Creative writer, reviewer and blogger. Lover of a good sentence.
Published March 4th 2013
Is there a better way to experience Darwin?
I love Darwin. I think I'd live there if I could handle the heat. Still, I can appreciate the feeling of the warm, tropical air on my face - especially in comparison with Melbourne's winters.
Darwin's atmosphere is lovely. I was surprised at the laid-back, casualness of the place. It's unlike any other city I've seen. Everyone I met there was friendly, they seem to really love tourists. And although the city itself is small, Darwin and surrounds are home to an array of wonderful activities.
1. Mindil Beach Sunset Market
The sunset market at Mindil beach was by far the highlight of my trip. It hosts over 200 stalls, including homemade crafts, Indigenous art and jewellery. While strolling through the market there are so many interesting things to discover. I was delighted to find a number of stallholders specialising in hair wraps. Previously unknown to me, hair wraps are made by winding cotton and other materials around a braid of hair, and seem to be all the rage in Darwin.
The Sunset Market is held every Thursday and Sunday evening from 5pm until 10pm throughout the dry season. It's definitely worth trying some of the food. Asian cuisine is a specialty, with over 1200 menu items to be found.
Once the sun has gone down, it's lovely to lie on the beach and enjoy the entertainment. There are a number of acts including musicians, street performers and fire twirlers.
2. Litchfield Park
Litchfield Park is a 130km drive south of Darwin; however, this is much more practical than Kakadu, at 250km. The park covers around 1500 square kilometres of land, and a number of different sights to see.
On your way into the park you will see the magnetic termite mounds. Built by such small insects, these architectural wonders come complete with archways, tunnels, chimneys and insulation.
The Buley Rock-Holes are a favourite swimming destination at Litchfield Park. Nestled among the surrounding trees, you really feel like you are in another world. The pools provide shallow areas for kids as well as spots deep enough for a proper swim. While folating around in a rock pool I was lucky enough to see a baby iguana swim right by me.
However, there is many and more to be seen at Litchfield Park. To truly experience it, locals recommend staying there for 1 - 3 days - which gives you a chance to see it all. There is plenty of accommodation if you're looking to stay in or around the park, as well as cafes and restaurants. It's worth looking into a tour package, to make the most of your visit.
3. Go For A Drink
This may seem strange - just do it. Darwin is small, but its nightlife is immense. While walking around one night, I saw more pubs and nightclubs than I'd ever seen on one street before.
However, I was more surprised by the fact that the venues all seemed full and it was only 8pm. Not that I have a problem with this, but in Melbourne it's thought to be very uncool if you're out before 10pm.
Nice and refreshing in the heat - Image by Mariuszjbie, Wikimedia Commons
Pubs in Darwin are great, they're lively, but you don't get a sense of danger at all. Everyone is happy with everyone. I went for a drink alone, and by the end of the night had a whole new circle of friends (not alcohol related, I swear).
At the end of the night, you have three choices. You can walk, call a taxi or catch a pedicab. A pedicab is kind of like an old rickshaw. A chair is attached to a bicycle, and you can be cycled back to your hotel - it's an eco-friendly taxi.
You have to go out for a drink in Darwin - it's part of the experience. The city has such a sense of community spirit that you feel welcomed wherever you go. So before your stay is up, be sure to visit the sunset market, spend some time and Lichfield Park and explore the city's nightlife.