A Long Weekender's Guide to Darwin for When You Need Warm Weather Again
Spend balmy nights in Australia's Top End tucking into fresh seafood and meeting local makers.
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May to September is the dry season in Darwin, which signals plenty of clear blue skies and balmy nights. And it means winter is a popular time of year to experience the city's vibrant nightlife and culture, without worrying about monsoonal storms and humidity. Whether you're planning a short stay or a long sojourn, there are plenty of delicious dining options, outdoor activities and historical sites to explore. Here are the best spots for eating, drinking, playing and resting your head during your next trip to Darwin.
From pristine beaches and bountiful wine regions to alpine hideaways and bustling country towns, Australia has a wealth of places to explore at any time of year. We've partnered with Tourism Australia to help you plan your road trips, weekend detours and summer getaways so that when you're ready to hit the road you can Holiday Here This Year.
For coffee that's so good it'll trick you into thinking you've been transported to Melbourne, take a short walk from Darwin's Smith Street Mall to Rabbithole where you will be treated to exceptionally made Campos coffee. Further along, amid the art- and graffiti-covered walls of Austin Lane, PM Eat & Drink serves up fresh seafood share plates, featuring Fremantle octopus and fried Northern Territory coral prawns. If you're after something a little different, CHOW!'s steaming bowls of meaty pho and refreshing, fruity KAPOW! drinks never disappoint. Meanwhile, chef Jimmy Shu will take you on a culinary journey through Southeast Asia at Hanuman, where you can feast on pork rolls, rich garlic dahl and sweet lychee-laced curries. And for an evening showstopper, park yourself at Pee Wee's for a luxe dinner of freshly caught seafood and picturesque waterfront views.
Of course, no visit to Darwin would be complete without a stopover at one of the town's famous food markets — so make time to visit at least one of them. You can enjoy unbelievably creamy laksa from Mary's at the Parap Markets and the best banana fritters you'll taste outside of Bangkok at the Rapid Creek Markets. Try different (but delicious) meats like crocodile and kangaroo from the Roadkill Cafe at the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets or crepes topped with homemade caramel sauce from Ken's Crepes at the Nightcliff Markets.
In recent years, Darwin's bar scene has stepped up its game. One of the (relatively) new kids on the block that has really made a splash is The Trader Bar. Serving up espressos by day and cocktails by night, it's your one-stop-shop for a tipple. Six Tanks Brewing Co is another fresh-faced newcomer, slinging stellar handcrafted brews — and currently offering takeout, too. Don't miss the tasty chicken parmigiana.
If microbreweries aren't your style, get a little fancy and enjoy some impressive waterfront views at the Darwin Sailing Club or slurp some oysters at wharfside Oyster Bar — try the hot and spicy oyster shots for something a little more colourful. Thrillseekers will also get a kick out of the quirky, circus-themed Lola's Pergola, where you can sip on dark beers like Little Creatures' Hotchkiss Six while surrounded by colourful carousel ponies and giant eyeballs. It's a hoot.
Darwin is the perfect place to admire some of the Top End's amazing art galleries. The first stop on your list should be the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT). It's home to a stuffed crocodile called Sweetheart, an infamous sound booth that lets you experience the deafening power of Cyclone Tracy, a rotating roster of incredible Indigenous artworks and one of the best collections of natural history specimens in the world. It's definitely a unique cultural institution not to be missed. While you're at it, visit the Aboriginal Bush Traders retail gallery to see a phenomenal collection focusing on the craftsmanship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander jewellers. Afterwards, head to the cafe at Lyons Cottage to chow down on modern versions of Australian bush tucker, like saltbush dukkah paired with the ever-popular smashed avo on toast or damper topped with Kakadu plum jam. After you've sent your taste buds into a tailspin, enjoy some downtime at the East Point Reserve. With 200 hectares of green space, there's plenty of room for activities — you can even go kayaking on Lake Alexander.
Darwin isn't bursting with a bunch of boutique hotel options, but luxury seekers will find the ideal combination of comfort and style at the sprawling Mindil Beach Casino & Resort (currently closed, but due to reopen later in 2020). Set on Mindil Beach, amid 30 acres of tropical gardens, the lagoon-style pool, swim-up bar and private beach will quickly have you trying to figure out how you can make the hotel your permanent home. Keeping with the waterfront location, Mantra on the Esplanade is known for its fantastic sunset views of the harbour and the beautiful Bicentennial Park. And for those on a budget, the Adina Apartment Hotel Darwin Waterfront will keep you close to the action without breaking the bank.
Whether you're planning to travel for a couple of nights or a couple of weeks, Holiday Here This Year and you'll be supporting Australian businesses while you explore the best of our country's diverse landscapes and attractions.
Top image: Mindil Beach Sunset Markets courtesy Tourism Australia.
Published on May 14, 2020 by Eleanor Scott