From catching a million-dollar fish to getting up close and personal to a jumping crocodile in the Adelaide River, here is our list of the best things to do in Darwin!
The capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia is often unknown by international visitors despite being more multi-cultural than Australia as a whole.
Over 30% of Darwin’s population is born overseas. With its tropical climate and huge international flair, there are plenty of awesome and fun things to do in and around the city.
Darwin is known for its diverse wildlife, particularly the saltwater crocodiles that make beaches unswimmable. It’s also known for its lush national parks that allow visitors to get up close to wildlife.
Being a tropical city, Darwin has two main seasons – the wet and dry.
During the wet season (November to April), many places are flooded and inaccessible, and road trips are near impossible. So the ideal time to visit the Northern Territory and Darwin is from May to October in the dry season.
Despite having the smallest population of the capital cities in Australia, Darwin offers everything you need in a city including great access to food and entertainment plus some epic outdoor activities to enjoy.
There are also some incredible day trips to take, such as visiting the Tiwi Islands or various national parks.
Many people head to Darwin before tackling Kakadu National Park, Australia’s largest national park. It’s only a few hours drive from Darwin to Kakadu National Park, but don’t rush through Darwin because it is an amazing city to visit!
So let’s get into our list of things to do in Darwin, Australia.
READ MORE: If you’re on an epic road trip to Broome, why not continue east and head to the NT to explore more of Australia?
Table of Contents
- The Best Things to Do in Darwin
- 1) Jumping Crocodile Cruise
- 2) Watch A Film in Darwin’s Deckchair Cinema
- 3) Spend the Day at Litchfield National Park
- 4) Swim in the Darwin City Lagoon
- 5) Or Swim in the Wave Pool
- 6) Fish for the Million Dollar Barra
- 7) Check Out the World War II Darwin Oil Storage Tunnels
- 8) Enjoy the Immersive Experience at Darwin Military Museum
- 9) Take a Ferry to the Tiwi Islands
- 10) Walk or Cycle the Heritage and Culture Trail at the Darwin Waterfront Precinct
- 11) Berry Springs Nature Reserve
- 12) Eat Your Way Through Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
- 13) Then Catch a Sunset on Mindil Beach
- 14) Bathe in Tjuwaliyn (Douglas) Hot Springs
- 15) Visit the Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery
- 16) Enjoy a Night Out on Mitchell Street
- 17) Browse Through Other Markets
- 18) Sunset Cruise Darwin Harbour
- 19) Cruise the Mary River Wetlands
- 20) Visit the Aboriginal Fine Arts Gallery
- 21) Stroll Through the Darwin Botanic Gardens
- 22) Walk Around Stokes Hill Wharf and its Top Attractions
- 23) Partake in the Daily Fish Feeding at Aquascene
- 24) Go Camping
- Darwin Travel Guide
- Best Accommodation – Where to Stay in Darwin
- Best Restaurants in Darwin
The Best Things to Do in Darwin
If the outdoors is your calling then start your day waking up in a national park, exploring waterfalls and swimming in waterholes. Then head out to the Adelaide River for spotting saltwater crocodiles, or go fishing or hiking, or take a day trip to the Tiwi Islands.
If you’re a keen history buff or love a good museum and art gallery, immerse yourself in Darwin’s rich Aboriginal culture, history, and arts before heading to a museum and learning of its part in WWII.
Foodies and city slickers will also have a wild time here exploring the Darwin Harbour and the street markets before enjoying a night out on Mitchell Street Darwin. Or stroll along the Darwin Waterfront for the best views.
No matter what you’re into, some time in the top end is guaranteed to give you some of your best memories in Australia.
Here is our list of awesome things to do in Darwin Northern Territory.
1) Jumping Crocodile Cruise
One of the most popular things to do in Darwin is to go on an Adelaide River cruise to see saltwater crocodiles.
