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Darwin Travel Guide

About Darwin

Tropical Darwin is Australia’s most northerly (and most individual) state capital. Closer to Bali than Bondi, its laidback, small-town vibe makes it a very different proposition to the shiny metropolises of the country’s East Coast.

The city takes its name from naturalist Charles Darwin, and its proximity to Asia has attracted plenty of immigrants, which has shaped this once rough-and-ready frontier outpost into a youthful, multicultural seaside city.

Often overlooked by first-time visitors, Darwin has plenty to offer. Twice it’s had to come back from the dead – firstly after being flattened by WWII bombs, secondly after Cyclone Tracy ripped it apart in the 1970s – which makes its goodtime spirit all the more remarkable.

The city has a thriving festivals scene, a lively strip of pubs and restaurants and a plethora of museums and galleries. You’ll also find beach markets and (in the form of the multi-million dollar Waterfront Precinct) a modern spread of hotels, eateries and wave lagoons.

Thanks to its location, there’s also much to entice outdoor lovers. Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks both sit within a few hours’ drive and it’s the city’s mix of unhurried urban living and world-class natural beauty that draws many of its visitors.

Kakadu in particular is an astonishing place to visit, its plains and escarpments home to a long Aboriginal heritage. 4-wheel drive tours and croc-spotting cruises are popular, while back in the city, sailing and fishing trips are both big draws.

Before you arrive in Darwin, it’s best to time your trip carefully as the city’s weather can be unpredictable. Average temperatures are the same year round but there are six changes of season, including distinct dry and wet periods. The latter (at its peak from January to March) can spark tropical cyclones, monsoon rains and hurricanes, rendering some roads impassable.

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Featured Hotels


Value Inn

Don't be put off by the name, all the rooms in this affordable city centre hotel feature queen sized beds, a single bed, air conditioning and en suite facilities. There are also three pools, a licensed bar, and a spa available for guest use at Melaleuca on Mitchell, the award-winning backpackers hangout across the road.

Oaks Elan Darwin

This impressive newbie is a 301-room property with a range of one- and two-bed apartments. It has a decent central location, while the in-house restaurant, O.A.K., is another good reason to visit. Private balconies, air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi are all part of the deal too.

Novotel Darwin CBD

Formerly the Novotel Darwin Atrium, this mid-range hotel overlooks the coast and sits a short stroll from the buzz of Mitchell Street. There are 140 rooms in total, and they're nice enough to make the relatively affordable price a big draw. It also has what it refers to as a "tropical indoor rainforest" – not many crocs to be found, though.

Vibe Hotel

A fresh and funky boutique hotel in the Waterfront Precinct, expect fine harbour views, several swimming pools with bars, an excellent restaurant and all the usual high-end trimmings. It's adjacent to its sister property, Adina Grand Waterfront, which is similarly appealing. All rooms have Wi-Fi access, digital TVs and round-the-clock room service.

The Cavenagh

This centrally located hotel is a great base from which to explore Darwin's vibrant nightlife. The Cav also delivers a touch of luxury, with a large outdoor swimming pool, TV lounge and free Wi-Fi throughout, in addition to a cozy bar and restaurant.

Skycity Darwin

It's always a gamble staying at a casino, especially if you're open to temptations. This place is a winner, though. It's a casino hotel set among 7 hectares (17 acres) of tropical beachside gardens. There is a selection of dining options on-site as well as a pool. It's also very close to the Mindil Beach Markets.