Darwinning In The Top End
Note: This blog picks up where Getting Fair Dinkum In The NT left off. If you haven’t already, read that one first, then come back.
After I finished travelling around the Red Centre, I drove up north to the Top End of the Northern Territory. I based myself in Darwin, the Big Smoke of the NT. Being one of Australia’s major cities, many people may not consider Darwin to be “the Outback” as such. However, if you take one foot outside of the greater Darwin area, you’re well and truly in the bush.
Darwin has a peculiar vibe that is very laid back. It may be a combination of the warm weather, the many paddock areas with tall grass, its close proximity to the bush, or just simply because it has such a small population (by city standards). In any case, Darwin is a must-see destination for any Australians wanting to see more of the Great Southern Land.
For anyone considering going to this part of the country, Darwin can get very hot and rainy in summer with tropical heat and potentially even cyclones. Weather-wise, the best time of year to travel to Darwin is in winter. While the southern half of Australia is rugging up, you will most likely be stripping down up north. Tourists may find it amusing that the locals will that the “freezing” 20-degree days are simply too cold for them!
The Darwin CBD
Although many travellers would be heading to the Top End to see the Outback, Darwin itself is definitely worth checking out. Mitchell Street is the main street of Darwin, which is comparable to Melbourne’s Bourke Street and Sydney’s George Street, so a lot of action happens here.
There are countless shops around here, as well as Bicentennial Park with its war memorial to honour fallen Australian soldiers. Mitchell Street is also Darwin’s nightlife hub, so if you want to have a few coldies on a hot day (which is every day in Darwin), then this is the place to be.
Stokes Hill Wharf offers a lovely view of the ocean and some grub (try a croc burger!), and is walking distance from the manmade lagoons that you can actually swim in.
Darwin’s Beautiful Beaches
Australia is renowned throughout the world for its gorgeous beaches, and the Darwin area has plenty of them. Some of them are quite a trek from Darwin itself, so having a camper trailer will come in handy for those long drives. Unfortunately, due to the crocs in the water, you can’t go for a swim, which is such a tease with how hot it can get up there!
For one of the intown beaches, Mindil Beach is a must. It has great views, especially at sunrise or sunset. However, with all the crocs in the water, you can’t go for a swim, which is such a tease with how hot it can get up there.
Mindil Beach is where the annual Territory Day celebrations occur every year on July 1st, as that’s the anniversary of the NT attaining self-governance in 1978. That’s only 40 years ago, which is not that long ago in the big scheme of things, including Australia’s own history.
Around this time of year, Mindil Beach also hosts the Darwin beer-can regatta, a boat race where the “boats” are made out of beer cans! We know many Aussies love chugging down a few tinnies on a hot day, but Darwinites take it to a whole new level!
If you’re staying in the more suburban part of Darwin, then the Nightcliff Foreshore is highly recommended. It’s a nice place for a stroll or ride your bike, or have a barbie with the family with lovely beach scenery.
Dundee Beach is 140km away from Darwin, so it’s a bit of a hike to say the least. While not named after Mick from Crocodile Dundee, it certainly is a lovely spot to view the ocean’s beauty. If you have a boat, you can take it around the water and do some fishing. The Dundee Beach Holiday Park is a great place to sit down and relax while having a few drinks and enjoying the scenery.
All Things Crocs
One thing the waters around Darwin are known for are the countless crocodiles surrounding this fine city. There are many places where you can go and see them, and some are closer to town than others.
Crocosaurus Cove is located in Mitchell Street, so you can easily see some crocs right in the heart of Darwin. You can swim inside the Cage of Death, a glass enclosure that’s inside a crocodile pen. That’s right, a mighty croc will swim around you and suss you out! Despite its name, Crocosaurus Cove also has other reptiles living there, specifically inside the indoor Reptile House enclosure where you can hold some snakes, lizards, turtles, and other small reptiles.
Crocodylus Park is similar to Crocosaurus Cove, but this place is bigger and much more closely resembles the crocodiles’ natural habitat. However, unlike Crocosaurus Cove, this place has more than just reptiles living here. While there certainly are reptiles here, such as snakes, tortoises, and lizards, there are also lions, tigers, monkeys, bamboos, meerkats, dingoes, ostriches, and much more.
However, as the name suggests, the crocs are the stars around here. Crocs have really strong jaws, meaning they’re dangerous. In fact, while at Crocodylus Park, I leaned ever so slightly over the barrier to get a good pic of a croc. As soon as I turned around, I just managed to see on the corner of my eye a big green shape trying to take a huge chunk out of me, ending with a loud snap and a splash! You can’t mess around with these guys. You can also do a river cruise here, where you can see the crocs laying around the water.
Despite its somewhat misleading name, the mighty Adelaide River is indeed in the NT, and nowhere near the South Australia’s capital city. Here you can see some croc feeding while on the jumping crocodile cruise that goes along the river. The cruise’s staff members lure out the crocs with some meat hanging from a fishing hook and get the crocs to jump up and down from the water to fetch itself some grub.
Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park is 1500 square kilometres long, covering a lot of the Tabletop Range, which is in itself a marvellous sight.
On the way there, you will see a whole field of giant termite mounds just outside of town that are twice the size of an average sized adult. It’s crazy to think that such small insects could create something so big.
Florence Falls, Tolmer Falls, and Wangi Falls are part of the park. Unlike a lot of the waters in the Top End, these falls are croc-free, meaning you can swim in them. Alternatively, you can do some bushwalking, and if you’re lucky you’ll see some local wildlife as well.
Kakadu National Park
If you thought Litchfield was big, it will seem tiny compared to the Kakadu National Park, which is 19,404 square kilometres! Its mammoth size means that there are plenty of sights within this area for you to explore, such as falls, gorges, a cruise along the Yellow Waters where the crocs live, and much more.
The Northern Territory has a huge Aboriginal community and history that goes back thousands of years. That history is reflected on the rocks around the Ubirr part of the park, as there are ancient Aboriginal artworks drawn on these rocks that are thousands of years old. Despite its age, you can clearly make out the drawings of barramundi, birds, Aboriginal tribesmen and folklore, and even the Tasmania tiger that has been extinct from mainland Australia for thousands of years.
A short walk from these rocks is Ubirr Rock that you can climb up to get an amazing 360 view of the vast green fields and floodplains surrounding the big rock formation. In a word, wow!
One of the manmade sites of the park, The Crocodile Hotel, is a green building shaped like a saltwater crocodile! Towards the front of the building, there are white pillars to look like the croc’s teeth and yellow décor on the roof to look like the croc’s eyes. While seeing the building’s resemblance to a croc is more obviously from above than a ground view, it’s still an admirable piece of architecture.
Head up north today
The Top End has so many places for you to check out, giving you a mere taste of “the real Australia” away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities. But if you do want a taste of city life with an Outback experience, then Darwin is perfect for you. The perfect travel companion is your Mars Campers camper trailer, so take a look at our range today and get started.