Darwin is not your average Australian Capital city. It’s the smallest capital city of the country, remote, with tropical weather and a multi- cultural melting pot- home to more than 60 nationalities. It feels far removed from the rest of the country and is quite often called the ‘Gateway to Asia’ because of its proximity to Southeast Asia. Most people use Darwin as a point of entry to head to world class national parks or explore the charms of the Northern Territory. But Darwin (reached by Singapore Airlines) has its own laid back attractions. Moreover, along with your return ticket to Australia, Singapore Airlines also allows you to redeem a complimentary S$20 Changi Transit Reward in transit, for shopping or lounge access at Singapore Changi Airport.
This city was named after Charles Darwin the British biologist, by Lt John Lort Stokes, his former shipmate. The city which was established in 1869 rapidly expanded after gold was discovered at nearby Pine Creek, in 1871. The city has been decimated at least twice- by as many as 64 bomb attacks by the Japanese army during World War II and by Cyclone Tracey in 1974. But it still hasn’t impacted the sunny disposition of the locals!
Some architectural treasures still survive like the gothic Government house surrounded by manicured gardens and the ruins of the Palmerston Town Hall, now used as an open air theatre. This tropical capital city that looks out onto the Timor Sea, also has an interesting Chinese history and many of its earliest pioneers were Chinese. Check out the Chinese Temple and Chung Wah Museum to get an idea of this community’s influence.
Photo courtesy: Tourism Northern Territory, Australia
Darwin is located on a peninsula and the harbor is often glimpsed through its buildings and parks. The Smith Street Mall is at its very centre, surrounded by hotels and offices, the place to purchase fine crocodile and pearl products. The city is famous for its outdoor markets and the most popular of them is the Mindil Beach Sunset Market held on Thursdays and Sundays between April and October, with around 200 stalls selling international food from Vietnamese pho to sushi, local art and craft and enlivened by buskers, tarot card readers, and magicians against the backdrop of a famous Darwin sunset.
Australia’s Top End can get really warm, so head to the Darwin Waterfront next to the CBD with a sprawl of outdoor cafes, restaurant and bars around a palm fringed Wave Pool and a Recreational Lagoon. Continue to kick back at the century-old George Brown Botanic Gardens with lush tropical vegetation and segway tours.
The city is at the heart of Crocodile country. You can see the saline monsters in the city itself at Crocosaurus Cove, a three level aquarium and wildlife park with marine creatures. If you are brave enough you can see the deadly creatures from the ‘Cage of Death’ a glass cylinder lowered into the crocodile enclosure for 15 minutes! If you want to see them in their natural habitat, a drive or take a tour to the Adelaide River, 70 km from the city, for a Jumping Crocodile Cruise run by many tour operators, where they entice these fierce creatures to jump out of the water, with a piece of meat attached to a fishing rod.
Darwin is at the heart of the Northern Territory- head to the Museum and Art gallery of Northern Territory, with 1.2 million natural history specimens and 30,000 art works and cultural items from hunting gear to musical instruments. Get a selfie with the museum’s most famous resident- a stuffed five metre salt water crocodile called Sweetheart! And don’t miss the moving Cyclone Tracey exhibition which gives you an insight into the magnitude of the tragedy.
Photo by: Elle
One of the best times to visit the city is during the Darwin Festival, an 18 day celebration in August, with experimental and traditional art forms from dance, poetry, theatre to cabaret, and films. A really fun thing to do in the city is to catch a movie at its Deck Chair Cinema, an open air cinema located on the waterfront, where low deck chairs and food and drinks provide the backdrop for art house movies and the occasional blockbuster.
If you like to hire a car and self-drive, then Darwin is surrounded by many nature trails and natural wonders. The area around the city is studded with crystal clear thermal pools, such Berry Springs with blue thermal pools under lush trees. Or you can head to Litchfield National Park, 100 km south of Darwin, with dramatic waterfalls, termite mounds and swimming holes. A three-hour drive from the city brings you to Australia’s largest National Park, Kakadu National Park – home to ancient aboriginal rock art, and spectacular natural landscapes. Take a dip at one of its natural swimming holes and indulge in bird watching- Kakadu has one third of all Australian bird species! Make the most of this National Park and stay overnight at one of the many accommodation options inside or on the outskirts of the Park.
Singapore Airlines & SilkAir offer convenient flight connections from India to Darwin. For more information go here.
is a travel writer, blogger, and a Japanese language specialist from Chennai. In her search for a good travel story, she has snowmobiled in Lapland, walked with the lions in Zimbabwe, and flown in a microlight over the Victoria Falls.
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