I first visited Darwin in 2004. Eager to see all the smallest and most northerly of the Australian capital cities had to offer, I booked a plane ticket from Sydney that would return me there ten days later. When I revealed this plan to my Sydneysider friends, their responses were all along the lines of: Darwin for ten days? What is wrong with you?
I was assured I’d see everything there was in 24 hours and spend the next nine days in the local movie theatre. Well, it took me more like three days to fully tire of Darwin but that had more to do with me than the city. I was a hard-partying twenty-two year old backpacker back then and either couldn’t afford or wasn’t interested in all Darwin had on tap. And Darwin’s only gotten better since then.
Now, nearly a decade later, the city that was on the verge of being cool when I was there in 2004, actually – finally – is.
So what should you do there? Hit downtown Darwin first. You can swim with a Crocodile at Crocosuarus Cove, browse some of the country’s best Aboriginal Art at galleries around town, and see an outdoor movie at the Deckchair Cinema.
Get thee to the markets. Darwinians love the outdoors and their shopping and they have an especially eclectic market scene. You can find that herbal remedy you’ve been seeking or a piece of Aboriginal art to bring home. Dine on delicious chicken laksa with noodles when you get hungry in one of these neighborhoods: Mindil Beach, Nightcliff , Parap, or Rapid Creek.
Just as beloved as a good market is a great festival and Darwin’s got three favorites. The Darwin Festival runs eight days and is packed with free outdoor events, theatre, dance, music, comedy, and awesome food. Then there’s Greek Glenti, Darwin’s joyous Greek Festival. But my favorite is the Beer Can Regatta. Among other events, it features a boat race where contestants can use flour bombs against their competitors and a race to drink enough soft drinks to build a boat out of cans.
And don’t forget that Darwin is a launch pad to some of Australia’s greatest National Parks, including Litchfield (home to the largest termite mound I’ve ever seen) and the stunning, vast Kakadu National Park.
Darwin has also of late become something of a culinary hotspot. A few new restaurants to try include Hot Tamale, a Mexican place on the waterfront. Or head over to The Precinct Tavern to sample from their 44 cider and beer taps. If you’re in the mood for tapas and wine, stroll by Viva La Vida at the Paspalis Centrepoint. Older favorite food spots include well known Aussie Chef Jimmy Shu’s Hanuman and the innovative cuisine at Char, now serving up Jellyfish.
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