While the great outdoors is part of Darwin’s backyard, you can also relax with a beer in hand in Australia’s only tropical city. 

A modern city that maintains the feel of a frontier town, Darwin is a place of contrasts, colour and character, which had the opportunity to reinvent itself after the devastation of Cyclone Tracy in 1974, and seized the chance with both hands.

Here the sizzling hot high street offers fashionable threads, great coffee, awe-inspiring artwork and fine food, while non-extinct dinosaurs in the shape of saltwater crocodiles patrol the nearby harbour and rule the riverbanks. Just being here feels like an adventure, with the heady aroma of the tropics hanging heavy in the air, rich with the fragrance of frangipani.

Standing on the shores of Darwin Harbour and Fannie Bay you are literally peering off the edge of Australia towards Timor and Indonesia, and the city has a distinct Asian accent, which is particularly pronounced in its cuisine. Darwin is very cosmopolitan, displaying influences from all kinds of cultures that have touched and shaped its shores, from the indigenous population to Japanese pearl divers and European backpackers.

Whether you visit in the wet season or the dry, the heat will be your constant companion, so you may as well embrace it, slip on some thongs and a pair of boardies, sink a Darwin stubbie – the biggest beer bottle in the world – and embrace a way of life that is unique even within Australia.

When to go

Tropical Darwin has two seasons: the wet (Oct-Mar) and the dry (Apr-Sept). Most people find it more comfortable to experience the city during the dry season, but there are less crowds and better waterfalls in the surrounding parks in the wet season.

Visa requirements

Everyone visiting Australia (except New Zealanders) needs a visa. Nationals of 32 countries (including Singapore, the UK, the US, Japan, Canada and most European countries) can get an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which most travel agents will arrange at the time of booking a trip. If booking independently, you can apply for an ETA online at www.immi.gov.au.


The Australian dollar (AUD$) is used throughout Australia.


From the airport a taxi to the city centre will cost AUD$25-30; taxis are metered. There is an airport shuttle bus too, which costs AUD$16 each way (cheaper for groups). A good public bus service transports locals and visitors around central venues and attractions, but some parks and experiences will require a taxi or hire car (walking long distances in the heat can be very hard work).

Health and safety tips

Box jellyfish and saltwater crocodiles live in the ocean and some of the creeks all year round - observe warning signs and avoid swimming unless you know for a fact that these creatures are not present. Keep hydrated and beware prolonged exposure to the sun - always use sun protection (factor 30 and above) and wear sunglasses and a hat. Some hazardous snakes and spiders can be present in the city's parks and gardens - avoid touching anything unfamiliar. Petty crime does happen - keep an eye on valuables, particularly when eating and drinking at outside cafés, bars and restaurants.

Emergency details

The closest Singaporean Consulate is in Canberra (tel: (61) 2 6271 2000, www.mfa.gov.sg/canberra).

For police or urgent medical assistance dial 000 (or 112 from a mobile phone).

Basic greetings
English Aussi slang
Board shorts (long swimming/surfing shorts) Boardies
Speedo-style men's swimming costume Budgie smugglers
Whoops Bugger!
Clothes Clobber
Friend Cobber
Pub grub Counter meal
Unwell Crook
Cigarette Dart
Toilet Dunny
Are you serious? Fair dinkum?
Hello G'day
Alcohol Grog
Really rather good Grouse
See you later Hoo roo
The answer to everything No worries
Alcohol (typically beer) Piss
Small measure of beer (about half a pint) Pot
Awfully pleased Rapt
Saltwater/estuarine crocodile (the big, bad bitey ones) Saltie
Large measure of beer (about two-thirds of a pint) Schooner
Bottle of beer Stubbie
Flip-flops Thongs
Can of beer/small boat Tinny
Food Tucker
Good result You beauty!

  Destination content brought to you by Insight Guides

Adelaide River Queen Cruises

Adelaide River Bridge, Arnhem Highway

Most people don't spend much time in cities where they could end up on the wrong end of the food chain simply by going fishing or paddling in the wrong spot, and there's an understandable fascination with meeting the Top End's deadly estuarine crocs. Salties are best seen in their natural environment while you're in the company of someone who knows exactly what they're doing, like Adelaide River Queen Cruises, who have 27 years' experience in taking boat tours to see these magnificent animals. Watching a real five-metre dinosaur jump right out the water to grab a piece of meat is not something you forget in a hurry.

