While Darwin’s proximity to spectacular wilderness areas and famous sites is undoubtedly a big drawcard, it’s no secret that the city itself has plenty to offer. From outdoor cafes and bars to incredible sunsets, Asian inspired markets and galleries full of beautiful Indigenous art, this is one city that never fails to impress.
Thanks to its position in the tropics, a visit in the dry season (May to October) ensures beautiful balmy days, while a visit in the wet season (November to April) presents vivid green landscapes, awe-inspiring summer storms and the chance to have more of the city to yourself.
Whatever time of year you make the trip, be sure to visit Parap Markets while you’re in town. Running every Saturday rain, hail or shine, these markets showcase the best of Darwin’s multicultural cuisine. Walking around the stalls, you’ll find every kind of Asian dish imaginable, with laksa a strong favourite. Locals agree that Mary’s serves up the best version of this Malaysian dish, her generous bowls bursting with zingy spices and creamy coconut milk. Local artwork and fresh produce are also on sale here with the tropical climate producing fruits rarely seen elsewhere, such as sweet juicy mangosteen and lychee-like rambutan.
Those of you with a sweet tooth might enjoy a trip to Alley Cats Patisserie in the CBD. Its freshly baked treats and perfect coffee have the power to turn even the worst of days around. Laneway Specialty Coffee is another haven when sugar and caffeine cravings hit, offering smooth Campos brews and all sorts of baked-on-premise creations, including the famous bronuts - an ingenious brioche and donut hybrid. The gluten-free crowd is also well catered for, with the buckwheat hotcake with vanilla pannacotta deftly demonstrating that flour is not a prerequisite for deliciousness.
The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is located on the western edge of the city and houses more than 30,000 works of art. The focus is on Indigenous pieces and you can spend hours simply admiring collections of stunning paintings, rock art and ceremonial objects. Much of the museum portion of the building is devoted to natural history and there are more than 1.2 million specimens on display. The most popular of these is ‘Sweetheart’, a male crocodile who was removed from his local habitat in the 1970s after attacking one too many dinghies. His body is enormous, measuring 5.1 metres long and weighing a staggering 780kg.
If you’re in the mood for culture of a different kind, the Deckchair Cinema runs every night of the week from April to November. The eclectic program means you’re just as likely to find the latest blockbuster as you are an obscure foreign film and the beautiful outdoor venue places you in the perfect spot to enjoy both the sunset and the stars, which always seem just that little bit brighter here in the top end.
Another top spot to watch the sun go down and enjoy relaxed outdoor dining is Stokes Hill Wharf. You can choose to set up camp in one of the many alfresco restaurants or simply get some fish and chips from Kim’s and perch wherever there’s space. The wharf is also a great spot to watch some of the spectacular storms that roll in over the summer months and to enjoy the cooler air that comes in afterwards.