If you’re living in Australia and aren’t situated in the northern regions, no doubt you’ve been plotting an escape to some sort of tropical paradise. And I can’t blame you. By all accounts this winter has been one for the history books as the coldest, wettest, stingiest winters of all time (according to me and my own deduction skills).
Predominantly when us Aussies plan a toe-thawing time away we look further abroad to places like Bali, Thailand or even (if you’re a gazillion-aire) the Italian coastline. But I’m here to question those choices and poise a query for you to ponder: what about our own backyard? There are areas in this gorgeous country of ours that boast balmy evenings, bright blue skies and countless fun activities during the long and cold winter months. In particular I’m talking about the Top End of Australia, the NT, or as I like to call it, the place to be!
I’m a born and bred Canberran who has travelled and lived in many different parts of Australia. I was lucky enough to live, work and travel the Top End for two years and I’ve got to tell you: if you haven’t experienced the vastness of Kakadu or the excitement of the Darwin festival, you need to do it now.
I’ve taken the liberty of suggesting some of my favourite hangouts and adventure spots to help entice you, and if that doesn’t work, scroll down and take a gander at the photos because they speak for themselves. So go on, immerse yourself in the possibilities that await you in downright delightful Darwin.
I know, I know. Almost every city, town or suburb in Australia has some form of farmers or collective market that locals say, ‘you must go to’. But I’ve never been to markets quite like the ones in Darwin. The air around them is filled with the spicy scents of fresh laksa; a dish that every Top Ender will insist you try from the stall they favour. There are also an array of local music, fresh vegetables and fruits, tropical flowers, tasty bakery treats, ethically sourced Indigenous art and craft stalls, and above all a friendly carefree feel that will ease you into your holiday.
Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
Open Thursdays and Sundays during the dry season
4pm – 9pm
Noteworthy: the sunset (thanks nature) and the variety of local stalls.
Hint: If crowds aren’t your cup of tea, opt to arrive some time after sunset. People love gathering at the market for the daily natural spectacle but it’s still a very enjoyable experience if you don’t cram for a spot at peak time.
More info here.
Parap Village Markets
Open every Saturday (wet or dry)
8am – 2pm
Noteworthy: the multiple delicious laksa choices — I’m seriously drooling right now thinking about it. Also of note are the tropical fruit and flowers and general atmosphere.
Hint: Parking can be a pain in the bum so you either need to be patient and persistent or try parking a few blocks away and walking. The market also offers a free shuttle bus that picks up from various Darwin locations which is another great option.
More info here.
Malak Marketplace Organic Farmers Market
Open Saturday nights (till the last Saturday of October 2018)
4pm – 9pm
Noteworthy: local music, delicious food options, plenty of places to sit and enjoy the evening.
Hint: Try not to limit your food choices to one vendor. Grab a bit of everything and park yourself at the provided tables to soak in the music and gorgeous night sky.
More info here.
The sun sets every single day so why are Darwin sunsets so damn special? Because there are multiple spots along the coast where you can sit back, unwind and take in the gloriously vivid colours of a Top End sunset over the ocean. It’s a truly magical experience and doesn’t get old, even for the locals. You will not be disappointed — and to top it off, it’s free!
Fannie Bay foreshore
Palm trees, green grass and a pleasant bike or walking track make Fannie Bay foreshore a fantastic spot to catch a Darwin sunset. There are plenty or areas to throw down a picnic blanket and nibble on some takeaway, or you can venture out onto the sand and walk along the shoreline.
Nightcliff boasts countless sunset-watching spots. You can take your own dinner or grab a bite at my favourite pizza restaurant — that boasts an outdoor, wood-fired pizza oven on the back of a truck. Sit at the long tables under fairy lights or find a spot of your own among the shady trees and let the day gracefully melt away. You could also stroll along the Nightcliff Jetty to get as close to the water as safely possible (because, crocs).
Casaurina Coastal Reserve
Take in the glorious eight kilometres of beaches, cliffs and protected wildlife that make up the Casaurina Coastal Reserve before you catch the sunset. You can take a walk along the sand or venture through the designated shared cycle paths. Grab a drink and something delicious t eat at the Darwin Surf Life Saving Club and outdoor restaurant De La Plage. You can even take your pup to some areas — just remember to check the signs.
Now if you’re into orange dirt, nature’s soundtrack, crystal-clear fresh water swimming holes and exploring the outback while bushwalking, then the Top End is the place for you to visit. And the best part about visiting Darwin is there are plenty of spots to check out without having to travel too far.
Kakadu National Park is probably the most famous of the parks near the NT’s capital but you should stay two nights (at the very least) and it’s a good three to four hour drive to camping and accommodation. So what’s the alternative? Litchfield National Park!
Litchy water holes are out-of-this-world and its natural elements are in overload — think giant termite mounds and tropical bush tracks galore.
- Buley Rockhole (on a weekday)
- Walker Creek walk and water holes
- Florence Falls
- Camp if you’re keen to get to more than two water holes while in the park
- Always carry plenty of drinking water
- Be sun smart — wear a hat, sunscreen and protective clothing
- Be conscious of the time of year you’re visiting — check government websites for dry and wet season updates and check road closures before leaving Darwin
Art and Culture
Once you’ve exhausted yourself with all the outdoor activities be sure to check out these top-notch (and free) artistic and cultural galleries and stores. Immerse yourself in the splendour of ethical indigenous art, while learning more about the history and stories of the Top End and its people:
The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm Daily
Address: 12 Conacher Street, Darwin
Starwin Social Enterprise
9am – 3pm Monday – Tuesday
9am – 7pm Wednesday
9am – 5pm Thursday – Friday
9am – 1pm Saturday
Address: Shop 2, 93 Mitchell Street, Darwin City
10am – 5pm Tuesday – Friday
10am – 3pm Saturday – Sunday
Address: 55 Stuart Highway, Stuart Park