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Top 10 THings to do in Hervey Bay
Experience Oz + NZ Presents

Top 10 Things to do in


by Matt Hobbs

The Northern Territory's capital, Darwin, and its surrounds makes for an excellent choice of destinations for those looking for urbanised Australia that still has plenty of history and stays in touch with the country's traditional roots.

Sitting on a lovely coastal aspect facing the Timor Sea and serving as the ideal gateway to the many natural wonders of the NT's interior, Darwin is famous for a number of distinctive traits.

With legendary (and legendarily beautiful) thunderstorms, crocodile-inhabited waterways, World War 2 memorials and modern CBD, Darwin is a city of juxtapositions that all, in their own way, sum up what “Australia” is all about. With its far northerly location, Darwin also makes for perhaps one of the best choices for a getaway during the colder winter months, as its climate makes these otherwise unpleasant parts of the year enjoyable.

While it may not have the “brand name” recognition of some of its southern brothers, with its eclectic mix of scenery, history and nearby adventure locales, Darwin is a place that provides an exciting break from the humdrum of everyday life. If you're planning to make the trip to the NT's capital, here's our recommended list of the Top 10 Things to do in Darwin and surrounds.

10. Aquascene Darwin

Location: 28 Doctors Gully Rd, Darwin, NT

While Darwin isn't exactly brimming with activities that are fun for the kids, there are a few notable exceptions, and one spot in particular – fish sanctuary Aquascene, a staple part of the city's history for a long time that has been continually improved over the years. Situated on the Esplanade by the water, it's a unique way of being able to feed fish straight from the wild – something which is quite rare, and a great way to get up close with nature uninhibited by glass or overly-commercial surroundings.

The fact that you can actually touch the fish is a bonus as well, and this degree of closeness provides some top photo opportunities of the various fish species of differing colours, shapes and sizes.

Various fish species can be found in the waters here, depending on both the tide and the time of year, and even rays occasionally make their way in with the rest of their aquatic friends looking for a bite to eat. It's an experience that never fails to put a smile on the faces of children both young and old – those as young as a few years of age all the way up to teenagers are the ideal demographic to bring here, and if you're travelling with little ones in tow this should definitely be an essential stop on your Darwin itinerary.

Adults can also take away something from the experience, however – it's enjoyable to simply see the large quantities of fish interact with one another, while the feeding process is also accompanied by commentary on the different fish types and their habits, adding a hint of education to the proceedings.

Some of the species that can be found include mullet, milkfish, catfish, bream and even Barramundi, with the occasional huge grouper also joining the pack and dwarfing its fellow swimmers. Aquascene is open only during a limited window of the day when the tide is high and the fish are at their hungriest (typically between 3 pm – 6 pm although this may vary; be sure to check times on your particular day of attendance.

When you arrive, you pay for entrance per person and they are provided with plenty of free food for the fish once inside. How much mileage you're able to get out of your time here will vary; while it's obviously not going to be of great appeal to those who have no interest in feeding fish – this is the sole focus of the attraction – the fact that it's an easily accessible and unique way to spend a few hours in Darwin city that kids will love makes it a must for parents traveling to the NT's capital.

There's also a great little souvenir shop that's a good place to pick up a trinket or two commemorating your trip to the city. TIP: as Aquascene also has a nice little-grassed area, bring along some (human) food, kick back and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere for a break in between feeding sessions to help extend the experience.

9. Crocodylus Park

Crocodylus Park Darwin Northern Territory

Location: McMillans Rd, Knuckey Lagoon, Darwin

It's a recurring theme that many of Darwin's attractions involve crocodiles in some fashion, whether it's in the wild or controlled captivity, but Crocodylus Park is an attraction that showcases the crocs while also balancing things out with a variety of other animal species as well.

Sure, there are a ton of crocs of varying ages and sizes – everything from 30cm long babies all the way up to titanic 4.8m adults can be found here – but it's the likes of the big cats, monkeys, Aussie native wildlife and other species that round out the experience and help to separate Crocodylus Park from some of the other local animal attractions and tours.