East Point Reserve

East Point Road, Fannie Bay North

Offering a completely different perspective on Darwin, East Point Nature Reserve is a wild spit of land to the north of Fannie Bay, which sprawls over almost 200 hectares. You can cycle there from the city, and swimming is possible all year around in Lake Alexander without any worries about crocs or stingers. It's a great place for a picnic and there are several points of interest left over from Darwin's World War II experience, including the Royal Australian Artillery Association Museum and the gun turret precinct. Dudley Point offers one of the best vantage points in Darwin for watching the sun set on another Northern Territory day.

Deckchair Cinema

Damoe Ra Walkway

Positioned in a tropical garden on the edge of Darwin Harbour, with seating for 400 people, the Deckchair Cinema is a unique cinematic experience owned and operated by the Darwin Film Society. Running seven nights a week in the dry season, it screens an eclectic mix of independent, arthouse, cult, classic and foreign films as well as family favourites. Hot food can be purchased, or you can bring a picnic complete with a few beers or a bottle of wine, to be enjoyed as sun sets and the film rolls.

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT)

Bullocky Point

With five galleries packed full with arguably the world’s finest collection of Australian Indigenous art and cultural artefacts, MAGNT is a brilliant place to escape the humidity and spend some quality air-conditioned time getting educated about the Northern Territory. Found in a tropical garden on Darwin Harbour, MAGNT also boasts interesting archaeological finds from the Pacific region, a permanent exhibition about the devastation Cyclone Tracy visited on Darwin (including a terrifying sensory experience, during which you're subjected to a real sound recording of the storm while stood in darkness) and 'Sweetheart', a stuffed 5-metre-long saltwater crocodile.

World War II Oil Storage Tunnels

Kitchener Drive

With five galleries packed full with arguably the world’s finest collection of Australian Indigenous art and cultural artefacts, MAGNT is a brilliant place to escape the humidity and spend some quality air-conditioned time getting educated about the Northern Territory. Found in a tropical garden on Darwin Harbour, MAGNT also boasts interesting archaeological finds from the Pacific region, a permanent exhibition about the devastation Cyclone Tracy visited on Darwin (including a terrifying sensory experience, during which you're subjected to a real sound recording of the storm while stood in darkness) and 'Sweetheart', a stuffed 5-metre-long saltwater crocodile.


Dunnilli Arts

Nungalinya College, Dripstone Road, Casuarina

Darwin is one of the best places in Australia to buy quality indigenous arts and crafts, especially work from neighbouring Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands. Buyers need to exercise caution and try and buy from authentic outlets where sales are controlled by the artist or community. One way to do this is to purchase pieces from centres such as Dunnilli Arts. The name Dunnilli is a Larrakia-nation word meaning 'to make something special'. Dunnilli Arts runs training courses for indigenous students in textile art such as screen-printing and batik. Artwork is for sale and is on display at Nungalinya College (call ahead).

Budget $$$


55 Stuart Highway, Stuart Park

An oft-stated philosophy that 'art is for everyone' underpins Framed, a barn-like gallery offering a huge range of original artwork, prints, jewellery and artefacts. As well as selling affordable pieces of art to the public, Framed puts on regular revolving exhibitions and is worth a visit even if you're not in the market to make a purchase.

Budget $$


Bullocky Point

So much more than just a museum and gallery, MAGNT also has a great shop where inquisitive visitors to the Territory will find an excellent range of quality books about the region's history and people. Besides books, you can also pick up a classy souvenir or two here – a culturally themed, locally made objet d'art to remind you of Darwin.

Budget $$$

Mindil Beach Markets

Mindil Beach

As much an attraction for locals as visitors (a sure sign of a good market), Thursday and Sunday nights are all about Mindil Market throughout the dry season in Darwin. With the action spread all along the beach front, you can browse a range of stalls here as the sun dips into the ocean, and unearth something from the bewildering display of trash and treasure to take home as a reminder of your time in Australia's Top End. Buskers and great food are also firmly part of the Mindil Market experience.

Budget $

Parap Shopping Village

Parap Rd, Parap

An extraordinary shopping oasis in the midst of tropical suburbia, Parap Shopping Village is just minutes from the CBD, which is fast becoming the centrifugal point of one of the Top End's trendiest 'burbs. Known for its Saturday market, the village also boasts around 50 boutique and specialist shops, art galleries, cafés and eateries, including such charismatic outlets as Foxfire Designs (uniquely created jewellery, all made in-house by a qualified goldsmith with 40 years experience) and Paraphernalia (a shop-sized box of surprises full of inspired gifts, homewares, jewellery, kid's accessories, novelty items and body products).

