When I arrived in Darwin in September, the dry season was coming to a close and the buildup to the wet season had just begun and it was hot. The skies were clear blue for a week straight and the heat was dry.
Darwin itself can be explored in a matter of days. Most hostels and other accommodations are located on Mitchell Street and along the esplanade in the CBD (central business district). So, it’s easy to walk out the door grab a quick breakfast on Mitchell Street before heading out to explore. When I visit a new city, I like to spend the first day just getting a feel for it, so I don’t plan anything big. The Smith Street Mall is near the end of Mitchell Street closer to the waterfront. There are a few coffee shops, cafés, and some shopping of course. The waterfront is also a beautiful spot to explore, with some pricier restaurants and some swimming to be had. The infamous wave lagoon is here and costs $5 for half a day (four hours) and $8 for the full day. Instead of walking back down Mitchell Street, you can opt to walk the length of the Bicentennial Park. It’s a short walk with some good photo ops and a nice spot for a sunset picnic.
Another afternoon trip involves renting a bicycle and riding out to Charles Darwin National Park. It will cost you about $15-20 to rent a bicycle for the day. The park is small, but offers a great panoramic view of the city of Darwin. But beware: the majority of the trip involves riding on the shoulder of a highway. There was a bicycle path part of the way but when we visited it was under construction and inaccessible. If it’s a Thursday or Sunday, take the bike and head out to the Mindil Beach Markets for some cheap international cuisine and unique aboriginal art and other souvenirs.
It’s easy to walk from the city centre to the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens, which can be explored easily in an hour or two. It’s a beautiful garden with some more manicured and some wilder areas, with different ecological themes. Parts of it are accessible by bicycle, and when I visited later in the evening there were few other visitors.
If you’re interested in museums, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is a great stop. The section on aboriginal art, culture, and history is particularly informative and for me was a great introduction into an important part of Australian culture.
Darwin is also well-known for its outdoor cinema, Deckchair Cinema Darwin. They don’t play films in the wet season, but the rest of the year you can visit www.deckchaircinema.com.au for more info and movie listings.
I’d be amiss if I ignored the fact that Darwin is known for its nightlife. At heart, it is a backpacker town and the kids know how to party. Pretty much every evening Mitchell Street is in full swing and you can drink and dance the night away at Shennanigans, Monsoons, The Tap on Mitchell, or any of the other pubs that will be bouncing until closing time.
Of course, there’s much more to the top end than Darwin, and in my next posts I’ll be heading out of the city to some of the more remote regions. Stay tuned!