Located just outside the Darwin city centre (approx. 15 minutes drive), the park is packed to the brim with crocodiles in a range of different pens – there are even specialised breeding pens with matched males and females, which makes it interesting to see the juxtaposition of sizes, and the keepers will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Crocodile feeding time is an obvious highlight, with a smaller-scale “jumping for food” activity that features the crocs springing out of the water for their food. For more detailed croc-related information, Crocodylus Park also has a crocodile museum that offers plenty of background info on how the crocodiles evolved, behave and coexist.

One of the newer and more enjoyable highlights of the park is their recently-added boat cruise – navigating its way through a man-made lagoon, the water-borne tour offers a great way to get acquainted with not only the crocodiles outside of their regular enclosures but also a range of regional NT birdlife, trees and plants which are all explained in detail by the cruise guide. There's some fantastic insight to be had on the Northern Territory's complex ecosystems in general here, and it's a must do if you are visiting the park.

Rounding out the offerings here is the great little zoo section featuring the other non-crocodile animal varieties – there's a surprising amount of diversity here, with plenty of rare reptiles, playful monkeys, as well as Aussie favourites like emus and kangaroos.

It's the big cats that are the undisputed stars of the show here, and they're simply amazing – tigers, ocelots and even the newly-added and extremely beautiful white lions are wonderful to see close-up, and the ability to come near to them makes it possible to come away with some great photos of these majestic creatures.

Opportunities for some “hands-on” encounters are also possible, with visitors getting the option to hold a baby crocodile, or perhaps drape a snake around your neck! In all, if you're looking for an easy-to-access showcase of crocs augmented with some other animal types, then Crocodylus Park makes for a great all-rounder.

8. Jumping Crocodiles with Adelaide River Queen Cruises

Jumping Crocodiles with Adelaide River Queen Cruises

Location: Arnhem Hwy, Wak Wak, NT (just under 1 hour's drive from Darwin)

Not to be confused with a destination in South Australia, the greater Darwin region's Adelaide River is a body of water that's especially notable for one main feature – its inhabitant saltwater crocodiles. If you've looked at a postcard for Darwin and the NT depicting a massive croc jumping out of the murky water to grab some food, then this is the place it was likely taken.

These massive creatures have existed for millions of years and are surprisingly agile, a fact that you'll get to see up close and in person during a cruise with local operator Adelaide River Queen Cruises on one of their “jumping crocodile” cruises. Located just under an hour's drive to the east of Darwin city, it's a great starting experience to get yourself some raw and uncut exposure to the Northern Territory's wildlife.

While they've become something of an icon of the Northern Territory as a whole, it's easy to take Australia's crocodiles for granted before seeing them in person – they're efficiently designed natural killing machines, and on this tour you'll be separated from them by only a few centimeters of glass, at best (depending on your choice of cruise itinerary).

Conducted aboard a purpose-built and comfortable vessel, the tours are conducted by a friendly and knowledgeable crew and head out from Darwin for a journey that's as educational and informative as it is scenic and entertaining – you'll likely come away with a whole new degree of knowledge and respect for the crocs after the trip.

These crocodiles aren't the zoo-tamed variety, either; they're completely wild and thus act only on instinct, yet they are respected and understood enough by the Adelaide River Queen staff to make for a highlight while care is taken not to disturb their natural environment.

The Adelaide River is home to over a staggering 1,600 crocodiles in total, so you'll no sooner be out on the water before you're experiencing your first croc encounter - all it takes is the boat staff dangling some food on a (sufficiently long!) stick to trigger the crocodile's urge to “go for it” and launch themselves out of the water for a quick and massive bite to eat.

This display of power is both fearful and awesome, and should you get your timing right you'll come away with one of the most iconic holiday snaps of your trip to Darwin.

The croc-based entertainment on the cruises is augmented by some insightful and interesting commentary on not just the crocodiles but the surrounding waters and ecosystems as a whole, while other wildlife such as eagles and kites can often be seen circling above.

Combine all of the above with a very reasonable base price, and you've got an experience that blends sightseeing and information with a display of natural ferocity that puts most zoos to shame.

Browse Cruise

7. Outback Floatplane Adventures

Outback Floatplane Adventures

Location: 50 Mitchell Street, Darwin

The absolute vastness of the Northern Territory's untouched natural areas can sometimes be hard to grasp, with the size of Australia as a whole coupled with our low overall population to leave plenty of the country as it has been for millions of years.

