7th Nov 2012 4:11pm | By Editor
First things first... The Northern Territory is wild, from the croc-infested waters to the eagles overhead.
But for all its massive expanse, a mere 230,000 people live up here.
Darwin, the NT’s capital, is a multicultural city with a taste of Asia, as Indonesia is on its back door.
You can also expect to hear some of the oldest languages in the world as Australia’s first people still speak in their native tongue and English can often be their third or fourth language.
Kakadu National Park, Katherine Gorge, Arnhem Land and, of course, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Red Centre all deserve photographing.
There are plenty of travellers through the territory because adventure is at every corner.
Darwin is a truly tropical city. A bloody long way from anywhere, it’s the type of town that attracts people who are really trying to get away from it all, and those lured by the stunning scenery right on the city’s doorstep.
The prevailing vibe is part far-fl ung outpost, part tropical resort. It’s an unusual town and one that you shouldn’t miss.
Darwin is the centre of the NT’s tropical Top End, which essentially experiences only two seasons: “the Dry” from May-October and “the Wet” from November-April.
The Dry is peak season, the most pleasant – and busiest – time to visit the tropical north. However, the Tropical Summer (a fancy, tourist-friendly name for the Wet) brings its own attractions.
Darwin’s diverse population and proximity to Asia means that the city has more than 50 different nationalities.
Two events have largely shaped Darwin: the city was the Australian frontline in WWII when many bombing raids were made by the Japanese.
Darwin also had to be re-built after Cyclone Tracy destroyed most of the city on Christmas Eve, 1974.
Of course, for many travellers, Darwin is mainly a gateway to two of Australia’s biggest attractions: Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. Tours to these two places are available from every hostel and travel centre in town.
You can get an airport shuttle to your accommodation one-way (check beforehand to see if your hostel does free pick-ups).
Darwin is a relatively fl at city and it’s easy to find your way around on foot. Buses run regularly (the main city terminus is on Harry Chan Ave, near Smith St) and most hostels offer cheap or free bike hire.
Aquascene: Everybody goes to feed the fish here. Times vary with the tide, so check at your hostel
Botanic Gardens: Walk along the coast to the NT Museum, with great examples of Aboriginal art and natural history. Free.
Cage of Death: At Crocosaurus Cove you can jump in an acrylic cage and come face-to-face with a giant saltwater croc. Not for the faint-hearted.
Diving: All-year wreck diving in the harbour from WWII, Cyclone Tracy and refugee boats.
East Point Reserve: Has nice views, plus walking and cycling tracks, wallabies to feed at sunset and safe swimming in Lake Alexander.
Indo-Pacific Marine: Quality, interactive marine displays. Well worth a visit, even for those fresh from the reef.
Mindil Beach Sunset Markets: The thing to do while you’re in Darwin. These evening markets (Thursdays and Sundays) get absolutely packed during the Dry.
There’s every type of food imaginable, great music and even the chance to try cracking a whip, all with the backdrop of the beautiful sunset over the ocean.
Museum of Arts and Sciences: Natural history, Aboriginal culture and art. Free.
Wharf Precinct: With great fi sh and chips, weekend entertainment, jet boating and even a pool with a wave machine, this newly redeveloped part of the city is rapidly becoming one of its most popular corners.
Deckchair Cinema: An outdoor cinema on throughout the Dry season, features alternative and Aussie movies, with booze on sale. Bring a picnic.