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Top 10 Things To Do in Darwin

By Viator, October 2013

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Australia’s smallest and northernmost territory capital, Darwin, has a tropical climate, rich aboriginal heritage and laid back small-town vibe has its own inimitable charm. Whether scouring the city’s famous night markets, cruising the idyllic waterfront or coming face-to-face with a gnarly crocodile, here are the top ten things to do in Darwin.

1) Get outdoors in Litchfield National Park and Kakadu National Park
Darwin makes a great base from which to explore two of the Northern Territory’s most famous national parks – Kakadu and Litchfield. Explore the rugged wilderness of Kakadu, Australia’s largest national park at a staggering 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres), where you can cruise along the aptly nicknamed Alligator River within meters of live crocodiles, hike to the striking Jim Jim Falls and marvel at the dramatic Aboriginal rock art. Or combine it with a visit to Litchfield National Park, dotted with 7-foot (2-meter) high magnetic termite mounds and spectacular natural swimming spots.

2) Wander the new waterfront
Completely redeveloped back in 2009, the Darwin Waterfront Precinct is now one of the city’s liveliest areas, dotted with seaside restaurants and luxury high-rise hotels. Take a walk along the pretty promenade, enjoy the crocodile-free waters and wave pools at the Wave Lagoon, explore the fascinating WWII Oil-Storage Tunnels, or catch an evening movie at the atmospheric deckchair cinema.

3) Get on the water in the harbor
Connected to over 455-sq-km of waterways, Darwin Harbour makes a perfect spot for water activities, set against an idyllic backdrop of over 20,000 acres of mangrove forest. Take a cruise around the harbor or along the adjoining Blackmore River, where you’ll pass the Top End’s ubiquitous crocodile traps, a shipwrecked American warship and the HMAS Coonawarra navy base. High-speed jet boating, fishing excursions and pontoon rentals are also available from the harbor.

4) Get up close with a crocodile

One of the undisputed highlights of a trip to the Northern Territory is the chance to spot crocodiles in their natural environment. Pay a visit to Darwin’s Crocosaurus Cove, home to some of the largest saltwater crocs, where you can have a go at feeding the crocodiles, holding a baby crocodile or even entering the "Cage of Death" and swimming with one! Or brave the croc-infested waters of the Adelaide River for a crocodile jumping cruise and experience the thrill of feeding time in the wild.

5) See a spectacular sunset
Darwin’s balmy summer nights and tropical landscape lend themselves to some of Australia’s most spectacular sunsets and crowds gather along the coastline each night to watch the sun melt into the night’s sky. Whether you take a romantic stroll along the East Point Reserve, huddle on the sand dunes at Mindil Beach or opt for a sunset harbor cruise, you can’t fail to be impressed by the dramatic, blood-red skies and dazzling multi-colored waters.

6) Browse the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, held throughout the dry season from April to October, are a maze of colorful stalls crammed with local arts and crafts. Have your palm read  by Tarot readers or indulge in a Thai-style foot massage, then head to the beach to watch the sunset as live bands and street entertainers perform. Don’t forget to try the food – the night markets offer a myriad of ethnic cuisines and tasty street food, with everything from fresh oysters to Malaysian noodles.

7) Picnic at the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens

Darwin’s tropical heat can leave you feeling breathless, so pack a picnic and escape the city center for the shaded haven of the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens. Just 1.2 miles (2 km) from the center, the 104-acre (42-hectare) garden is a pocket of tranquility, featuring a monsoon forest, coastal dunes, a mangrove boardwalk and a striking orchid garden, along with over 400 varieties of palm tree.

8) Hit the beach at Casuarina
The northern suburb of Casuarina is not only home to Darwin’s largest shopping complex, but also to its longest beach. Stretching 13km from Lee Point to the mouth of Rapid Creek, the sandy beaches form part of the Casuarina Coastal Reserve. Here, you can walk or cycle along shaded woodland trails, visit Darwin’s only nudist beach, spot marine turtles nesting in the bay or get a view out to sea from the Dripstone Cliffs lookout. This is also one of the few coastal areas in Darwin where it’s safe to swim, thanks to regular crocodile patrols.

9) Take a day trip to the Katherine Gorge
With time to spare, the awe-inspiring Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk) National Park is another worthwhile side trip from Darwin, located 300km south of the city. Carved out by the Katherine River some 23 million years ago, the gorge stretches for 12km through the valley, plunging to depths of over 70 meters. For the most mind-blowing views, take a sunrise or sunset cruise along the gorge, fly overhead in a helicopter or choose from a wide network of hiking, rock climbing and canoeing routes.

10) Experience Aboriginal life on the Tiwi Islands
Marooned 62 miles (100 km) off the Timor Sea coast, the Tiwi islands make a fascinating addition to a Darwin itinerary, just a 20-minute flight or 2-hour ferry ride from the city. The two main islands, Melville and Bathurst, are renowned for their unique heritage and getting a taste of Tiwi Aboriginal culture is the main draw for tourists. Browse the distinctive arts and crafts as you watch the local artists weaving, painting and sipping billy tea; visit a sacred Tiwi burial site to learn the ritual of the legendary Pukamani burial poles, or make the most of the unspoiled landscapes.

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