When I moved to Darwin, I only ever had the intention of staying for 6, maybe 12 months. I had no idea how hard I would fall for this Top End city, and to be honest, if I hadn’t met and fallen in love with my now fiancée, I honestly may never have left.
However, over the years I have seen so many other people that I follow on blogs or Instagram travel to Darwin, and more often than not, they seem particularly underwhelmed or unenthused by the place that stole my heart.
I don’t think this disappointment is actually Darwin’s fault though, I think it is purely because people just don’t know about the hidden gems that this city (and its surrounds) have to offer!
So, without further ado, here are the fifteen best things to see and do in the Top End, from a (former) Darwin local.
Indulge in an epic Helicopter Pub Crawl
I am sure most of us have gone on a few pub crawls in our time, but ever done so in a helicopter!?
Spending a full day choppering to five remote outback pubs is an experience like no other. It’s boujee, it’s indulgent, it’s undeniably epic. It’s an expensive day, no doubt, but I have paid to do it once and let me tell you, I will be paying to do it again.
Check out Airborne Solutions to learn more and to book.
Go on an outback safari
If you want to experience an airboat, a chopper, huge termite mounds, up close experiences with crocodiles and go glamping all in one day, then the Top End Safari Camp is definitely for you!
This overnight experience is only a short way out of Darwin but is unlike anything else in the Territory.
Our experience getting up close and personal with Tripod the croc (named because he is missing a leg) was truly amazing.
Find paradise at Maguk
Maguk is a waterhole located within Kakadu National Park – and it is truly paradise. This waterfall and waterhole can be a little tricky to reach (read, there is some slight rock scrambling required) but it is so worth it. Pack some pool noodles and an esky full of beers to make the most of this spot. As an added bonus, Maguk is one of the few campsites in Kakadu that doesn’t require a 4×4 to reach – making it delightfully accessible.
Eat incredible food (and try crocodile burgers if you dare)
To many, Darwin might not seem like a culinary destination, but this is a common misconception. Sure, the city isn’t swimming in a sea of fine dining institutions (although Pee Wee’s is phenomenal) but that doesn’t mean the food isn’t truly wonderful.
Notable highlights? Eating a crocodile burger at Stokes Hill Wharf, cheap and wonderful North Indian cuisine on the Cullen Bay marina, avocado toast on the beach at De La Plage Cafe, ridiculously good pastries at Ruby G’s, laksa and papaya salad at the markets, $1 dumplings at Little Miss Korea (only on Mondays) and indulgent cheese boards at Stonehouse.
Day drink in a beachside pool
There are a couple of pool bars in Darwin, but the absolute best is the infinity pool bar at Mindil Beach Casino Resort. This beautiful pool is located right next to Mindil Beach and is beset by palm trees and lush Darwin greenery. The cocktails are delish, the tunes are decent and the sunsets are glorious – it doesn’t get much better than this.
Eat, smell and experience the market culture
There are a lot of markets in Darwin. Mindil markets are easily the most famous and biggest (held on Mindil beach on thursdays and saturdays) but they are a little too busy for my liking. Many favour Parap markets (and they are bloody good) but my personal favourite is the Rapid Creek market. It is unfancy, produce based and home to the best papaya salad (smothered in chilli please) you can get in Darwin.
Oh, and the laksa is pretty damn good too.
Take a trip to the Tiwi Islands
It is just a short flight or ferry across to some of the most remote and most beautiful islands in Australia. Home to only a few thousand people (and probably many more thousand crocodiles) these islands are far from frequented by tourists – making them a true hidden gem.
If you want a relaxing getaway, take a trip to the Tiwi Island Retreat and if you want a bit more adventure, time your visit with the annual Tiwi Islands football grand final!
Experience the infamous nightlife on Mitchell
Don’t let the following photo fool you, Darwin nightlife is anything but classy. Mitchell Street is the main drag and the mere name has a great deal of notoriety attached to amongst Darwinites.
Whether it’s Shags (Shenanigans), Wizzies (Wisdoms), Monnies (Monsoons) or Discovery (there’s no terrible slang for this one) you are sure to find booze, fun and trouble.
Watch the sunset from one of the incredible beaches
Sure, having stunning beaches that you can’t swim in (thanks to saltwater crocodiles and box jellyfish) in a perpetually hot climate is all kinds of cruel, but what these beaches lack in swimmability (not a word, I know) they make up for in beauty, especially during the sunsets.
Check out Casuarina beach, the Nightcliff foreshore, East Point Reserve and Mindil beach for the best sunsets in town.
Buy some wearable art
For the last few years, Aboriginal Bush Traders – a retail store and gallery showcasing Aboriginal arts and wares – has run an event called ‘Bush Bling’. This event sees the entire store become overrun with Aboriginal jewellery pieces from artists all around the Northern Territory and some parts of the APY Lands in South Australia. These jewellery pieces are gorgeous, unique and support Aboriginal artists living in remote communities – what more could you want?
Road trip to Katherine for glorious hot springs
Around 3.5 hours south of Darwin is the Katherine township. The appeal of visiting this area are the waterfalls, the gorge and some truly incredible hot springs.
Bitter Springs, Mataranka, Katherine Hot Springs, Edith Falls and Nitmiluk Gorge are highlights not to be missed.
Legally set off fireworks on cracker night
I have no photos of this, but essentially, for one night a year (usually July 1st) it is legal in the Northern Territory to buy and use fireworks. Affectionately dubbed ‘cracker night’ by the locals, this is an excuse to get a bit silly and indulge in a somewhat risky practice that is illegal every other day of the year.
The beaches are popular places for people to party, so make sure to be aware of your surroundings if you decide to follow suit – you don’t want to be one of the (numerous) people to take a trip to Royal Darwin Hospital with cracker night induced injuries!
Waterfall hop in Litchfield National Park
A hop, skip and a jump out of Darwin (a 90 minute drive) lies Litchfield National Park – or Litchy, as it is known by those in the know. Litchfield is the gateway to adventure in the Top End, and is home to some seriously beautiful waterfalls and rockholes – many of which are safe for swimming! As an added bonus, a great deal of the park is 2wd accessible, making it a fantastic option for those without a 4×4.
My favourite spots include the Lower Cascades, Walker Creek, Florence Falls, Buley Rockhole, Twin Falls and Surprise Creek Falls.
See crocodiles (literally) jump for a meal
The population of salties in the Top End of Australia is quite literally exploding, causing these territorial creatures to live in much closer proximity to each other than they normally would. One place which demonstrates this exceptionally well is the Adelaide River.
There are so many salties here that numerous tour operators have set up shop here and if you want to see big crocodiles literally jump out of the water for food – then this is a fantastic 1/2 day trip for you.
Go camping (or glamping) in the outback
There are no shortage of camping spots in the Northern Territory, however, there are some that are truly exceptional. I had the opportunity to stay at Hideaway Litchfield, which is a gorgeous glamping spot in Litchy, and it was absolutely wonderful. There are so many incredible places to spend the night in the NT – you just have to look for them!
So there you have it! My 15 best things to see and do when in Darwin and surrounds – what would you be most excited to do in the Top End? Let me know in the comments!
Like this? Pin it!