You’ll be amazed seeing how close you can get to the saltwater crocodiles as they leap out of the water. The 6-hour Adelaide River tour continues to the Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve to explore the floodplains and forest.
The great thing about this cruise is that it runs year-round so if you visit Darwin during the wet season, you can still enjoy it.
2) Watch A Film in Darwin’s Deckchair Cinema
Darwin’s tropical climate makes it the perfect place to enjoy an open-air cinema. Operated by the Darwin Film Society, films screened here are often available to local audiences.
The Deckchair Cinema runs every day during the dry season and screens a range of movies including family favourites, Australian and foreign films.
Located on the edge of Darwin Harbour, audiences can watch the sun set over the sea and enjoy a meal and drink in the tropical garden setting before the movies start.
You can buy hot food, wine, beer and soft drinks and your typical cinema snacks to enjoy.
3) Spend the Day at Litchfield National Park
One of the top sights near Darwin Australia is Litchfield National Park.
Located 90 minutes drive south of Darwin, Litchfield is home to some of the top Darwin attractions including Wangi Falls, Florence Falls, Tolmer Falls and the Magnetic Termite Mounds.
You can also check out the Lost City in Litchfield National Park. As an impressive collection of towering sandstones, the Lost City looks like an ancient man-made city even though it’s all natural.
A day trip to Litchfield National Park is well worth the visit to enjoy the swimming holes at the base of some of the waterfalls. During the wet season, you may even spot a crocodile or two.
4) Swim in the Darwin City Lagoon
Since swimming in the ocean is not allowed (you can thank the crocodile population for that), if you need some relief from the heat, take a dip in the Darwin City Lagoon.
The lagoon is a sectioned-off area from the adjacent Darwin Harbour and is just like being at the beach.
Continuously replenished with fresh seawater which is filtered through a fine mesh screen, the lagoon is home to fish, algae, and Cassiopeia jellyfish, which all help maintain a healthy marine environment.
The lagoon is patrolled by lifeguards from 9am – 6pm.
5) Or Swim in the Wave Pool
For those who need a little more action in the water and want to feel some swell, the Wave Lagoon is one of the top attractions in Darwin.
Covering an area of 4,000 square metres, this wave pool rolls out 10 different wave patterns, from gentle swells to waves up to 1.2 metres high.
The wave pool has a 20-minute breach between each cycle. The deepest point is 2 metres and the water is chlorinated salt with a concrete bottom.
Boogie boards and tubes are supplied, and the lagoon also includes a shallow water play area for younger children.
6) Fish for the Million Dollar Barra
One of the best things to do in the Darwin area is fishing. Tourism NT launched an Australian-first campaign in 2015 by tagging and releasing barramundi all through the Northern Territory.
The campaign, Million Dollar Fish, has helped boost the NT’s reputation as one of the best places in the world to fish. It runs annually from October to March to attract more visitors to the Top End over the tropical summer months.
Tourism NT releases the tagged barramundi each season so there are plenty of chances to win.
To get involved, you just have to register online, go fishing and catch a tagged barra. Verify the tag and find out what your prize is.
According to Tourism NT, there is only one 1 million dollar barramundi and 100 worth $10,000 each. What are you waiting for?!
7) Check Out the World War II Darwin Oil Storage Tunnels
These giant tunnels are one of the coolest places to visit in Darwin. The tunnels were built during WWII to protect oil stored in Darwin from Japanese bombing.
The tunnels are a short walk from the Darwin city center and the Esplanade. They provide historical information and display Darwin’s rich history during WWII including photos of the brave men and women who served from Australia.
8) Enjoy the Immersive Experience at Darwin Military Museum
The rich military history of the Northern Territory and Australia is respectfully displayed in the Darwin Military Museum. The museum provides a learning experience and displays a variety of artifacts and information.
The highlight of the Darwin Military Museum is the Defence of Darwin Experience, a powerful, immersive and interactive experience in the drama of the Japanese bombing of Darwin as it unfolded.