There are thus few better ways to gain an appreciation of this scale than heading directly into its heart, and Outback Floatplane Adventures offers one of the most intriguing and unique ways to do so, combining aerial and waterborne adventure into a single incredible sightseeing package.

It's an experience that's as diverse as it is entertaining, incorporating a number of specialised vehicles into the process – helicopters, airboats, floatplanes and off-road buggies, each of which handle a separate portion of the trip.

This is truly an adventure that covers all angles and vantage points, serving as the ideal choice for those with a limited amount of time yet still looking to see some of the NT's best, as the tour can be done within half a day.

The journey kicks off by being picked up from the airport, greeted by the friendly and passionate – and above all, humourous - staff and then boarding the floatplane for a flight over both Darwin city and its surrounding waterways, heading deeper out into the neighbouring wetlands area for some scenic views of this wild wilderness before landing on the waters of Sweets Lagoon in spectacular fashion.

Here, you'll take a break to enjoy a delicious lunch (freshly-cooked Barramundi and salad – a Darwin-characteristic dish if there ever was one) and get acquainted with more of the friendly crew before the next stage – climbing into the helicopter.

The helicopter (a small yet comfortable 4-seater) takes visitors on a journey above the expansive and stunning floodplains of the region's iconic Litchfield National Park, which offers a cavalcade of the scenery of various colours and hues. An expansive area encompassing numerous areas of untouched nature that are otherwise inaccessible to mankind – it's a tableau of geography that is uniquely Australian in every day.

After the helicopter trip is over, the next portion sees you boarding an “airboat” - a high-speed vessel ideal for traversing shallow waters propelled by the powers of air propulsion. Traversing the channels of the rainforest and weaving its way through the wetlands, it's a great balance of natural scenery vs. adrenaline rush while giving you the chance to see crocodiles and bird life up close, as well as the likes of lizards, turtles and fish.

After this comprehensive experience is over, you board the floatplane and head back to Darwin airport to complete the tour. It's a journey that covers a LOT of ground and viewpoints all crammed into roughly 5 hours, so if you're operating on a limited timetable or simply wanting to get as many unique viewpoints on Darwin's untamed surrounds as possible, Outback Floatplane Adventures tick all the boxes, and then some.

Browse Tour

6. Mindil Beach Sunsets and Markets

Mindil Beach Sunsets and Markets

Location: Buffalo Court, Darwin

The “best things in life are free” cliché may have been around for a while, but in Darwin, one of its highlights exemplifies this to the fullest. The city's coastal aspect coupled with a huge harbour that's actually bigger than Sydney Harbour make for a destination that is one of the most renowned in the country for the quality of its amazing sunsets, featuring long, red sun-kissed glow reflecting off the water that makes for a wonderful panorama.

Sunsets are such an integral part of the Darwin culture, in fact, that entire events are based on their occurrence, with the city's longstanding and ever-popular Mindil Markets held at a time of day designed to coincide perfectly with this beautiful natural phenomena.

The Mindil Markets are held at Mindil Beach during the yearly dry season in Darwin and allow those attending to grab some freshly-made local food or drink then kick back and enjoy the sunset from the waterfront. Held on Thursdays and Sundays, the markets offer an enjoyable diverse range of food cuisines reflecting the cities multicultural influence – a stroll amongst its stalls will give you access to the likes of Indian, Chinese, Brazillian, Greek and numerous other food types that ensure there's a taste that will please all but the fussiest eaters.

If you're feeling thirsty, freshly-squeezed juices are the ultimate quencher, while local seasonal fruit and French desserts provide a range of ideal complements to your main meal.

Add to this a large number of stalls featuring handcrafted goods that include everything from fashion to art and homewares and it's easy to see why the Mindil Markets have been a local icon for quite some time. The size of the markets is quite impressive, with an average of over 60 food stalls and 130 vendors selling crafts stretching out over the beachfront, creating a bustling yet laid-back atmosphere that is characteristic of Darwin as a whole.

If you're a visitor to Darwin and looking for souvenirs to take home, then THIS is the place to do so – most of the goods on sale have been produced with proper care, and are much more “authentic” than some of the more contrived items you'll end up purchasing from stores in town. Prices here tend to be more reasonable overall, too, and with the diversity on offer you may just find the ideal keepsake to bring back.

