Friday, August 21, 2009

Things to do in Darwin

We've noticed this blog popping up in a few travel related forums (linked to it) and thought maybe we should include some information for people traveling to Darwin and the Top End.

Things to do in Darwin:

There are a number of places to visit in the city itself, but it really has oriented itself mostly to people just passing through on there way to Litchfield and Kakadu national parks. The Museum and Art Gallery of the NT is really pretty well done and covers a range of topics from local flora and fauna to Indigenous artwork and history. The Cyclone Tracy exhibit is perhaps the must-see of the entire museum. Might even be worth going to the museum last, so you can see all the places you've visited and how they've changed. The botanical gardens are not far from the museum and offer some nice walks, but it is pretty small.

Aquascene is a place to go feed some fish near the CBD, but we've only walked past it (closed when we there). There is an old fuel storage container near there that has been converted to a rock climbing gym.

We're all for seeing movies while on vacation, and the Deckchair Cinema has a great venue to do this. It's located just below the CBD, and is open during the Dry Season, and part of the build-up.Not far from the Deckchair are the old fuel tunnels from WWII, but we haven't visited them. We've heard the hours are a bit odd, so you might check when you get here if you're interested. There is a pearling exhibition down by the wharf, David has tried to get Jenni to go, but she doesn't seem interested.

East point is located outside the CBD, and is a nice nature reserve. There is a military history museum there, but we have never been.

You can catch a ferry across the bay to Mandorah from Cullen Bay (or ride your bikes like we've done). There really isn't much there besides the pub. We've heard there is a WWII plane wreckage, but not sure where it is.

Eating in the Darwin:
There are loads of restaurants on Mitchell street in the CBD. Beware, service can be terrible on some evenings, and fantastic at other times. Check out the Noodle House for Asian food, or Shenanigans for pub food. The Moorish cafe on Knuckey street offers pretty good tapas. A walk down to the wharf is worth the view, and the food is surprisingly good (most of the time at least :)). The Cornucopia restaurant is located in the Museum, open for lunch and breakfast, but you might need to make a booking if you're there during peak hours. There are a number of good (and more expensive) restaurants down in Cullen bay; which is also a nice place to get a coffee (and catch the ferry to Mandorah). On East Point there is a restaurant called PeeWees and that is supposed to be good but very expensive. Along the road to East Point there are three clubs: Jet Ski, Sailing, and Trailor Boat club. They allow visitors, and all offer a great view of the sunset. Last time we went the Sailing club had the best food of the lot, but it all depends on who's cooking.

There are several markets. Mindil Beach market is probably the most popular, and runs from the dry through the build-up Thursday and Sunday nights. Another good spot for sunset watching. There are plenty of food stalls (woodfire pizza is quite nice), and shopping. If you are looking to get some gifts for people, then probably do it there. The Parap market runs all year (closest to the CBD) on Saturday morning. There are some food stalls, and fresh food stalls. Nightcliff market is all year round on Sunday morning. It's sort of a hodgepodge of things, food, gifts, fresh fruit. Not far is the Rapid Creek market, same Sunday morning. There is more fresh vegetables and fruit here. If you are looking to make your own food, go there for the fresh stuff.

Quick Day Trips:
If you are willing to make a few hours drive there are a couple of places not far out of town to visit. If you read this blog, you know that we like to visit Fogg Dam. It's free and there are usually plenty of wildlife, albeit mostly birds. Not far is the Jumping Croc tour. Admittedly, this was fun. Look for the one next to the bridge with the tall croc statue. You can also go to the Territory Wildlife Park if you want to see more wildlife up close. It is well done, but expensive. The nocturnal exhibit is particularly good. Before getting to the Wildlife Park there is Berry Springs, if you want to cool off in some croc free springs (at least during the dry). It's easy enough to do Litchfield park in a day, but will require a lot of driving. Here's our entry.

Long Excursions:
Obviously Kakadu is a must. It is HUGE though, so expect to do some driving between places. It would take at least 3 hours to get to Jabiru at the northern end of the park from Darwin along the Arnhem Highway. If you are going to camp at the southern end, drive to pine creek and use that entrance along the Stuart Highway. Check out our entry on this for things to see and places to camp. Litchfield is great too, and some really nice camping spots.

You can keep going past Pine Creek and get to Katherine. Skip the town and go straight to the gorge. From here there are a multitude of options, from simple river cruises to longer excursions. You can canoe up the river, and camp along it, but they only rent canoes for a day, so you will need to find another means if you don't have your own. You can also start a 5-6 day backpacking trip along the Jatbula trail. You need to make advanced bookings to do it though. It's a moderate to difficult hike depending on your physical standing. David was able to do it, so you know it was too difficult.

Hopefully that provides some helpful advice for people coming up to the Top End...or down to the Top End.

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