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The down low on the Top End

Want a real Australian adventure?
Elisa Elwin checks out Darwin to find its family-friendly best.

NT sunset and palms

With three days, we thought we’d have plenty of time to explore The Northern Territory’s multicultural and dynamic capital but found out fast that it was barely enough time to touch the tip of the remarkable top-end town.

Darwin is fantastic for families and deserves to be treated as a destination in its own right rather than a jump-off point for the other delights of the Northern Territory. Incredible for families, here are Darwin’s must-do experiences.

Snap it up

Crocosaurus Cove is set right in the middle of Darwin city. With over 70 species this scaly place has the largest display of Australian reptiles in the world. Here your kids can learn the difference between ‘freshies’ and ‘salties’ and how to stay safe from these prehistoric beasts.

NT croc cove

Then they can forget everything they just learned by getting up close and uncomfortably personal through perspex peep holes, holding a baby croc or even feeding them – from a safe distance of course. It’s easy to spend a day here, so make sure to give yourselves enough time.

NT cage of death

Bird’s Eye View

For an up in the air treat, try a Darwin heli tour. We chose the aptly named Above and Beyond tour with Airborne Solutions. Just sitting in the helicopter, kitted out with headphones and some serious safety belts was a treat.

NT Darwin aerial shot

Our jovial pilot joked with us from the first awkward weigh in. Yes, they need to calculate the exact weight in each craft, so get ready for a family weigh in. The actual flight, our first, was exhilarating, informative and breathtakingly beautiful. Seeing Darwin from the air gives a privileged perspective on this coastal city and its geography, beauty and history. We all loved this fantastic flying experience.

Wave riders

The Darwin Wave lagoon is a magnet for families. With 10 different wave patterns and open seven days a week, kids of all ages love floating, diving and even surfing in this waterfront aqua zone. You can buy a half- or full-day pass and while away the day lounging and swimming in the man-made surf zone.

NT wave pool

Right next door is the ocean-fed recreation lagoon, a natural ecosystem with mesh screens patrolled by experienced lifeguards seven days a week from 9am to 6 pm – Darwin knows its families need to cool down in safety. With a short walk in between each swimming zone you can enjoy the best of both and stay cool all day.

Waterfront Wow!

The Darwin Waterfront Precinct is a perfect hub for your top-end experience. We stayed right in the middle of this recently refurbished zone at the funky Darwin Vibe Hotel, perfectly positioned to walk straight out into the Precinct or up the pathway with easy stroller access via the Skybridge to the centre of the city.

NT waterfront precinct2

There are so many things to do from here; a sunset cruise, adventure on a jet boat, fishing on Stokes Hill Wharf or just sit back and watch a spectacular monsoonal storm. The area is full of fab fun places for family refuelling and there are always a host of activities on offer in this beautiful open space.

Family open-air movie nights during the dry are a favourite as are the abundance of family-friendly festivals. We watched Aqua Zumba in the Wave pool and early morning Tai chi on the lawns choosing to extend our breakfast buffet time instead. Maybe we’ll have more energy next visit?

But wait…there’s more!

NT Vibe hotel 250

Go to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and learn about the indigenous communities of NT. Be sure to check out the stuffed five-metre crocodile that was biting the motors off boats – her name is Sweetheart.

Feed the fish at Aquascene on the Harbour foreshore. Here, thousands of fish come in, including enormous milkfish, to be hand fed. But stay alert to ensure you get your hands back from the hungry mob!

Head to Parap Markets for an essential Saturday morning Darwin experience. A large range of stalls selling mainly Asian food, fruit, vegetables and arts and crafts draw residents and visitors alike. Parap is one of Darwin’s more established suburbs with a friendly tropical feel.

Soak up a bargain in the Wet Season

With regular spectacular downpours in this hot and humid season, slowing down to the soothing pace of this city is the only choice. The wet is the greenest and cheapest time to visit this wonderful city. Hotels can be half the price of the dry and there are no crowds anywhere. If you ever thought about visiting but held back because of budget, visit in the wet and feel the real Darwin.

Reader’s Story

Boys own Adventure
by Ben Buchanan – 11

“Darwin was great. We went to the Military Museum that had an amazing collection of WWII army equipment. There was artillery, tanks, and jeeps and inside, the displays of posters, uniforms, guns, and swords were awesome. One of the curators let me look at some of the rifles up close.

Inside the main museum, we did this thing called the Darwin Experience, a sort of audiovisual thing that told the story of the bombing of Darwin in February 1942. It was really good.

NT BEn and croc

We also went to Crocosaurus Cove in the main street. You could stick your head in these glass domes and get right up close to the crocodiles. Then we were allowed to feed some of the crocodiles, which was pretty good.

We also went to the Wave Pool and stayed for hours with different sets of waves hitting us over and over. It was great. There were a million kids there.”

Out & About with Kids stayed at Vibe Hotel Darwin.

For more information on Darwin and The Top End visit Tourism Top End


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