This post was originally published in July 2018 and has since been updated with even more sustainable things to do in Darwin.
Darwin is probably Australia’s most underrated capital city. As the capital of the Northern Territory, unfortunately, this small city often gets forgotten by travelers.
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This is a shame because there are so many interesting things to do in Darwin and many sights worthy of a Darwin City Tour. It offers a unique cultural experience, and some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see.
Anyone would fall in love with Darwin. Whether it’s jumping off waterfalls on the weekends or listening to the aboriginal songs in the city park in the evenings, there is a simple charm about Darwin which captures visitors’ hearts.
You must go there for yourself to experience the vibe of Darwin and only then will you understand why people get stuck there with no intention to ever leave.
Best Time to Visit Darwin
Believe it or not, Darwin is the only city in Australia with a tropical climate. Because Darwin is located at the very top of Australia, the climate mimics that of Southern Asian countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
There is a wet and a dry season in Darwin. There is no such thing as autumn, spring or winter in this part of the world. It rains every day or it is dry every day. And the one thing that is constant is the heat!
The wet season runs from November to April. This is the worst time to visit Darwin as it truly does rain every day. While it doesn’t rain all day long typically, there are tropical storms and risks of cyclones.
Streets flood and the torrential downpours can make driving impossible. During the rainy months, many of the Darwin attractions actually close due to lack of visitors or limited road access/flooding.
The best time to visit Darwin is from May to October. While the rest of Australia is experiencing the dreary winter months, Darwin gets pumping! The sun shines every day with a low risk of rain, making it perfect for all of Darwin’s attractions, from camping to hiking, and exploring the great outdoors!
Top Things to Do in Darwin
Darwin is the perfect destination for those who love the great outdoors as well as the environment. Many of the things to do in Darwin are out in nature and are low impact on the environment.
Visit Litchfield National Park
Without a doubt, the best thing to do in Darwin is to go to Litchfield National Park. This national park boasts several incredible waterfalls and natural swimming pools for visitors to enjoy! All of the attractions are only a couple of minutes from one another.
Some other things to do are short hikes to lookouts and checking out 10 foot-tall termite mounds. You’ll be able to visit them all on a Litchfield National Park Full-Day Safari Tour.
Litchfield National Park is located only 45 minutes from the center of Darwin making it possible to visit for just a day trip! You can easily rent a car and visit the park on your own or join a tour group. Local guides are great for providing some insight on the area.
However, if you are a nature lover then you should explore on your own and bring a tent to spend at least one night in one of the campgrounds. This unique option for Darwin accommodation within the National Park, only cost a couple of dollars per person. The campgrounds have fire pits with a hot plate for cooking, flush toilets and showers.
Watch a Sunset at the Mindil Markets
During the dry season (May to October) every Sunday and Thursday night, Mindil Beach is the place to be! Locals and tourists alike all gather here to watch the best show ever – the famous Darwin sunset, which never disappoints.
Mindil Beach is about a 30-40 minute walk from the city center or a short 5-minute car ride. On Sundays and Thursdays, markets are set up with live music, shopping, and more food than you could imagine!
Tip: Bring a bottle of wine and an appetite. Get yourself a few different things to eat from the food stalls and then hit the beach with that bottle of wine for sunset (drinking at Mindil Beach during market nights is allowed!). It’s one of the best things to do in Darwin with a group of friends or with that special someone.
Make sure you bring cash with you as the ATM’s always have a long line and many stalls only take cash!
Experience a “Sunday Sesh”
Forget nightlife, if you are after a party on a Sunday afternoon, you need to hit Mitchell Street – the main street in the city center full of locals enjoying a beer and live music.
In Australia, a “Sunday Sesh” is a cultural norm. Essentially what it means is that you go out drinking on a Sunday afternoon and enjoy the sunshine. In Darwin, Sunday afternoons are some of the busiest drinking days so grab a beer and “get amongst it” with the locals. It’s arguably one of the most fun things to do in Darwin!
Walk the Waterfront
Darwin is a city that has some amazing walking trails along the waterfront which wraps around the city center. If you start walking towards the water you will quickly find yourself on a trail through the forests and along the water’s edge. It is beautiful and a great way to spend a morning!
