Watching the Clouds Roll in: Darwin’s Spectacular Summer Storms
Thanks to its location at the top end of Australia, the mercury in Darwin rarely dips below 20 degrees. As such, the normal four seasons don’t apply: instead we have the ‘wet’ and the ‘dry’. Wet season usually runs from November to April, bringing with it some truly spectacular storms. If you find yourself in town when one is forecast, do what the locals do and set up camp to watch the show.
Watching turbulent weather might seem like a strange way to spend your time but, with some of the most awe inspiring lightning shows in the world, there’s no better place than Darwin to get stuck into this unusual activity. To give you an idea of just how incredible these shows can be, one storm cell up here can produce as many as 1600 lightning flashes. That’s roughly the same amount as Perth gets in one year.
De La Plage, a wonderfully laid back café located on the coastline 25 minutes north of the CBD, is a local favourite for summer storm season. Housed in an old surf club storeroom, the café’s seating spills out onto the grass and sand in front of the building, making the most of its waterfront real estate. While it’s undeniably glorious on a sunny day, as the clouds gather over the ocean this place really hits its stride, putting patrons in prime position to catch the light show over the water. The food’s good too: grab a coffee and some fig and chocolate baklava, or a cheese platter and some Pimms to see you through the afternoon.
Just around the headland from De La Plage is the suburb of Nightcliff, home to some of the most beautiful oceanfront spots in the city. The Nightcliff Jetty gives a great vantage point over the ocean towards the Tiwi Islands, which often cop the brunt of summer storms. The frequency and intensity of the storms over the islands is legendary – so much so that the storm cloud which forms here has its own name: Hector the Convector. Hector’s consistency is also the stuff of legends, and the location of the cloud bank was used as a point of navigation during WWII. Needless to say, if you’re chasing a great photo opportunity, this is the place to be.
Stokes Hill Wharf is the other local pick when the storms start to build. The Wharf is always bustling, acting both as a commercial wharf and social hub, with regular harbor cruises, a string of relaxed eateries and a popular fishing spot. The wharf is also ideally located for storm watching, offering uninterrupted views out over the harbour and there’s nothing better than setting up camp here with some fish and chips from Kim’s, a cold beer and one of nature’s best free shows.