Australia's only tropical capital city, Darwin gazes out confidently across the Timor Sea. It's closer to Bali than Bondi and can certainly feel removed from the rest of the country, which is just the way the locals like it.
Darwin has plenty to offer travellers. Chairs and tables spill out of street-side restaurants and bars, innovative museums celebrate the city’s past, and galleries showcase the region’s rich Indigenous art. Darwin’s cosmopolitan mix − more than 50 nationalities are represented here − is typified by the wonderful markets held throughout the dry season.
Nature is well and truly part of Darwin’s backyard − the famous national parks of Kakadu and Litchfield are only a few hours’ drive away, and the unique Tiwi Islands are a boat-ride away. For locals the perfect weekend is going fishing for barra (barramundi) in a tinny (small boat) with an esky (cool box) full of beer.
Although there’s not a whole lot of Indigenous art produced here, Darwin is arguably the best place in Australia to track down art from remote Aboriginal communities, whether to buy or just admire.
Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory World-class collection from all corners of the Territory.
Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair It’s worth planning your visit around this three-day August event.
Outstation Gallery Small gallery with a big collection that spans the main art-producing regions.
Nomad Art Gallery High-end gallery with a collection that extends beyond paintings to jewellery, textiles and other art forms.
Darwin Art Trail Hook up with some of Darwin’s lesser-known galleries and studios.
Mbantua Fine Art Gallery The place to go for dot paintings from the Western Desert and the Utopia region.
Mason Gallery Outstanding gallery in downtown Darwin with examples from across the Top End and Western Desert.
Aboriginal Bush Traders More informal than most, this fine little place has a good range of arts and crafts.
Tiwi Art Network Catch a glimpse of art from the Tiwi Islands without leaving the mainland.
Darwin stands on the cusp of some excellent wildlife country, most notably Kakadu and Mary River national parks, all of which is within a day’s journey of the city. But even within city limits there are some excellent chances to see native species.
Crocosaurus Cove You’ll never get closer than this to a croc and live to tell the tale.
Crocodylus Park It’s a worldwide collection at this zoo but highlights include the native crocs and cassowaries.
Charles Darwin National Park The wetlands here are terrific for birdwatching right on Darwin’s doorstep.
Turtle Tracks Set off in search of nesting sea turtles from May to September on this fabulous sunset tour.
George Brown Botanic Gardens Indulge your inner botanist at this fine tropical botanic gardens with great birdwatching thrown in.
Territory Wildlife Park Just 60km from Darwin and an easy day trip, this is the Top End’s best zoo.
Indo-Pacific Marine Exhibition Learn all about the Top End’s marine life at this good aquarium.
Aquascene Hand-feed fish in a state of frenzy at high tide.
Darwin is the Northern Territory’s premier repository of stories and artefacts from the region’s past.
Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Tells the Territory’s story, from Cyclone Tracy to Indigenous art, all under one roof.
Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin’s best museum with a hologram cinema, virtual-reality 3D glasses and a real RFDS plane.
Defence of Darwin Experience Fine interactive museum telling the story of Darwin’s traumatic WWII experiences.
Myilly Point Heritage Precinct Get a sense of what Darwin must have looked like before it was levelled in 1974.
Northern Centre for Contemporary Art An avant-garde collection that ranges beyond Indigenous artists.
Darwin’s balmy days are custom-made for open-air markets (as long as you avoid the heat of the day…). They’re Darwin institutions, where you’ll see far more locals than tourists. Food is a recurring highlight.
Mindil Beach Sunset Market One of Australia’s best markets – food, arts and crafts and all manner of flea-market specialities.
Parap Village Market Fabulous food is the focus, but also galleries and other artsy offerings in the surrounding streets.
Rapid Creek Market Asia comes to Darwin on Sundays with food and fresh produce at the city’s oldest market.
Nightcliff Market Good for food, but also a flea market with second hand goods and new-and-used clothing.