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Darwin Cruises

About Darwin, Australia

Darwin lies on the Timor Sea at the most northern reaches of the sparsely populated Northern Territory. Due to its tropical climate and proximity to Indonesia, it has more of an island vibe than other Australian capitals. Darwin’s earliest inhabitants were the Larrakia people, who established trading routes with Southeast Asia and left an indelible cultural mark. They were followed briefly by the Dutch in the 17th century, but it was the British who stayed. The city got its name after the HMS Beagle sailed into the harbor during a surveying expedition in 1839. The famed naturalist Charles Darwin, who had sailed on the ship’s previous voyage of five years, was so esteemed that its captain named this newest discovery for him.

Darwin’s grand Parliament House and Supreme Court somewhat belie the city’s casual, outdoor lifestyle. And the tropical flora–lined streets and dazzling sunsets are more reminiscent of Asia. But Darwin’s strong indigenous culture and rugged Outback feel remind visitors they’re still very much in Australia. Many come here to explore the country’s Top End, including Kakadu National Park and the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Darwin Lifestyle and Culture

Darwin’s rich and lively arts scene centers on the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. The exhibits here proudly reflect the region and its indigenous people. This should come as no surprise, as there is a larger percentage of aboriginal Australians here than in any Australian capital city. Contemporary and traditional art have a place in Darwin’s galleries, too, from dot paintings to modern screen prints. Several of the Northern Territory’s remote communities have their own galleries and cultural events. Darwin provides insight into local history and culture at Litchfield National Park, steeped in the ancient ways of the Wangait people. The remote Tiwi Islands offer visitors a glimpse of aboriginal life through traditional dance, song and ancient Dreamtime stories.

The annual Darwin Festival celebrates comedy, dance, theater, music, film and visual arts over the course of 18 days. The Chinese New Year is also a grand event, reflecting the area’s Asian influence.

Darwin Sights and Landmarks

One of the best places to start a tour of Darwin is at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) overlooking the Arafura Sea. Explore this impressive indigenous art collection including carvings and bark paintings, maritime history, Australian art, Southeast Asian artifacts and the museum’s most popular resident, “Sweetheart,” a stuffed saltwater crocodile that attacked fishing boats in the 1970s. Enjoy lunch at the Cornucopia Café overlooking the water. The Australian Aviation Heritage Center is another top museum choice, paying homage to the Northern Territory’s role in the expansion of Australian flight.

The large, postmodern Parliament House, seat of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, was completed in 1994 and houses the Northern Territory Library. By contrast, the Lyons Cottage on the Esplanade is one of the city’s oldest buildings. Built in 1925, this restored stone house, also known as the British Australian Telegraph Residence Museum, provides a glimpse at life here in the early 20th century.

Darwin Entertainment and Activities

East of Darwin lies Kakadu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest national park in Australia, covering more than 7,500 square miles. Aborigines have occupied the Kakadu area for approximately 40,000 years, contributing to the richness of indigenous cultural and archaeological sites in the park. Ubirr, Burrunguy and Nanguluwur stand out as extraordinary examples of Aboriginal rock art. The rich and diverse flora and fauna, some of which are endangered, also beg to be explored. Kangaroos, wallaroos and foxes are among the more common mammals that roam the grounds. Still outside the city but a bit closer to Darwin lies Litchfield National Park, where waterfalls, plunge pools, rock formations and wildlife abound.

Back in town, Crocosaurus Cove brings you as close as you’ll ever want to get to large, menacing crocodiles. Turtles, stingrays, baby crocodiles and reptiles also inhabit the property. Stick around for feeding time. George Brown Botanic Gardens features plants from the tropical Northern Territory and around the world, including some traditionally used by the indigenous community for medicinal and other purposes. To enjoy the outdoors without leaving the city, make your way to the Esplanade and Bicentennial Park, a shady and scenic stretch of parkland ideal for walks.

Darwin Restaurants and Shopping

The dining scene around Darwin features a wide array of restaurants, pubs and cafés, including casual and upscale establishments with a relaxed atmosphere.

Pee Wee’s at the Point offers sweeping views along nearly four acres of coastline. Dine on “mod Oz” cuisine while gazing out at turquoise waters. Drawing from its Asian influence, Hanuman is one of the top choices in town for fine dining, featuring innovative Indian and Thai dishes. Or choose from a wide selection of fresh vegetarian dishes and curries. The Cyclone Café, serving breakfast all day and lunch, offers rustic charm with a corrugated iron exterior and cozy interior.

For shopping, explore several outdoor markets specializing in food and crafts on different days of the week, particularly on weekends.