City Guide: Darwin — The Northern Territory’s Untamed Capital

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As the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, Darwin is a hub of adventure with stunning indigenous culture and untamed natural beauty. If you want to discover Australia’s indigenous roots and stunning native wildlife, whilst also taking advantage of a thriving urban hub, this is the perfect place to visit. From legendary thunderstorms and crocodile-infested waters to luxurious accommodation and a thriving foodie scene, Darwin is a city that has it all. We’ve rounded up some of the best things to see, most exciting activities, and all the places you just have to eat, so you can properly experience this amazing city.

What to See

With an abundance of amazing scenery and wildlife to enjoy, it can be hard to decide where to start your journey of discovery in Darwin. Here, we offer three of our favourite sights in the city.

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu is the largest national park in Australia, covering an enormous 20,000km2 – making it half the size of Switzerland. More than half the park is aboriginal land and is still home to indigenous people who hunt, fish and care for the park as their ancestors did. The park is home to rock art that details the history of the people who lived there, with some painted as long as 20,000 years ago. Look out for the ‘first contact’ paintings, which depict the ships of European settlers. As well as having a rich aboriginal heritage, the park is home to unique plants and wildlife that are native to the area. Look out for the enormous termite mounds that can get over six feet tall!

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A Film at The Deckchair Cinema

Situated on the waterfront overlooking Darwin’s harbour, the Deckchair Cinema is an amazing chance to enjoy a film in a relaxed outdoor setting. That’s if you can take your eyes off the stunning views over the harbour and the spectacular sunset that so often paints the sky behind the screen in shades of red, pink and orange. You can grab a delicious meal at the venue, or bring along your own picnic to enjoy on the grass as you watch the film. The cinema also has a licenced bar so you can sit back and enjoy a delicious cold beer in true Aussie style.

Jumping Crocodiles on the Adelaide River

If there’s one thing you have to see while you’re in Darwin, it’s the crocodiles. The Adelaide River is home to enormous salt water crocodiles – the biggest and most dangerous type – and is one of the few places where they can be fed. Book yourself a place on a ‘jumping crocodile’ cruise and prepare to be wowed by these majestic animals. Meat is hung above the river for the crocodiles to leap out of the water and snap up with their powerful jaws as you watch from the safety of the boat. It’s an awe-inspiring experience and one that you definitely shouldn’t miss when you visit the area.

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What to Do

Here are three things every first-time visitor to Darwin must do during their stay in the city.

Take a Dip in the Cage of Death at Crocosaurus Cove

There are plenty of ways to meet Darwin’s most impressive native residents, but nowhere lets you get closer to the infamous ‘Salties’ than Crocosaurus Cove’s Cage of Death. They have some of the largest captive saltwater crocodiles in the country and you can be lowered into the water in a transparent glass cylinder to come face to face with them. Even if you’re not daring enough to swim with the mighty reptiles yourself, watching other people’s reactions as they get close can be very entertaining. Crocosaurus Cove is also home to a variety of reptiles, including the biggest display of native Australian reptiles in the world. It’s a great day out for all the family.

Discover Pudakul Aboriginal Culture

The Northern Territory has been irreversibly shaped by the indigenous aboriginal culture, which places high value on the nature, wildlife, and landmarks of the area. Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours are a great way to experience this, teaching you about the culture of local aboriginal people without all the commercialism of an aboriginal ‘experience’. From playing the didgeridoo to identifying and gathering medicine from natural plants, this is an in-depth exploration of aboriginal culture that will give you a unique insight into both aboriginal heritage and how that translates to modern life. It’s a really special experience that can easily be fitted into a day out at Kakadu National Park.

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Learn About the Defence of Darwin

WWII had a lasting impact on Darwin, with the city experiencing heavy activity during the war. The government-funded Defence of Darwin Experience is an excellent way to learn more about this turbulent time in Darwin’s history. Many of the exhibits are outside and you can see the large guns that were used to defend the city during the war. With interactive exhibits, videos, military equipment, medals, and uniforms on display, it gives a real clear overview of this turbulent time in Darwin’s history.

Where to Eat

Like many Aussie cities, Darwin is enjoying a culinary boom at the moment, with an exceptional array of restaurants serving delightful fare. Here are our top three picks.

Pee Wee’s

Pee Wee’s is perfect for a special occasion, with alfresco dining in a palm-lined courtyard overlooking the glittering Fannie Bay. The food is equally elegant, with a strong focus on locally-sourced produce. Chef Paul Joyce has won awards for his modern showcase of favourites such as crocodile tail and pearl meat. For the diner in the know, however, it is the double-roasted duckling and confit pork belly with crackling that are the must-order dishes.

Hanuman

An absolute Darwin institution, Sri Lankan-born chef Jimmy Shu opened Hanuman in 1992 and it’s been thriving ever since. Top chefs from India, Thailand and Malaysia create spectacular dishes in the kitchen with a focus on Thai, Nonya and Tamil flavours. Order outstanding signature dishes such as fresh oysters with lemongrass, sweet basil, ginger, chili and fresh coriander. It’s an absolute lesson in how to make the flavours of local produce sing.

Char

Nothing quite compares to sitting beneath the lantern-strung trees at Char, with the best steaks in the city in front of you. Known for being an exceptional night out, the restaurant always has a lively atmosphere and the wine list is widely regarded as being one of the best in the area. From 300-day Wagyu rump to mouth-watering rib, this is a surf and turf restaurant that knows how to cook a steak to your personal taste. Accompaniments are selected for you, with delights such as watercress tarragon butter bringing out all the best notes in your steak.

If this guide has tempted you to explore Darwin for yourself, why not book one of Cruise1st UK’s amazing cruises that visit the city? For a great deal browse the full collection online or call our friendly sales team on 0808 274 1330.

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Darwin City: The Northern Territory’s Untamed Capital
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Darwin City: The Northern Territory’s Untamed Capital
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We explore what to do in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory - a hub of adventure with stunning indigenous culture and natural beauty.
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Belinda Goodman

Cruise 1st veteran Belinda has a passion for travel, especially cruising. She has worked in the travel industry for over 20 years, including a 3-year stint working on cruise ships as a croupier. Belinda regularly writes for the Cruise 1st blog, with a focus on company news and advice for first-time cruise travellers.

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