Budget $$


Ducks Nuts Bar & Grill

76 Mitchell Street

Ducks Nuts Bar & Grill is a good choice for a quality coffee, a tasty mid-priced feed or a glass of something adult. This trendy eatery, vodka bar and occasional live music venue ticks all the boxes and duck really is on the menu (in a curry – no mention of what part of the duck has gone into the dish, but there could be a clue in the name…). Breakfasts are served until 3pm at weekends, and this is just the sort of place where, if you're in the right company, brekkie could easily morph into an all-day catch up.

Budget $$


93 Mitchell Street

Serving a selection of highly spiced, imaginative and superbly presented Indian and Thai dishes, Hanuman is the restaurant that locals take their visitors to when they want to show off Darwin’s culinary delights. Many diners have been coming here for over 20 years, such is the Hanuman's reputation for consistent quality. Complimenting the awesome Asian menu is an excellent, if pricey, wine list.

Budget $$

Parap Market street food

Parap Rd, Parap

While Parap Village stores serve up all manner of arty souvenirs, the Saturday Parap Market (8am–2pm) continues to deliver the flavour. There's an amazing smorgasbord of ethnically influenced fare on offer, including hot and cold tastes of Thailand, Vietnam, Lebanon, China, Cambodia, Indonesia and Australia. Certain dishes have achieved legendary status and you'll have to queue with locals who have been waiting all week to greedily lap up the laksas and chow down on crêpes.

Budget $

Pee Wee’s at the Point

Alec Fong Lim Drive, East Point Reserve

Pee Wee's offers incredible alfresco dining on the shores of Fannie Bay, in the beautiful surrounds of East Point Nature Reserve, with a cracking view of the city. This is Darwin’s premier up-market restaurant and it has prices and an exotic menu to match (think coconut-crusted crocodile tail, local wild-caught saltwater barramundi, banana prawns and Lambells Lagoon buffalo cheese). Booking essential.

Budget $$$

Wisdom Bar & Café

48 Mitchell Street

Located in a former dental surgery (hence the name), the Wisdom Bar & Café is a bright, breezy place on the main tourist strip. 'Café' might be a slight misnomer – bar would be more appropriate, since the Wisdom serves more than 50 beers from around the world. If you drink them all (not necessarily on the same day) your name goes up on the 'Wall of Wisdom' – perhaps so you can remember it in the morning. The food here is largely unpretentious (barramundi, pizza, BLT, steaks, pork belly, with the odd bit of emu and crocodile thrown in) but always excellent. Also offers budget accommodation.

Budget $


Darwin City Bed & Breakfast

4 Zealandia Crescent, Larrakeyah

The friendly hosts at Darwin City Bed & Breakfast (long term Territorians and a font of knowledge on the region) offer the only B&B experience to be had in central Darwin. The property has a swimming pool and the rooms have air-conditioning, cable TV, en-suite bathrooms and a private entrance. If you prefer even more privacy, the hosts also own two nice self-contained apartments, located nearby in the city, and they'll still let you use the pool at the B&B;.

Budget $$

Moonshadow Villas

6 Gardens Hill Crescent, The Gardens

Utterly unique five-star (and green-star) architect-designed accommodation in rainforest-style villas in the midst of an orchid-filled garden full of tropical birds, Moonshadow Villas is surprisingly close to the centre of Darwin. It offers a variety of villas, all fully air-conditioned with private gardens and pool. Outside is Eden-esque, while inside you'll find king-size beds, bathrooms with rainwater showers and classy art. The price tag reflects the quality, but look out for deals, where you can stay for seven nights and only pay for four.

Budget $$$

Paravista Motel

5 Mackillop St, Parap

Close to the markets, shops and restaurants of trendy Parap, the Paravista Motel offers reasonably priced double and twin rooms, and also has a three-bedroom house that you can book out with friends for additional privacy. All rooms have private bathroom, air-con and free Wi-fi, and the hotel has a small pool, spa and communal barbecue.

Budget $$

Skycity Darwin

Gilruth Avenue, Mindil Beach

It's all about the infinity pool at Skycity Darwin. Located close to the city centre, on the shores of Mindil Beach and set among tropical beach-side gardens between the ocean and the Botanical Gardens, Skycity is a five-star boutique hotel based around a casino. The 32 new pool-view suites around the tropical lagoon are the rooms to aim for. Other features include the Endota spa, the Cove à la carte restaurant, a terrace bar and a swim-up bar.