The markets take place from 5pm to 10pm between the months of April to October and are also easy to get to, sitting on the waterfront just next to the Darwin casino and offer plenty of spacious grassy areas for which to pull up a chair and prepare for the daily sunset show as the colours of the sky begin to change.

A great way to cap off a day and enjoy an evening after a busy day of sightseeing or exploring, the Mindil Markets and sunset are an essential way to spend at least one of your evenings during your time in the city.

5. Crocosaurus Cove and the Cage of Death

Crocosaurus Cove and the Cage of Death

Location: 58 Mitchell St, Darwin

Had enough of crocs on this list yet? While it's possible to feel a sense of “crocodile overdose” when looking at tourist places to visit in and around Darwin, each of them tends to have their own unique focus on the creatures. Crocosaurus Cove in the heart of the city takes this theme and kicks things up a notch by being the only place in Australia that allows you to dive with a fully-grown crocodile with its Cage of Death experience.

Situated right in the middle of the city's main shopping district, it's an excellent time-saver for those wanting to get close to crocs without leaving the city or heading further afield.

The attraction features some of the largest captive saltwater crocodiles in the country, which are interesting and impressive to look at, but it's the Cage of Death that makes Crocosaurus Cove a standout. So what exactly does this experience involve? Those looking to take part will don goggles and enter a transparent glass cylinder, which will be gradually lowered into a pool with one of the “big” crocs, coming literally face-to-face with one of these awesome beasts.

Over the next 15 minutes, you'll be able to tread water as the creatures approach the glass – it's a sensation of wonder and helplessness that makes it easy to forget you're completely safe! Those of less daring temperaments can still stand by and observe the Cage of Death, and it's amusing to watch other people's reactions as they get close up with the crocs.

Along with the crocodiles, there's also an interesting and quite large reptile enclosure for seeing other types of animals and providing a temporary break from any possible croc-fatigue, with the largest display of native Aussie reptiles in the world. Some of these also include multiple varieties of the deadliest snakes on Earth, which can be both impressive and intimidating to see close up!

This is rounded out by a range of lizards, turtles and frogs that tend to prove popular with kids as well. VIP tours are also available that can take you for a more in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at how the park is run while being able to hold animals and see how the attraction operates.

Add to this the quality keeper talks, fish feeding and great souvenir store and cafe and there's everything you'll need to enjoy a very Darwin-style wildlife experience all within a short walk from the majority of Darwin accommodation. Educational, entertaining and efficient, time-starved travellers and those wanting to take part in a more extreme and personal crocodile experience should be sure to give Crocosaurus Cove a look.

Browse Experience

4. Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours

Location: Arnhem Hwy, Darwin

The indigenous Australian aboriginal culture plays a strong part in the Northern Territory's overall character, having been the focal point for many of the country's original inhabitants for thousands of years. It's a culture that involves beliefs on the landscape, wildlife and landmarks of the area, and local operator Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours provide one of the most authentic and down-to-earth tours available for learning some of these firsthand.

With its location just on the outskirts of the beginning of Kakadu National Park, it's a great way to kick off a tour further into Kakadu, which will, in turn, give you an added sense of appreciation of many of the sights, sounds and animals you'll see during your time there.

This completely family-owned and operated business is a truly genuine experience without all the overly-commercialized and touristy frills that some “Aboriginal experiences” around the country offer – it's simply friendly and warm people sharing their culture with other interested parties.

The friendly and highly knowledgeable Aboriginal hosts with decades of personal experience have plenty to pass on and share with visitors, and their base of operations is accessible via a relatively short and easy drive from Darwin.

All of the basic staples of Aboriginal culture are covered here, from spear throwing to didjeridoo and clapstick playing to more detailed and intricate techniques such as learning what it takes to gather and prepare true “bush tucker” and medicine from natural plants and other ingredients.

The tour experience starts off with an authentic, traditional style greeting which helps to set the tone for things to come. Set amongst a lovely stretch of Aboriginal land next to a billabong, you'll also be able to learn about local trees and natural highlights of the region in general, with plenty of enlightening conversation to take part in.