The Defence of Darwin Experience is an audio-visual journey where you can hear first-hand accounts from the men and women who survived the horror of that morning on 19 February 1942.
9) Take a Ferry to the Tiwi Islands
The Tiwi Islands are 80 km north of Darwin. Jump on board a 2.5-hour ferry and discover the rich indigenous culture and history of the Tiwi people.
Comprised of two main islands – Bathurst and Melville – most of the residents are of Aboriginal descent and you’ll meet some of them on cultural and wildlife tours.
The Tiwi people are famous for their traditional lifestyle, beautiful artworks, vibrant fabrics and textiles and passion for football.
Spend the day on the Tiwi Islands, learn about Aboriginal art and culture, take in the incredible sunset and find out why it’s nicknamed the ‘Island of Smiles’.
10) Walk or Cycle the Heritage and Culture Trail at the Darwin Waterfront Precinct
Some of Darwin’s most significant historical sites can be found on the heritage and cultural trail around the Darwin Waterfront Precinct.
At the Darwin Waterfront, you’ll visit the site of the first European settlement, WWII oil storage tunnels, the city’s first road, the wharf area that was heavily bombed in WWII, the Navy’s 1928 Pump House and a significant local Aboriginal site.
Strolling around the Darwin Waterfront is a lovely way to spend a day in the city.
11) Berry Springs Nature Reserve
If you’re looking for a beautiful place to cool off and relax, visit Berry Springs Nature Reserve. There are some lovely shaded picnic and barbeque facilities areas close to the natural swimming holes.
If you visit from March to April, you’ll see beautiful native flowers in the park blooming.
The waterhole is calm and if you have a keen eye, you’ll spot some aquatic life too (I saw a little turtle!).
This lovely spot in Darwin Northern Territory is family-friendly and perfect for an easy day out.
Near Berry Springs, you’ll also find Territory Wildlife Park, a local wildlife sanctuary with many animals. Territory Wildlife Park specializes in research and conservation, as well as family-friendly activities.
Heading to the hot springs and the Territory Wildlife Park in Berry Springs is one of the top day trips from Darwin.
READ MORE: Don’t miss our in-depth expert guide filled with the best Australia travel tips and advice.
12) Eat Your Way Through Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets operate during the dry season and showcase Darwin’s multiculturalism. With over 200 stalls, you’ll find incredible local and international cuisine on offer from many food stalls as well as an array of arts, crafts and services stalls.
Stroll through the markets and enjoy tasting food from all around the world.
The markets usually operate from the last Thursday in April until the last Thursday in October annually.
13) Then Catch a Sunset on Mindil Beach
Take a break from eating your way through the markets and walk down to the beach to watch an epic sunset.
Watching the sun setting over the ocean here is simply stunning and it’s no surprise that the area draws in huge crowds.
14) Bathe in Tjuwaliyn (Douglas) Hot Springs
Located a couple of hours out of Darwin, the hot springs are well worth a visit if you’re in the area. The springs are as hot as 60 degrees so swimming is recommended in the cooler pools downstream.
You can make this a day trip or camp overnight in the Douglas Daly area and park.
The Park is owned by the Wagiman people, and the Wagiman women have the cultural responsibility of looking after this land.
As the Park is an important place for women’s business ceremonies, the Wagiman women retain the right to close the park should they wish to carry out ceremonies on their land.
15) Visit the Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery
One of the top things to do in Darwin is to see the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Overlooking Fannie Bay in Darwin, the museum is home to internationally renowned artistic, cultural and scientific collections and research programs.
The art gallery holds free exhibitions showcasing and celebrating local artists from the NT and Australia in general.
Exhibitions in the museum are dynamic and carefully curated to provide plenty of fun and interesting displays for visitors of all ages.
You can also visit Sweetheart, a large male saltwater crocodile that gained notoriety in the 1970s for attacking dinghies at a popular fishing spot.