Budget $$$

Value Inn Darwin

50 Mitchell Street

The centrally located Value Inn Darwin offers small, but clean private rooms to those who don't want the full backpacker experience. Guests do, however, have access to the associated property, Melaleuca On Mitchell, which boasts a self-catering kitchen, three pools, a waterfall spa, an outdoor pool table, a licensed bar and a four-metre big screen TV. Book ahead for a bargain.

Budget $

Bass in the Grass Music Festival

24 May

The largest music festival in the Northern Territory, this annual shindig gets the Darwin Botanic Gardens Amphitheatre jumping to all kinds of tunes.

Beer Can Regatta

6 July

An iconic annual event that sees teams building boats from empty beer cans and then attempting to sail them on the sea at Mindil Beach. Cue inevitable carnage and considerable comedy.

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair

8-10 August

With work by around 1800 indigenous artists from across Australia, this annual event provides an amazing opportunity for the public to join arts industry experts in viewing and buying contemporary fine art directly from indigenous-owned and incorporated art centres.

Darwin Cup Carnival

5 July-4 August

Darwin's Fannie Bay Racecourse is one of only a few remaining dirt tracks still in operation, and Cup Day sees some 20,000 punters having a flutter and cheering on their choices. A full month of racing takes place in the build up to the big day.

Darwin Festival

7-24 August

Born out of the destruction of Cyclone Tracy, Australia’s most northern and only tropical arts festival is an 18-day feast of music, theatre, dance, cabaret and more.

Royal Darwin Show

24-26 July

From the Friday night rodeo to the fireworks finale, this event showcases everything from buffalo breeding to bonsai growing, horse riding to spear-throwing, and cooking to art - it's a fascinating window into Northern Territory life.


Ease yourself into the adventure with a bike ride around the city. Rent a steed from Darwin Bike Hire (tel: 61 8 8941 6466) and grab a copy of the free council-produced map, Making Tracks, which reveals cycle paths in and around the city. The main trail goes from Cavenagh Street to Fannie Bay, but to give your legs a proper workout, pedal the 5km trail out to Charles Darwin National Park, where you'll find World War II bunkers to roll around.


Now, to really get your blood pumping, how about taking a swim with a saltwater crocodile? Pack your bathers to embrace the Cage of Death experience at Crocosaurus Cove, where you'll come face-to-face with one of the planet's most deadly predators, with just a glass box separating you from the hungry looking mega reptile.


The submarine world around the coast of Darwin contains numerous shipwrecks, but you have to be a very experienced diver (who isn't afraid of crocs) to explore these, and those who prefer to stay on top of the water should check out a sailing or fishing trip instead.


River and Reef fishing charters offer various barramundi and saratoga fishing excursions to the scenic waterways outside of Darwin, to places such as Corroboree Billabong.


There's nothing like finishing a perfect day with a small-group sailing experience, so take a sunset cruise out onto Darwin's beautiful harbour with Sailing Adventures NT, riding the waves on their 10-metre sailing catamaran

Places to visit:
Darwin Bike Hire, Charles Darwin National Park, Crocosaurus Cove, River and Reef, Sailing Adventures NT


There's only one thing kids want to do when they first get to Darwin, and that's see a real life crocodile. To observe these big beasties in their natural habitat, take a croc cruise on the Adelaide River Queen, which has been tempting crocs to leap out of the water right in front of terrified tourists for over 27 years.


Once that's out of their system, introduce the nippers to a wider selection of NT wildlife at the Territory Wildlife Park, where all manner of tropical bird, mammal and reptile life wanders around (and yes, there's a saltwater croc as well).


Then it's time to feed the fish, at the extraordinary Aquascene on Darwin Harbour, where hundreds of wild fish come for a free lunch every day. Here you can hand-feed species including rays, cod, mangrove jack, parrot and diamond fish.


Next, take the kids for a spin at the playground in the Botanic Gardens, where they can learn all about plants while they're playing.


Running around is thirsty work in Darwin's heat, so end the day with a refreshing splash at the Wave Lagoon, a crocodile- and stinger-free pool where kids can enjoy a safe surf. There's also a shallow, still-water area for toddlers.


All that activity should ensure a good night's sleep, but if the excitement is too much, try a wind down in front of a family-friendly flick at the Deckchair Cinema.

Places to visit:
Adelaide River Queen, Territory Wildlife Park, Aquascene, Botanic Gardens, Wave Lagoon, Deckchair Cinema