Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory in Australia. The region has a very tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. The wet season is from November to April, and the dry season is from May to October.
Named after the famous naturalist Charles Darwin, it’s also the largest city in the region with a population of about 150,000 people. Interestingly enough, Darwin is also the most multicultural city in Australia, with over 60 different cultures represented.
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The area is also home to the world’s largest concentration of saltwater crocodiles, but you aren’t likely to find any roaming the streets of the very modern downtown area…usually.
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Things to do in Darwin City while waiting for your tour
If you have a day or two in the city, these are my favorite things to do in Darwin city while waiting for your tour.
Just remember that a lot of attractions in Darwin tend to close kind of early, so get up and at ’em. You can always come back and take a nap in your hotel during the hottest part of the afternoon.
Visit Crocosaurus Cove
This attraction is located in the heart of Darwin city and is a great place to see saltwater crocodiles up close. I got to see them from all angles (as the tanks have underwater viewing areas, plus ariel viewing platforms) and even attend a few keeper talks to learn more about the crocs’ personalities, habits, and diets. I cant still remind the bone-crunching “crack” of their large jaws closing around the piece of chicken the keepers dangled over the edge of the enclosure.
If you are feeling especially brave, you can even swim with them in the “Cage of Death.” You can pre-book, but also pick a time on the day if you are feeling especially brave. It’s a plastic tube that’s inside one of the croc’s enclosures. A girl was inside it when I was there and the crocs were verrrrrry curious about her. A bit too curious for my liking. I wasn’t sure how strong that plastic actually looked.
There were also other exhibits in the cove about Australian reptiles. I think I spent about two hours here in total and really enjoyed it.
Skip the line and buy your ticket ahead of time.
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Take a stroll around the Darwin Waterfront Precinct
After my croc experience, I grabbed some lunch to-go from Woolies (the local grocery store) and went for a walk along the waterfront. Well, not actually down by the water because like most of the Northern Territory (and tropical Northern Australia in general) there are too many crocs in the water for it to be safe to just go down there and stroll around.
So instead, I did the next best option on my list of things to do in Darwin city and stayed up on the designated path.
The Darwin Waterfront Precinct is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. It has a man-made beach, swimming lagoon, parks, restaurants, and cafes. It also includes the Darwin Esplanade, which is a scenic pathway that runs along the coast of Darwin. It’s a great place for a walk or a bike ride and offers stunning ocean views.
This museum showcases the natural and cultural history of the Northern Territory. It has a wide range of exhibitions, including Aboriginal art and artifacts, natural history displays, and maritime archaeology.
During World War II, Darwin was bombed by the Japanese on February 19, 1942. It was the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. When learning about the event, known as “The Bombing of Darwin” I was struck by the similarities to the attack on Pearl Harbour only a few years before. If you like history, definitely make the time to stop in.
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Explore the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens
These gardens are located just outside the city center and are a peaceful oasis. They have a collection of plants from the Northern Territory and other tropical regions to enjoy. It’s a great place for a picnic lunch if it’s a particularly nice day.
Visit the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
These markets are held on Thursday and Sunday evenings during the dry season (April to October). They offer a range of food, drinks, and crafts, and are a great place to watch the sunset.
Explore the Street Art of Darwin
Darwin has a vibrant street art scene, with murals and graffiti adorning many of the city’s walls. Take a walk around the city center to discover some of the best examples. They make for great Instagram posts.
If you have a particular interest in learning about how the Royal Flying Doctors service the small communities of the Outback, be sure to stop into the museum and headquarters of the service in Darwin. I went to the one in Alice Springs, but can only assume the interesting history is the same at both locations.
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My thoughts on visiting Darwin
I enjoyed my few days in Darwin, but felt like a long-term stay would get a little boring. I lived in Cairns for a bit during my time in Australia and felt like climate and location-wise, the two cities are pretty comparable. Both are solidly in the tropics with similar weather patterns and interesting things to do nearby. From Cairns, you can get to the Great Barrier Reef or Daintree Rainforest and Darwin seemed like the gateway to Kakadu or the Tiwi Islands.
But as far as things to do around the city, you really only need about one or two days to take it all in before heading to your next destination. The downtown area felt a little less secure than in Cairns, especially after dark, as there were significantly fewer people around and fewer things to do.