His body was presented to the museum in 1979 where a taxidermist prepared Sweetheart as a skin mount and also a skeleton, which is held in the museum’s collection. Get up close and see his whopping 5.1m and 780kg body.
16) Enjoy a Night Out on Mitchell Street
For a night out in Darwin City, all the action is on Mitchell Street! With the hot and humid weather, beers go down easy here in Darwin and you’ll find a range of nightclubs, bars and pubs along the street.
You can take yourself bar hopping or pub crawling, making some friends along the way (locals are very friendly).
But beware that the usual dress code in Australia of t-shirts and thongs (flip-flops) won’t be permitted everywhere (but will be in most places).
17) Browse Through Other Markets
No Darwin experience is complete without visiting all the other markets around the city too.
On a Saturday morning, check out the vibrant Parap Markets and see why it’s the local brunch hotspot. You’ll find delicious laksa, ice-fresh-fruit shakes, Cambodian prawn pancakes, Indonesian satays, Lebanese snacks and more.
Don’t leave without picking up some Humpty Doo Spices (the butter chicken is amazing)!
Then see Malak Marketplace in the northern suburbs for organic produce, locally handmade crafts and great entertainment.
For all the wonderful tropical fruits, Asian greens and mud crabs, head to Rabid Creek Markets on a Sunday morning.
Then complete your Darwin experience at Nighcliff Markets where locals enjoy live music, have their tarot read, enjoy a coffee and some delicious sweets.
18) Sunset Cruise Darwin Harbour
Darwin Australia offers some of the most stunning sunsets you’ll ever see, and a sunset harbour cruise is one of the best ways to experience the natural colours.
Hop on a 2.5-hour cruise where you can relax and take in sea views while enjoying some commentary and local insight into the history, cultural significance and wildlife around Darwin.
19) Cruise the Mary River Wetlands
Nature lovers will enjoy this wonderful experience in Australia of visiting the Mary River Wetlands on a cruise with lunch.
The Top End wet season transforms the Mary River Wetlands into an inland sea where you’ll see an abundance of birds, crocodiles and wildlife species.
Booking a boat tour is the easiest way to see the Mary River Wetlands while visiting Darwin in the Northern Territory.
This is a great way to experience the natural beauty of the Darwin area and see some local wildlife.
20) Visit the Aboriginal Fine Arts Gallery
Aboriginal culture has an extensive history dating back 50,000 years and includes many important elements such as artwork, Dreamtime stories and traditional ceremonies.
Browse through the traditional and contemporary Aboriginal art and craft on display and experience Aboriginal culture at the art gallery.
Here you can view Aboriginal paintings, works on bark, hand-woven baskets, carvings and more. There is also a range of didgeridoos available.
21) Stroll Through the Darwin Botanic Gardens
Situated just 2 km north of Darwin city, the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens cover 42 hectares and are known for their collections of north Australian and other tropical species.
Two walking trails within the gardens worth mentioning are the Tree Walk, covering 18 significant trees in the garden, and the Matboerrma Walk which provides information about how the local Larrakia people use native plants for traditional purposes.
22) Walk Around Stokes Hill Wharf and its Top Attractions
Stokes Hill Wharf is the main wharf in Darwin Harbour and one of the top attractions in the area. It is home to the Bombing of Darwin tourist attraction and the Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility.
The RFDS’s first operations in the NT in 1939 and the Bombing of Darwin in 1942 are historic events that helped forge resolve and resilience of the people.
Around Stoks Hill Wharf you can also enjoy the relaxed and friendly vibe of Darwin Harbour with seaside alfresco restaurants, spots for recreational fishing and free live entertainment on Wednesdays and Sundays during the dry season!
23) Partake in the Daily Fish Feeding at Aquascene
Beginning over 50 years ago, the daily fish feeding ritual started when a nearby resident started throwing bread scraps to some mullet at high tide. Visitors today come to see and participate in this spectacle!
Trays of bread are supplied at regular intervals and participants can hand-feed mullet and milkfish. Other species of fish can also be seen in the shallows such as catfish, rays, cod, diamond fish and parrotfish.
