The City of Darwin
Situated on the edge of a harbour bigger than Sydney's, Darwin is a beautiful, fascinating tropical city – a melting pot of people and cultures that prides itself in its unique and friendly laid-back lifestyle.
While a sophisticated, modern city in its own right, it is also one steeped in history, one that has endured many hardships on its way to establishing itself as the gateway to Asia.
It is the home of NT commerce and business and with its world-class natural and cultural attractions it is also a thriving hub of activity in terms of tourism, nightlife and retail.
Here are just a few of the attractions well worth visiting while you are in town.
Situated in the heart of Darwin at Doctors Gully, this special attraction is where hundreds of fish come to shore at high tide to be fed by hand.
Check the day's feeding times in local publications, hotels or by visiting the website at www.aquascene.com.au
Australian Aviation Heritage Centre
Open daily, this centre features an impressive collection of the Territory's aviation history from the aviation pioneers and record breakers to the Territory's frontier role in WWII. There is a massive B52 Bomber, Mirage and Sabre jets, a Spitfire replica and Wessex and Huey Cobra helicopters.
The development of the jet age is depicted through displays and photographs and the Bombing of Darwin exhibition here is a must-see.
Australian Pearling Exhibition
This exhibit, situated at the entrance of the Darwin Wharf Precinct, offers a fascinating and informative insight into the pearling industry in northern Australian waters. It takes you through years of pearling history - from the days of the lugger and hard-hat diving to modern farming and pearl culturing techniques.
Built in the late 1930s, Burnett House is a heritage-listed National Trust property and an excellent example of early tropical architecture. Here, you can relax in the gardens and enjoy ribbon sandwiches and Devonshire teas at High Tea every Sunday from 3.30pm to 6pm.
Casuarina Coastal Reserve
Located in the city's northern suburbs, this coastal reserve is a great place for a walk along the beach, to catch a sunset from the Dripstone Cliffs or enjoy a picnic in the shady recreational areas. For the naturists among our visitors, a section of the beach has been set aside for their use.
Charles Darwin National Park
Just a short drive from the city, this park was developed to show visitors the rich mangrove habitats of Darwin Harbour. Relics of Darwin's involvement in WWII can also be seen here. These reinforced concrete bunkers were used for safe storage of munitions during the wartime action.
Cullen Bay Marina
Featuring an eclectic mix of restaurants, cafes and gift shops, Cullen Bay Marina is also home to beautiful privately-owned boats, as well as many of the sunset harbour cruises and fishing tour operators. Vessels must pass through a double-action loch to access the sea, established to protect the marina from Darwin's fluctuating 8-metre tides.
Darwin Wharf Precinct
This precinct, which is currently undergoing a $1.1 billion makeover, has many historical and modern attractions and offers a variety of eating options, ranging from alfresco eateries to top-class seafood. Here you can stop in at the pearling exhibition and purchase a memento of your Darwin trip, catch a cruise to explore the harbour, relax and enjoy the seasonal live entertainment, drop a line from the fishing platforms or take a fishing tour.
Located at the wharf precinct, this is Darwin's only open-air cinema. You can bring your own fish and chips and kick back in style in canvas deckchairs under the starry skies with a drink from the bar. Films cater to a variety of tastes, including many Australian films and family movies.
East Point Reserve & Lake Alexander
This recreational area has extensive walking and cycling paths, relaxing picnic areas with free barbecue facilities and safe, year-round swimming in Lake Alexander. The reserve is also home to Darwin's East Point Military Museum, which houses an extensive collection of photographic and informative displays. East Point is also well known for its wallaby colony and as one of the best sites in Darwin for watching sunsets.
Fannie Bay Gaol
Opened in 1883, the Fannie Bay Gaol was the major detention centre in Darwin for almost 100 years and is now open as an historic site. The precinct, and the severity of its buildings, still convey the oppressive atmosphere for which they were originally intended. Well worth a visit.
George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens
These gardens span 42ha and showcase the flora of northern Australia and other tropical habitats around the world. Wander through monsoon forests, coastal fore dunes, mangroves and open woodlands and view orchids, bromeliads and other striking foliage plants. The Wesleyan church, formerly located on the corner of Mitchell and Knuckey Streets in the city, has also been restored and relocated here.
Indo Pacific Marine
Darwin's only living marine environment centre gives the public an unparalleled opportunity to see and learn about this fragile world. It is one of three such exhibitions in the world and has won 13 awards for excellence and ecotourism.
The centre’s popular ‘coral reef by night’ program, to which bookings are essential, is held on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. It features a tour of the complex followed by a four-course dinner and a tour of the reef systems in the dark.
Lyons Cottage, built in 1925, was the residence of the British Australian Telegraph company engineer. Local ‘hammered stone’ was used to construct this unusual and unique domestic design, which is a fine example of early Darwin architecture. Today, it houses a fascinating collection of photographs and artefacts depicting the early history of Darwin.
Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
Held every Thursday and Sunday night from April to October, these are Darwin's largest and most popular weekly markets. They feature a multitude of stalls offering international cuisine, arts, crafts and entertainment. The combination of great food and an electric atmosphere make a visit a must. Enjoy a picnic dinner on the beach while watching a spectacular tropical sunset.
Other popular markets worth visiting are the Saturday morning Parap Village Markets, the Sunday morning Nightcliff Markets and Rapid Creek Markets (Darwin's oldest markets) and Palmerston's Friday night markets.
Museum & Art Gallery of the NT
The museum, situated at Bullocky Point, features collections of the region's art, natural science, history and culture. Encompassing Aboriginal art and culture, arts and craft from south-east Asia and Pacific regions, maritime archaeology and Northern Territory history, the museum also houses a great Cyclone Tracy exhibit and the chance to meet Sweetheart, the Top End’s most famous crocodile.
Northern Territory Parliament House
Australia’s newest Parliament House is the Northern Territory’s premier public building, opened in 1994. It is a magnificent example of tropical architecture. A self-guided tour is available daily and the Northern Territory Library is also located here.
USS Peary Memorial
Salvaged from the wreck of the USS Peary, the gun, now situated on The Esplanade, serves as a memorial dedicated to the officers and crew who lost their lives when the vessel was attacked and sunk during the first air attack on Darwin by the Japanese during WWII. Also honoured here is Lt. Robert Buel, a US Airforce pilot who lost his life on February 15, 1942, in a heroic attack on Japanese aircraft on a bombing raid over Darwin city.
WWII Oil Storage Tunnels
One of the more interesting constructions in Darwin during WWII was the oil storage tunnels located near the Darwin Wharf Precinct. Today, there are two tunnels open for viewing featuring a collection of photographs of Darwin and the men and women that served here during the war. An experienced guide will take you through the tunnels with informative commentary, and books and souvenirs are available.
For information on the Parks and Reserves located within the Darwin region, here are the travel distances:
Casuarina Coastal Reserve - 16kms from Darwin City
Charles Darwin National Park - 5.5kms from Darwin City
Holmes Jungle Nature Park - 11kms from Darwin City
Knuckey Lagoons Conservation Reserve - 12kms south east from Darwin City
Leanyer Recreation Park - 15kms from Darwin City
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Editorial and images courtesy of Tourism Top End www.tourismtopend.com.au