The ultimate guide to Darwin

Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, Tourism NT-Tyson Mayr

Zoe MacFarlane

Posted January 09, 2024

A vibrant coastal city and gateway to the Top End, Darwin appeals with its unique history, fascinating attractions, multicultural community, and legendary sunsets.

A trip to Darwin is best filled with interesting discovery, thrilling adventure, delicious cuisine, and fun-filled excursions to the region’s spectacular natural wonder. 

Use this informative guide on the top things to do in Darwin to plan your next trip.

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Nawurlandja lookout, Kakadu. Image: Tourism NT/Tyson Mayr

The spectacular Nawurlandja lookout, Kakadu. Image: Tourism NT/Tyson Mayr

The best things to do in Darwin

Explore the city 

Darwin has a wealth of attractions to entice every kind of traveller. Wandering the city’s peaceful Esplanade affords a leisurely introduction to Darwin’s relaxed pace, where you can walk to the Waterfront in around 20 minutes. With a recreational lagoon, wave pool, and several restaurants and bars, this modern precinct is popular with locals and visitors alike.

On the other side of the city, explore Cullen Bay Marina. It’s a picturesque spot for waterfront dining, sunsets over the Arafura Sea, and to access Darwin’s spectacular sunset cruises.

If you’re visiting on a Thursday or Sunday during the dry season (May to October), make time to wander the vibrant Mindil Beach Sunset Market. The tasty food, artsy souvenirs, and live entertainment make for a wonderfully pleasant evening.

There are likely few places in the world (if any) where you walk from your capital city hotel to get up close to a feared predator. However, in Darwin, you can!

At Crocosaurus Cove, choose to watch saltwater crocodiles feeding from a safe platform or, if you’re game, swim with them in the Cage of Death

For a gentler feeding experience, head to Aquascene Fish Feeding Sanctuary in the heart of the city. The wild fish use high tide to come in for a hand-feed; it’s fun for the whole family. 

For nature walks and shady picnic spots, head to Bicentennial Park, East Point Reserve, or Charles Darwin National Park. The latter is a 15 minute drive, and a place of ecological significance for its diversity.

Discover Darwin’s fascinating history

The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) is a captivating place to explore Darwin’s rich cultural and historical heritage. Along with Indigenous art and artefacts, MAGNT has displays about Darwin’s varied maritime history, along with an immersive experience to bring to life the devastation caused by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

The Darwin Aviation Museum is a worthwhile stop whether you’re an aerophile or not. Learn the vital role aviation has played in connecting the Top End to the rest of Australia, along with displays of Darwin’s tumultuous time during World War II. 

For a different perspective on the impact of flight to the region, visit the fascinating Darwin Royal Flying Doctor Service. Learn about their iconic services, along with insights into the devastating 1942 Bombing of Darwin.

From 1883 to 1979, Fannie Bay Gaol was Darwin’s main prison. With its location only steps from Fannie Bay beach, it had, perhaps, one of the best views from any prison in the world. Today, it’s a free attraction allowing visitors to comprehend the gruelling conditions endured by many jailed here.


Cruising Down Katherine Gorge. Image: Tourism NT/Elise Cook
An up close experience at Crocosaurus Cove. Image: Tourism NT/Elise Cook
Aerial view of Rainbow Beach at Tiwi Islands. Image: Tourism NT/Elise Cook
Aerial view of a beach at Tiwi Islands. Image: Tourism NT/Elise Cook
Harbour tour by sunset. Image: Tourism NT/Elise Cook

Connect to Darwin's ancient cultures

The Larrakia people have a rich history as custodians of the land we now call Darwin. Enrich your stay by connecting to the ancient culture of the Larrakia, also known as the Saltwater People. 

Darwin has several art galleries showcasing Larrakia artists, often with insights into the stories and traditions behind the pieces. Beyond MAGNT, both Mason Gallery and Paul Johnstone Gallery are worth a look.

Visit Darwin in August to watch the city come alive with several events celebrating Aboriginal culture. The Darwin Festival has a fabulous line-up of music, art, and performance, including free opening night festivities. You can also celebrate the artwork of more than 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair.

For native flavours, visit Aboriginal Bush Traders on Darwin's Esplanade. Products at this not-for-profit bushfood-inspired café, gallery, and shop come directly from local communities. 

Taste the best of Darwin

Darwin’s coastal location and multicultural population ensure happy tastebuds at every meal. With residents from more than 60 nationalities and 70 ethnicities, Darwin has some exceptional dining options that reflect the city’s multiculturality.

The Asian and Indian fusion flavours at Hanuman and the Sri Lankan morsels served at Ella by Minoli are two standouts.

In terms of local delicacies, both barramundi and mud crab should be on your Darwin food wish list; both are abundant and served in enticing ways - barramundi pizza is a top recommendation.

Wharf One is a popular spot for seafood with modern Australian flavours, with relaxing water views to boot.

For adventurous eaters, give crocodile skewers or spring rolls a try. Buffalo meat is also popular in the Top End, with buffalo steaks, burgers, and sausages on the menu. 

For fine dining, book ahead to nab a spot at PepperBerry for their four course menu paired with complementary wines. For casual dining, Lola’s Pergola and Stokes Hill Wharf are enticing options.

If you see Kakadu plums on any dessert menu, be sure to order it. The tart and zesty flavours of this native superfood fruit amplify the flavours of any sweet treat.


Darwin Waterfront Beach Lagoon. Image: Tourism NT/Elise Cook
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Image: Tourism NT/Elise Cook
Nourlangie Rock Art Kakadu. Image: Tourism NT/Elise Cook
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Image: Tourism NT/Elise Cook
Smoking Ceremony at Garrmalang. Image: Tourism NT/Elise Cook

Best day trips from Darwin

Most visitors to Darwin are not only coming to experience the city’s delights, but the natural wonders nearby, too.

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is a must-do day trip from Darwin. Under two hours’ drive from the city, Kakadu offers a range of spectacular sights. Between the wetlands, wildlife and ancient rock art, expect to be impressed.

Only two hours’ drive from Darwin, Litchfield National Park wows with its natural plunge pools, cascading waterfalls, and wildlife-rich walking trails. Wangi Falls and Buley Rockholes are top stops to make during your visit. 

Take a day trip an hour south to the Adelaide River for thrills aboard the Jumping Crocodile Tour. As you explore the diverse wetlands by boat, you’ll also learn about saltwater crocs and the local ecology from wildlife experts. 

Further afield, journey to Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park. While you can day tour to Katherine, the dramatic sandstone cliffs, serene waterways, and abundant wildlife make the area worthy of more attention if time permits.

Experience the Tiwi way of life when visiting the Tiwi Islands, a 2.5-hour ferry ride from Darwin. Discover the distinct culture, rituals, art, and wood carvings of the Tiwi Island people, along with their relaxed pace of life.

Transport and accommodation in Darwin 

Travelling from Victoria to Darwin is easy, with flights reaching the capital in around four hours. Darwin International Airport is only 10km from the city centre.

Many of Darwin’s attractions are walkable. However, if you’re looking for flexibility to go day tripping during your Darwin holiday, consider renting a car, campervan or RV.

Darwin is often the start or end point for tours to the Red Centre, Arnhem Land, and the Kimberley. Plus, the legendary journeys aboard Australia’s most iconic train, the Ghan.