Asking questions is a key part of the experience – their wealth of knowledge is there to be shared, and you can learn all sorts of interesting tidbits about the Dreamtime as well as stories about the significance of certain native animals. Other demonstrations such as the arts behind basket weaving show more of a practical application to all this knowledge and give an appreciation for the ability to produce hand-crafted goods without needing modern technology to do so.

All of this insight and culture is capped off nicely with a lovely home-made damper and billy tea combination which is a pleasantly informal way to include things, and proof that “simple” can still be “delicious”. With a running time of roughly 2 hours, Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours serves as a great “primer” introduction for those not too familiar with Aboriginal culture, all done with a smile and sense of enthusiasm.

If you're going to be exploring Darwin and its greater surrounds further, it's thus easy to recommend this tour. as one of your first stops when heading outside the city.

3. Defence of Darwin Experience

Defence of Darwin Experience

Location: East Point, Darwin

For better and for worse, war and wartime activity has had a strong and lasting impact on Darwin's structure and history, with the city seeing significant activity during World War 2 in particular.

The Northern Territory government's excellent Defence of Darwin Experience has been established with the intent to immerse visitors in this tumultuous past and does a wonderful and comprehensive job of going in-depth to showcase the drama of this time period utilising visual, aural and multimedia methods and displays.

The museum slash exhibition attempts to focus on interactivity to get its message across, with a number of main “sections” each of which focuses on different stages of Darwin's WWII period.

The Defence of Darwin Experience is located along the waterfront with a great view overlooking the ocean, and as many of the exhibits are outside – including a number of large guns that were used to defend the city during the war – it's easy to visualise how exposed the city may have been to attack. Inside the facility itself meanwhile, you'll encounter various artefacts and videos which help to put the history and sacrifices of those who took part in the war effort into proper perspective.

There's a fantastic collection of military equipment on display here – machinery, medals and uniforms that are all excellently curated provide further insight to the time period. If you're ever looking for more information on a certain item, the extremely knowledgeable and helpful volunteer staff are all too willing to help offer further insight.

One of the main highlights here is the “Bombing of Darwin” experience that features an 11 minute rendered animation depicting the Japanese bombing of the city on the 19th of February, 1942. Played in a theatre on a projected screen, it's a well-produced affair that features surround sound that helps to greatly add to the atmosphere of the presentation.

The experience also does a solid job of attempting to fairly represent both the Australian and Japanese points of view and the way the museum utilises a number of personalities of actual people involved in the conflict to tell the story helps to add a human element to the narrative. Further detail is also provided on other parts of northern Australia which were attacked during WWII – it's commonly thought that Darwin was the only place that bore the brunt of the fighting, but other smaller locations are also given their due diligence here.

Perhaps the only downside to the attraction is that it can be somewhat of a chore to access if you don't have private transport – its location on the waterfront combined with a lack of buses travelling to the facility can make for an expensive taxi ride.

A reasonable price of admission for something that's so interesting and so well done while providing around 3-4 hours of entertainment for all ages is nothing to be sniffed at, and coupled with its historical significance makes the Defence of Darwin a true essential for any Aussie (or foreign visitor) with even a passing interest in our country's history.

2. Darwin Aviation Heritage Centre

Darwin Aviation Heritage Centre

Location: 557 Stuart Hwy, Winnellie, Darwin

While it's all well and good to read about wartime history in books or on information brochures, it's another thing entirely to see the scale of some of the tools of war in person.

As with its Defence of Darwin Experience listed above, the combination of wartime involvement along with a location on the far north coast of Australia has made aircraft more important to the city's history than many other parts of the country (for both good and bad).

The Darwin Aviation Heritage Centre is a living showcase of many of the major aircraft that have formed the backbone of this slice of history and contains multiple aircraft direct from their time period that are still in tip-top condition. With a multitude of award-winning displays – and the planes themselves – this is a spot that will serve as a dream for aviation and history buffs.

The stars of the show are the diverse array of aircraft themselves, and there are planes of all kinds and design purposes on display here: from the centrepiece of the massive B-52 bomber (it's one of only two spots in the world outside the USA to contain such an aircraft) to Spitfires and smaller Tiger Moth biplanes and everything in between it's a veritable archive of some of aviation's best and brightest from the past 100 years.

