities such as a fitness centre, putting green, pool and tennis courts, with a nine hole golf course and walking/jogging tracks right next door.

These hotels along with a range of other accommodation can be found at the Darwin Hotel accommodation area on roomsnow.com.au, Drivenow's hotel booking service provider.

Kakadu National Park
Kakadu Park: This gigantic gateway to Arnhemland covers 20,000 square kilometres (about 15,000 square miles) and is an easy three hours drive away from Darwin. Check out Yurmikmik Walks, which is a bunch of walking tracks in the southern end of the Park that will take you to breathtaking waterfalls and swimming holes.
Fannie Bay Gaol
Fannie Bay Gaol: A booming increase in population in Darwin back in the 1880s resulted in the construction of this jail, which closed in the 1970s and became the Fannie Bay Museum. There's an array of displays including the gallows, a women's section and a fantastic area on the devastation of Cyclone Tracey - and quite fittingly, too, because the jail's laundry section was devastated by the gigantic cyclone.
Georgetown Botanic Gardens
Georgetown Botanic Gardens: How easy it is to forget Darwin is a city amidst the tropics. The seeds of the Botanic Gardens were planted in the 1870s by a German botanist and the gardens now boast a spectacular display of more than 400 species of tropical plants. A superb place to simply rest, read a book or have a picnic.
Deckchair Cinema
Deckchair Cinema: One can't stay in Darwin and not experience the exhilaration of a relaxing night out at the Deckchair Cinema - it's about watching a movie in the great outdoors. Deckchair Cinema is seasonal, however, and operates from mid April to mid November.
Crocodylus Park
Crocodylus Park:Remember how we said you should never stare at a crocodile? Well, here's a way you can - but in a safe environment. At this excellent Wildlife and Education Centre you can meet the biggest reptiles in the world as trained tour guides teach you about these awe-inspiring creatures in a comfortable, air-conditioned museum. See the daily feeding displays, touch the soft skin of a crocodile and check out the green iguanas, monkeys and more.
The Essentials - Darwin
  • Population: 100k
  • Temperature: January 32C - July 30C
  • Country Code: 61
  • Timezone: GMT + 9.5 (daylight savings not observed)
  • Visitor Information: Tourism NT
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