Since Darwin Harbour is subject to eight-metre tides, the fish that visit Aquascene only come to the shore for a few hours each day. Be sure to check the website for the latest feeding times.
24) Go Camping
A great way to appreciate nature’s beauty in Australia is a good old fashioned camping trip in a national park.
Spend the day in a national park exploring waterfalls, and spend the night by a campfire watching the stars.
Imagine waking up to scenic riverside locations, natural swimming holes and diverse fauna at Litchfield (only 1.5-hour drive from Darwin) or Mary River (around 1-hour drive from Darwin) national parks.
Just note that there are few basic rules for camping: camp in the designated areas, avoid the water’s edge, pay attention to fire bans, use pits provided for campfires and ensure they’re extinguished when you leave.
A note on Crocosaurus Cove: Crocosaurus Cove is one of the most recommended things to do in Darwin and is also home to the Cage of Death where you can dive with a crocodile. However, I have chosen to omit it from the list to further discourage this form of wildlife tourism in Australia. For more information, check out our guide to sustainable tourism.
Darwin Travel Guide
Now that you know what to do in Darwin, we want to help you make your other plans as well by sharing awesome accommodations and places to eat in the city.
Best Accommodation – Where to Stay in Darwin
There are all sorts of places to stay in Darwin city centre for any budget. From cheap beds in hostels to luxury rooms with views of the beach, you are sure to find something you like when you visit Darwin.
These are a few of our top recommendations.
The Best Hostel in Darwin – Darwin Hostel
Darwin Hostel offers everything you need when staying in the city. It’s clean, comfortable, has a hammock and daybeds by the pool and is within walking distance to the shops and The Esplanade in the city centre.
Staff are friendly and helpful and can give you all the tips and travel information you need.
Best Budget Accommodation for Couples – Paravista Motel
This great little motel is affordable and located in a nice and quiet part of Darwin. Beds are comfortable, rooms are clean and have all the basic amenities needed for a stay in the city.
Situated close to all the city’s top attractions and the Darwin airport, this motel is a good budget-friendly option for short stays in Darwin.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Darwin – Cullen Bay Resort
Located in Darwin City, Cullen Bay Resort has spotless rooms and apartments that are well-appointed with all facilities you need for a relaxed and enjoyable stay.
Of course, there is also a swimming pool for relief from the Darwin heat. It is located near Mindil Beach and the Darwin Botanic Gardens.
Best Luxury Hotel in Darwin – Mindil Beach Resort
For a little escape from the city, enjoy a luxury and beachfront experience in Australia at Mindil Beach Resort.
The resort is nestled on 30 acres of tropical gardens and offers stunning accommodation and dining options, an infinity-edged pool, spa treatments and even a beautiful private beach.
You’ll feel like you’re in a Bali resort but still be in the heart of the city.
Best Restaurants in Darwin
Despite being a small city, Darwin offers a great culinary experience with cuisines from all around the world for all budgets.
The food itself can be considered one of the top attractions in the city!
Budget: Darwin Laksa
Darwin Laksa is a great food stall at the Mindil Beach Sunset Market and is infamous for its short but deliciously sweet menu. For quick and budget dining, get yourself some laksa!
Mid-range: Hanuman Restaurant
Situated in the heart of the city centre, Hanuman Restaurant is one of the most popular restaurants in Darwin (and personally one of my favourites in Australia).
Its extensive menu will take you on a culinary journey and you’ll find delicious fusion and influences from Thailand and India.
High-End: Pee Wee’s at the Point
To splurge and splash out on in Darwin, visit Pee Wee’s at the Point. Beautifully set on the East Point Nature Reserve, the menu reflects the produce, climate and multiculturalism of the Northern Territory and showcases excellent produce of the Top End.
Pair their delicious fresh fish with an award-winning wine list and you’ve got yourself a luxury night out in the city.
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