Australia’s Northern Territory is not for the faint of heart. From tropics to desert, there’s a diverse and unspoilt expanse of wilderness to explore. As the Northern Territory’s capital city, Darwin offers a picturesque starting point for getting out into the wilderness. With a multicultural atmosphere and vibrant nightlife, there’s plenty to see and do for thrill seekers in Darwin. The city also provides an ideal home base for exploring the surrounding region’s most interesting sites.
Litchfield National Park
Even with only a weekend in Darwin, those with an adventurous spirit will want to venture afield to Litchfield National Park. Located a two-hour drive outside of town, Litchfield is a tropical paradise studded with spectacular waterfalls, blue lagoons, and hiking trails. You can see fruit bats in their natural habitat or climb the sandstone hills that make up the Lost City. Helicopter rides, boat cruises, and horseback tours are all unique ways to see this lush bit of countryside.
Mindil Beach Sunset Market
Darwin’s culinary melting pot is legendary, and there’s no better place to experience it than at the Mindil Beach Sunset Market. Open every Thursday and Sunday during the dry season, this evening market features a dizzying array of fresh cuisine to try. You’ll find Asian, Greek, Italian, Latin American, and Mexican food stalls using the best local seafood and produce. This lively market also draws a range of other talent, including skilled artists, musicians, mystics, and massage therapists for a unique bohemian experience. The highlight may be when the crowd gathers on the beach at sunset to admire nature’s nightly explosion of colour.
If you’re on the hunt for a family-friendly adventure in Darwin, a visit to Crocosaurus Cove will leave you feeling like Crocodile Dundee. In fact, one of the film’s stars lives here. You can visit “Burt” and a bevy of other saltwater crocodiles spread out over the complex’s three floors. Visitors can feed the crocodiles using the safety of fishing line, or enjoy meeting and greeting many of Australia’s other reptile residents.
Kakadu National Park
A visit to Darwin puts you in the perfect position for a side trip to World-Heritage listed Kakadu National Park. Kakadu is home not only to some of Australia’s most unique wildlife, including the frilled lizard, but it also offers an endless array of Aboriginal rock art to admire. Spend the day bushwalking through the region’s lush rainforest, or extend your stay for a truly wild camping experience. Kakadu’s quite remote, so if you’ve purchased a pay as you go SIM card for your journey don’t expect to receive a strong signal.
Easily accessible via a short flight or ferry ride, the Tiwi Islands provide a memorable cultural experience. You can view traditional weaving and painting demonstrations and enjoy the bold colours of Tiwi art, or go deep sea fishing after a traditional smoke ceremony to clear away bad spirits.
Darwin is a modern city filled with comfortable amenities, but if you plan to explore the tropical forests or islands you’ll need to plan accordingly. Your regular mobile phone may not work in these regions, so look into international calling options from Lebara or other carriers before you arrive. Be sure to research weather conditions in advance and bring plenty of water, as the Northern Territory can be sultry throughout the year. With a little bit of advance preparation you can enjoy all that this colourful corner of Australia has to offer.
Rachel MacDonald is an Edinburgh-based freelance writer who has worked as a copywriter for businesses from Lima to San Francisco. She specializes in travel, design, and the arts