Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia. It is the largest city in the not so populated Northern Territory. However it is the smallest, most northerly of the Australian capital cities.
Darwin was only a stopover between flights for us, on our way to the Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. We were curious of visiting this city so far apart from everywhere else in Australia. Luckily we had the opportunity.Honestly only 2 full days here aren’t enough to really enjoy what it has to offer. Anyway we had a taste of Darwin and we were really satisfied with our time here!
Just like in Perth I wasn’t sure of the actual size of the center of town. I booked a hotel in the heart of downtown. This would give us the flexibility to decide once we were there whether we needed a tour or could explore on our own. Just like Perth walking around was not a problem, other than for the muggy heat! These are a few of the things we did and that I recommend to check out.
1. See a crocodile real close at Crocosaurus Cove
There are lots of crocodiles in the Northern Territory. As soon as we got here we found out that it isn’t even safe to swim in many beaches. Apparently there is high presence, since they enjoy sunbathing on the beach just like us!
In order to avoid the wrong type of meeting with a crocodile we took our kids to Crocosaurus Cove right in the center of town. This place gave us the opportunity to walk around and learn a lot about crocodiles thanks to all the informational signs displayed all over the place. We also had the opportunity to take a picture while holding a little crocodile. During feeding time everyone is welcome to watch and in the baby crocodile section you can feed them yourself!
If you want to be a bit more adventurous you can try the Cage of Death experience, where the only thing keeping you apart from becoming crocodile food is the cage you’re inside! Not my kind of experience but we saw plenty of people do it while we were there.
A great alternative to the cage for the kids is the pool next to the baby crocodiles. Here they can swim, see them and feel a bit of a thrill for being so close to them. Our kids had a blast and it was also very refreshing considering the heat.
Crocosaurus Cove presents also the World’s largest display of Australian Reptiles. It has over 70 species on display in your reptile enclosure. Most reptiles are from the Northern Territory’s Top End and Kimberley region. However there is also the Desert region which is home to a range of species found in Australia’s Red Centre.
A few cool facts about crocodiles:
- Crocodiles got their name from the greek word “krokodeilos” which means “pebble worm”. This is probably referred to their rough skin and its crawling nature.
- It is estimated that there are around 140,000 saltwater crocodiles in Australia. 80,000 are in the Northern Territory and 30,000 each in Western Australia and Queensland. The freshwater crocodiles are estimated around 150,000 across northern Australia.
- Crocodiles replace their teeth regularly. Each tooth is hollow at the base so when the old one breaks off there is a new one to replace it. They break often because of the biting hard shell or during fights with rivals.
- They have a very good sense of smell. Crocodiles can detect smells from several hundred meters away. If carried by the wind they can find a prey within a couple of feet based only on their sense of smell.
- Crocodiles have the most advanced brain of any reptile. This means they can learn routines and can predict the best time and place to catch food. For examples animals that drink in the same place everyday. They can also predict feeding opportunities based on seasonal migrations.
2. Walk around and see the major sites
Darwin isn’t really known for centuries-old structures. Unfortunately the war made sure that there wouldn’t be much left. In fact Darwin was one of the few places on the Australian mainland to be directly attacked by the Japanese during World War II. 300 bombs were dropped on the city in February 1942.
This has been a very painful moment for this city. You can learn about the history of Darwin’s experience in the war, in various significant sites around the city and museums.
We found a self guided tour on our free guide and decided to use it to go around and discover a bit of Darwin’s history. For example the Victoria Hotel (the VIC), is survivor of every cyclone and bombing raid that has hit this city. Or the Christ Church Cathedral, which instead was devastated by cyclone Tracy. So what you see today is a very modern structure with the remains of the old one incorporated in it.
3. Cool down at the water park
We were walking towards the Darwin waterfront precinct. What we found pleasantly surprised us: a little enclosed beach, a wave lagoon, a very cool playground, Palmerston Water park, Big Buoy Waterpark and lots of restaurants. The access to this area is through a boardwalk overlooking it. Once your kids see it there is no way they will let you leave without spending some time there!
Cosimo and Emma wanted to go on the floating water park. These are challenging and fun water sports activity with a climbing cube, multiple slides, launching pillow and more. Unfortunately we got there too late so they didn’t have a chance to do. However it was still pure entertainment watching the people flying off the launching pillow and in the water.
4. Bicentennial Park
If you love exploring city parks, as we do, you will surely enjoy Bicentennial Park. This park follows the length of the waterfront. It is close to many of the area’s key landmarks. If you follow the signs you will also find trails leading to small beaches.
The Bicentennial Park pays tribute to the souls lost during the Battle of Darwin. As you walk around the park, you will find war memorials and monuments. This makes a walk in it all the more insightful and educational.
5. Mindil Beach Sunset
As a peninsular city, Darwin’s coast is rich with beaches. One of the most popular is Mindil Beach. Well known for having the most beautiful sunsets.
If you time right your visit to Darwin (we did not), you will also get to experience Mindil beach sunset market. Every Thursday and Sunday, you can enjoy the lovely sunset while browsing around a great variant of stalls and gastronomical delights.
6. Get out to see Litchfield National Park
Originally we were just going to stay in town for the 2 full days we had available. However we were recommended to rent car and go explore a beautiful National Park just a couple of hours away: Litchfield National Park. Here you will find beautiful waterfalls where to cool down from the heat after walking through rich monsoonal forests and woodlands.
At the beginning of the park you will find the impressive Cathedral and Magnetic Termite Mounds. These are hundreds of huge termite-built structures, measuring up to two metres high. They are complete with nursery chambers, tunnels, chimneys and more. There is also a boardwalk and platform so that you can enjoy the best views.
As we drove through the National Park we stopped at Florence Falls and Wangi Falls for a swim and a few jumps off the rocks. After that we headed to Tolmer Falls. Unfortunately we saw them only from a distance because there is no access to the gorge. It is home to protected rare species of bats: the Orange Horseshoe Bat and the Ghost Bat.
There are more waterfalls in this beautiful National Park. Unfortunately some were closed for the day and some were only accessible with 4WD, which we did not have. But what we saw in one day was perfect!
If you have a few extra days in this area, Kakadu National Park is another great place to see, unfortunately we didn’t have enough time.
Darwin was a true surprise for us! We enjoyed strolling around town. Having a chance to enjoy the park as well as the beach, everything was at walking distance. We wish we had more time to explore more. It would have great to visit Kakadu National Park as well as the Tiwi Islands, but we are grateful to have had a chance to at least have a taste of this beautiful area.
Click here to see more of our posts from our travels in Australia!!!
Check out the lovely hotel we stayed at Novotel Darwin CBD!!!