14 fun things to do in Darwin and Top End
Discover unspoiled nature and exotic wildlife in the Northern Territory.
As one of the most culturally and historically rich areas in Australia, the Northern Territory boasts some of the most pristine nature the entire country has to offer. There’s a beautiful city to explore, historical sites to visit, and of course, many a crocodile to encounter.
If you aren’t so keen to meet our fanged reptile friends, there’s a dazzling array of birds to spot and baby turtles to experience. The Northern Territory is fast-becoming the ideal holiday destination that is suitable for all ages.
A great way to find your bearings is with a city tour such as Go Bus Tours which can introduce you to hot-spots and inspire you to explore more. If you're still wondering where to start however, here are our picks for the top things to do in the Top End.
Top things to do in Darwin
1. Shop the Mindil Beach sunset markets
One of the most renowned spots to browse for local, handmade crafts and wares is at the Mindil Beach sunset markets. It’s open Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings during the dry season between April and October. The specific dates change yearly, so check the times.
With over 300 arts and crafts stalls as well as food outlets to explore and a beachfront view to soak up while you do, it’s a relaxing half day out that should be top of your list if you’re in Darwin on the right day for it. Being such an iconic sight in the city, it’s included in Darwin sightseeing tours.
2. Pay a visit to the Darwin military museum
If you’re a war history buff, you’ll love this museum. Steeped in World War II history, Darwin’s Military Museum is a haven of artillery artefacts that’s bound to capture your imagination and teach you a thing or two about Australia’s role in the war.
It’s open seven days a week, during wet and dry season, so if you’re visiting the city on a rainy day, it’s an ideal option to keep dry while still getting to know the area. Discounts are available for children under five.Historical tours of Darwin are also available if you want to further your journey through Darwin’s past.
Our top pick: Historical tours of Darwin from RedBalloon
3. Catch ‘em hook, line and sinker on a fishing charter expedition
If there’s one thing Darwin is not short on, it’s fishing charters. Being a coastal city, all species of fish are at your fingertips ready for you to reel in, including red emperor, coral trout, bluebone, saddle sail snapper and grass emperor.
When choosing a charter, ensure the company boasts professional and responsible fishing practices like this one-day charter out on the reef. Many charters feature small, intimate groups and include tackle and meals.
Our top pick: Fishing Trip Barramundi - Full Day from RedBalloon
4. Set sail on a Darwin harbour cruise
There’s a fine balance between giving visitors wide access to a place’s natural beauty and protecting its precious ecosystem. Fortunately, Darwin has plenty of harbour cruises featuring unforgettable guided tours through Darwin’s beautiful waters.
Choose to set sail on a general sightseeing harbour cruise, romance it up on a sunset cruise, see the wildlife on a wetlands cruise or be enlightened on a historical cruise. There’s no better way to explore the outer reaches of Darwin harbour and see wildlife native to the area. Wetland cruises are also available for a cruise of a different kind.
Sailing at Sunset - BBQ Dinner and Drinks
Wetland Wildlife Cruise - Full Day
Sunset Dinner Cruise with Sparkling - For 2
5. Get out to see the Top End's National Parks
One of Darwin’s biggest attractions is its access to some of Australia’s most highly regarded national parks, such as Kakadu and Litchfield national parks.
Many tours depart from Darwin and head to both regions. You can also take a day trip to Litchfield where you can swim underneath its waterfalls and explore its rock formations. For a quick sticks tour, you could even opt to fly over Kakadu for a unique bird’s eye view of the stunning landscape.
Litchfield Highlights Tour - Full Day
3 Day Kakadu National Park 4WD Tour - For 2
6. Live on the edge with a crocodile experience
Get up close and personal with some of the largest (and friendliest) crocodiles known to man at the aptly named Crocosaurus Cove, home to one of the biggest collections of crocodiles in Australia.
Test your wits against the Cage of Death (pictured) or enjoy the amazing aquarium which offers one of the most impressive arrays of Australian native animals, including barramundis, whiprays, turtles and reptiles.
Our top pick: Crocodile Cage of Death at Crocosaurus Cove from RedBalloon
7. Cool down at the waterpark
Being a tropical city with a temperature that rarely hits “cool”, Darwin is rife with water parks, which are ideal places where you can cool down or spend the day with the kids.
8. Get to know the Tiwi Islands' culture
Step out of the city and ferry to the Tiwi Islands, 80km from Darwin, where you can join a local guide for a day exploring the local community.
Nicknamed the "island of smiles", the Tiwis are actually made up of two islands - Bathurst and Melville - and are known for their local artworks and adventure tourism. Fishing and waterfall swims are the name of the game on these islands.
6 things to do in Darwin for free
- Wade through shady pools and walk over waterfalls at Berry Springs Nature Park.
- Get cultured at Adelaide River War Cemetery.
- Spend a day in the beautiful George Brown Botanic Gardens. It’s one of the only gardens in the world that naturally has marine and estuary plants. Playgrounds and barbecue areas are also available in the gardens, making it an ideal spot for families.
- Cool down in the Recreation Lagoon. This harbourside lagoon is the perfect respite on a hot summer’s day. It’s situated next to the Wave Lagoon, which charges a small fee for entry. The Recreation Lagoon is free.
- Shop the Mindil Beach sunset markets for that perfect souvenir. The markets are open from the last Thursday in April to the last Thursday in October.
- Check out the World War II oil storage tunnels. They are a unique attraction in the Darwin Waterfront Precinct. While not exactly free, it is cheap ($8 for adults, $5 for kids) to take a tour of the tunnels and learn of their significance during the war.
Things to do in Darwin during the wet season
During the wet season, lightning storms are frequent and some outdoor activities in and around Darwin may close. However, don’t let this discourage you from visiting this amazing city from November to April; there are still plenty of activities to do during these months.
Plus, the wet/green season is when the land’s wildlife really comes to life. Animals thrive under these conditions and wildflowers come into bloom, making for a spectacular photograph.
Looking for some things to do in Darwin in the wet season?
- Litchfield National Park (some locations may close between December and May)
- Kakadu National Park (some locations may close between December and May)
- Parap Village Markets
- Nightcliff Markets
- The Tiwi Islands
- The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
- Wet/Green season tours
- Parliament House and the Supreme Court
- Some scenic flights
What’s closed during wet season
- Mindil Beach sunset markets
- The Recreation and Wave Lagoons may close during the wet season depending on the weather conditions
- Certain unsealed roads close when they become too dangerous to drive on
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Feature image: Kakadu Katherine Gorge Scenic Tour / Rezdy
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