Ah Darwin, where do I begin? We stayed here for just over one month, the first three weeks were spent wwoofing about 30 minutes south of Darwin followed by our final week in Australia at the Dingo Moon Lodge.
Darwin has a peculiar mix of sleek office buildings, rustic coffee houses and original structures that survived the bombs of WW2 that were dropped en mass here. As a result the small city if packed with charm whilst being so laid back it must be lying down!
There are loads of things to keep you busy in Darwin, unfortunately most of these things cost a ton of money. As we were on a tighter than tight budget we had to dig a little deeper to keep ourselves occupied and not spend every penny we had in a week. So, here are some of the cheaper or free activities that will make your stay in Darwin one to remember.
Darwin’s Botanic Gardens offer a beautiful way to kill an afternoon. The park is huge, with paths leading in all directions to shady passages and hidden streams. We went for a wonder down a lane to discover a secret waterfall and small lake. As we strolled around the lake we found benches nestled in the shade of exotic trees, offering a bit of relief from the afternoon sun. People can be seen lounging on the grass, eating picnics and relaxing with friends. Grab yourself a patch of grass and join in!
Not too far from the Botanic Gardens is the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, or more commonly known as Darwin Museum, which is free to get into. The exhibitions are great, offering everything from local aboriginal legends and art to theories of evolution to maritime relics to marine life. I really enjoyed the exhibition about Cyclone Tracy, which hit Darwin on 24th December 1974. The exhibition showed the devastation the cyclone left behind as well as the journey of recovery.
The museum also houses a 5.1 meter mounted crocodile that goes by the name of Sweetheart. Sweetheart was a terror to local boats, regularly attacking engines and dinghies. In 1979 the monster crocodile was captured for relocation only for the operation to go terribly wrong, resulting in the saltie drowning. There is a film about the move, with footage taken at the time.
Mindle Beach Market
If you talk to anyone after you’ve arrived in Darwin they will tell you to go to the beach market. We walked there one beautiful evening and when we arrived it was already beginning to get busy. We wandered around the market, looking at the different stalls selling almost everything you could imagine, from herbal medicines to stuffed crocs with marbles in their mouths! We found our way towards the edge of the beach, where most of the food vans are, and hunted out some dinner. There’s an impressive choice, we eventually settled on a tub of king prawns, a kangaroo burger and a couple of beers to share and took them onto the beach.
We snagged a spot on a sand dune ready for the sun set, and it’s just as well because the beach got packed as the sun went down! At first I was a little bumbed out by the crowds that were spoiling the view, this would likely be our last Australian sunset after all. As more and more people flooded the beach I changed my mind. It gets busy but there is something special about sharing a moment like this with hundreds of strangers. The beach was almost silent apart from the sound of the waves. The crowd was huge, and joint together in silent admiration.
Wandering the Streets of Darwin
We spent a lot of our time in Darwin simply wandering: strolling down alley ways and over bridges. The city is beautiful to explore on foot as it isn’t overly large. There is lots to discover, like a book exchange or great coffee house. The water front is a great direction to point yourself towards. Aim to get here around lunch time, when its getting hotter, and hop into the water for a cool down.
No where in Australia is cheap and because Darwin is so isolated from the rest of the country it can be a little more on the pricey side. We found some great places to eat by doing what travellers do, exploring the streets.
There is loads to do outside of Darwin as well, like the Territory Wildlife Park, Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, jumping crocodile cruises and more outdoor sports than you could shake a stick at. Darwin has loads to offer for anyone looking to explore the untamed side of Australia. It is a little out of the way and flights can be expensive but it’s a great place to visit. We managed to get our flights for $130 each, which we were told at the time was a great deal. A big draw for us was the ease to get into Asia with the flights from Darwin to Singapore being considerably cheaper than from Cairns. Darwin was the perfect place to spend our final week in Australia, and has become home to some of my most fond Australian memories.