The B-52 is truly massive - it's amazing they could fit it inside the hangar - with this type of plane having been used as a veritable “flying fortress” during its years of operations, and it towers over the rest of the small surrounding aircraft. It isn't all military, however, as passenger and recreational planes and helicopters are contained here, too, and all of these tend to be a hit for young boys (what young man doesn't have aspirational dreams of becoming a pilot?).

Other displays, such as tributes to the iconic Australian Royal Flying Doctors service, aircraft involved in the Vietnam war and plenty of other miscellaneous engines and well-curated knick-knacks make for a comprehensive exhibit that's lovingly maintained and kept in good condition, which requires a salute to the efforts of the volunteer staff who help keep things up to scratch.

While it may be seen as more of a “men's” exhibit, the museum goes out of its way to remind us of the part women have played in aviation history, with a section dedicated to female pilots and their many contributions to landmarks in flight lore. Everything on display here is very well documented and curated, and staff are always on hand to provide further detail.

With a solid and deep mix of Australian, American and Japanese planes and their parts as well as a dizzying amount of information to watch, read and digest, it's easy to spend several hours at the museum soaking it all in. Easily accessible from the centre of Darwin by bus (take the number 8), and just a short and cheap trip from most accommodation, the Darwin Aviation Heritage Centre is well worth visiting even if you're not especially interested in planes.

As an added bonus, given the relatively small entrance fee, it's also one of the most cost-effective attractions in the greater Darwin area – particularly for one that has such rare exhibits on display.

1. The Deckchair Cinema

The Deckchair Cinema

Location: Jervois Rd, Darwin

One of the key reasons most people are drawn to Darwin its warmer climate that hits a near-perfect peak in the otherwise “cold” months of the year, allowing visitors from cooler parts of the country to enjoy the great outdoors during winter and beyond.

If there's any example that best represents this Darwin advantage over some of its southern neighbours, the Deckchair Cinema would be it – it's an outdoor moviegoing experience that features a combination of several great factors emblematic of Darwin all at the same time. Mild weather, a relaxed outdoor atmosphere, great views, beautiful sunsets and the ability to enjoy a drop or three of alcohol all while outdoors and are brought together with a lovely communal feel.

Set in a beautiful outdoor setting on the waterfront overlooking Darwin's harbour, the Deckchair Cinema offers unique film screenings that are typically unavailable to regular theatre audiences, with independent movies that make for a refreshing change of pace mixed in with some of the explosion-filled and big-budget Hollywood standard.

The whole experience is filled with little personal touches that come together to make the mere act of watching a movie actually feel like a special night out; grab a quality (and reasonably-priced!) meal prepared at the venue and enjoy it amongst the open air – or perhaps bring along your own picnic and enjoy it on the open grass – before settling into a comfy deck chair as the credits begin to roll.

All this while wild and cute possums can be seen bounding around the grounds looking for some bonus scraps of food, and you've got one of the unique theatre experiences in the country.

While alcohol is not BYO, the cinema has a licensed bar from which you can grab an inexpensive wine or chilled beer along with a couple of food stalls and you can enjoy them both at one of the tables at the rear before joining the main seating area.

Cold water and insect repellant (definitely necessary during the warmer months) are also both provided free of charge for comfort purposes, while boxes of cushions are also available to offer additional support for the low-backed deck chairs. Surrounded by tropical trees with plenty of birds and fruit bats dotting the skies, the Deckchair Cinema offers an evening out that can all be had for around the same price as a standard showing at a regular chain movie theatre.

Tickets to the Deckchair Cinema can be purchased online on the same day – which means no queues and no frustration – but if you're planning to attend, be sure to get there early to ensure you get both a seat and your preferred seating location. Even if you aren't a fan of the movies that happen to be showing during your time here, it's still a place that's worth going just for the ambience and social/scenic aspects.

There are few experiences that scream “Darwin” more than the Deckchair Cinema (there's a reason it's a popular fixture with the locals), and with such a unique aspect and blend of factors that reflect the best of what the Far North is all about, it comes as our #1 must-do activity while visiting the Northern Territory's capital.

In addition, if you're looking for more things to do in Darwin and surrounds, including some of the best tours, attractions and activities, be sure to check out our main region section to browse for more information online.

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