Darwin, the capital of northern Australia, is closer to Jakarta than it is to Sydney, so it should come as no surprise that it looks outward to Asia as much as it looks inland to the rest of Australia. It's this mix that gives Darwin its relaxed, cosmopolitan, tropical atmosphere.
Day 1: Discover Darwin
Get your bearings with a tour – an Aboriginal-led tour will give you a great insight into the local area and history. Alternatively the hop-on, hop-off minibus visits most of the big sights in town. Darwin's city center is compact, but the heat can be oppressive, so early morning and late afternoon are the best times for a stroll. Start with the galleries and gift shops of Smith Street Mall. Dinner by the water is a must-do in Darwin so head to the marinas for fish and chips wrapped in paper before easing on down to the vibrant Mindil Beach Sunset Markets (May - October) for beer and a spot of fire-juggling.
Day 2: Art and history
Get a culture fix at Darwin's excellent state museum and the significant Aboriginal Art collection at the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT. The fascinating East Point Military Museum profoundly displays the devastation of Darwin in WWII with a fascinating collection of military memorabilia. Wind down from the day by savoring one of Darwin's flame-red sunsets on an historic pearl lugger such as the 1959 Streeter, where you can sip champagne and snack on finger food.
Day 3: Do Kakadu
Kakadu is Australia's largest national park. Its 20,000 square kilometers are World Heritage listed and you'll see why when you take a day tour from Darwin across the Marrakai Plains and into Kakadu. Spend the morning exploring the native fauna and viewing the superbly preserved Aboriginal rock paintings at Ubirr. After lunch, you'll join the Guluyambi Cruise along the East Alligator River with an Aboriginal guide and, by special permission, take a short walk into Arnhem Land. By late afternoon you'll head back to Darwin, stopping at Window on the Wetlands en route, where you can relax with a glass of wine and watch the changing light of day over the floodplains.