Feed the Crocs
One of the most popular things to do in Darwin is a visit to feed the crocs! Darwin is crocodile country after all! These incredible animals are sure to frighten and amaze you. Just a short drive 30 minute from Darwin will take you to the Adelaide River where you can see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
The popular tourist term is called going on a “Jumping Crocodile Cruise”. The idea is that you get on a boat and watch as one of the few licensed Darwin tour operators feed the wild crocs raw chicken.
They are huge, some are up to 6m long! Seeing these animals in their environment in the wild is a crazy experience that will have you scared of crocs for life but also amazed that creatures so closely resembling dinosaurs still exist on this planet today.
Tour operators who run these Darwin tours are highly regulated and restricted by the Northern Territory Government in order to protect the crocs. There are only a few select tour operators who hold the license to run these tours and for that reason expect to pay about $90 per person.
Where to Stay in Darwin
The great thing about the city of Darwin is that it is really quite small so most places are within walking distance! The best areas for Darwin accommodation are the Waterfront, City Center, or Cullen Bay.
Darwin accommodation isn’t cheap. You are looking at upwards of $250 AUD a night and the hostels are terrible, so finding a middle ground can be a little challenging especially in terms of eco-friendly places within the city.
The Darwin Central Hotel is the most budget-friendly for a low impact choice. The location is about as good as it gets, right on Mitchell Street and only a five-minute walk to the waterfront.
The Darwin Central Hotel was built using “eco-engineering” meaning it is more energy efficient and costs about $189 AUD.
Another option is the Doubletree by Hilton on the Darwin Esplanade. This is a more luxurious option but you will be rewarded with ocean views!
Hilton has been implementing many international policies allowing them to improve the way they operate in terms of protecting the environment and being socially responsible.
Globally, they are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and donate to various social programs. Price per night starts at $250 AUD.
If you have a car and are looking for a more relaxing place to stay outside the city center than the Leprechaun Resort is a perfect choice.
While it is about a ten-minute drive from the city, the Leprechaun Resort is closer to many of the things to do in Darwin in nature like Litchfield National Park and the Jumping Croc Cruises. The Leprechaun Resort is locally owned and operated and has been around since 1969.
They are committed to helping the aboriginal people of Groote Eylandt (an island in the Northern Territory) have better futures. The Leprechaun Resort is very affordable at about $120 AUD per night.
Of course, if you prefer a home from home feel, then there are also plenty of accommodation options available on Airbnb.
Don’t have an Airbnb account yet?Sign up now and receive a $40 USD credit to put towards your first Airbnb stay!
Where to Eat and Drink in Darwin
There are quite a few great breakfast places in Darwin, a great one is Alley Cat Patisserie on Mitchell Street. The Alley Cat Patisserie is very popular for coffee or gourmet fruit and sweet items, but seating can be a problem as it is always very busy!
Another option if Alley Cat is too busy is the Rabbithole. The Rabbithole does amazing green juices as well as incredible and creative vegan and gluten-free options.
For lunch on a Saturday, catch the bus or take a taxi a couple minutes out of the city to the suburb of Parap. Every Saturday morning from 8am-2pm the Parap Markets offer lots of affordable and amazing food and drink options! Get a smoothie, vegan cake, Chinese food, or crepes.
Near the Parap Markets is a local gem called Laneway Cafe, it offers brilliant breakfast and lunch choices. They have vegan and gluten-free choices, green smoothies, and excellent coffee.
For dinner, Exotic North Indian Cuisine is a favourite in Darwin to check out! The Indian food is literally amazing; you have to try the Butter Chicken!
They also offer a range of vegetarian choices. The dishes are all really affordable at about $15 for a curry with rice, and the portions are huge. You can dine in at the restaurant right next to the water in Cullen Bay or takeaway. Making reservations is recommended!
Another favourite is called Moorish. They specialize in using fresh local food and make Mediterranean and Spanish influenced dishes. The tapas there are amazing and there are so many choices – even for vegetarians!
How Much Time Do You Need in Darwin
This really depends on you! However, in order to see and do most things it is suggested to spend 2-4 days in Darwin, especially if you want to explore the nearby national parks or take some Darwin tours.
Author’s Bio: Bailey, along with her partner Daniel, are self-proclaimed thrill-seekers who travel the world in search for their next adventure. They travel fast, on a budget, and always keen for a new experience. You can follow Bailey and Daniel on their blog, or on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest