The City of Darwin’s residents represent more than 50 nationalities, making it a diverse and cosmopolitan place to visit. This fast-growing port and regional center has many places to see and much for travelers to do while visiting there. Port Darwin’s nightlife is exciting and vibrant. You’ll find plenty to do after dark.
Among Port Darwin’s historic sights is the Fannie Bay Gaol, a prison that operated from 1883 until the late 20th Century. Open for tours, you’ll get chills seeing the gallows that were used for executions until 1952. The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, located in a tropical garden on Darwin Harbor, showcases the region’s art, history, and culture. It also houses collections that explain the region’s natural history and its Aboriginal cultures. The Australian Aviation Heritage Centre contains a collection describing Darwin’s aviation history, including World War II role.
Just north of the city, you’ll find the East Point Reserve with trails, cycling paths, and the East Point Military Museum where you can watch films of the Darwin bombing. You can take High Tea on Sundays in the gardens at the Burnett House on Myilly Point. Browns Mart was built in 1885 as an emporium, but today’s it’s a local historic icon used for theatrical performance.
Overlooking Darwin Harbor, the 1925 Lyons Cottage contains collections of European and Aboriginal photographic displays. The house was built for submarine telegraph cable workers. It was one of few structures to escape being destroyed by the Japanese bombing raids and Cyclone Tracy. Lying beneath Port Darwin are the World War II Oil Storage Tunnels, one of Darwin’s most interesting sites. Built to protect stores of oil from bombing attacks, the public can visit two of the tunnels and view photographs capturing life in World War II Darwin.
Port Darwin also contains natural sights well worth the visit. Near the city center are the 42-hectare George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens where you can relax while you stroll through flora from the area and from tropical habitats worldwide. Your stroll will take you through coastal dunes, open woodlands, and monsoon forests. The Casuarina Coastal Reserve covers 1500 hectares, including 8 kilometers of beach and dramatic cliffs, where visitors can walk the paths or picnic. Charles Darwin National Park contains shell middens left by Aboriginal people. It also contains many bunkers and storage facilities left there after World War II.
Port Darwin is alive with many local markets where you can enjoy a variety of cultural influences, including cuisine, art, crafts, and music. The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, the largest in the Northern Territory, are open every weekend from May to October. You can enjoy the Deckchair Cinema there, where they show foreign and hit films every night during dry season.
Wildlife lovers will love Port Darwin’s many specialty wildlife centers. You can feed the fish by hand at Aquascene. Crocodylus Park is home to over 1000 crocodiles as well as exotic birds, big cats, primates, and lizards. The Darwin Crocodile Farm, where you’ll find more than 10 thousand crocodiles, is a breeding farm well worth the visit. The Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile Cruise allows you to get close to the creatures.
The Batchelor Butterfly and Petting Farm is a great place for families to visit and enjoy rare butterflies, diverse birds, and an enchanting petting zoo for the kids. Not far from Port Darwin is the Mary River National Park, home to the highest concentration of the biggest saltwater crocodiles in the world. The Territory Wildlife Park boasts paperbark and monsoon forests, a wetlands walk, and the popular aquarium tunnel.
Visitors will also enjoy the many festivals in Port Darwin. For 18 nights in August, the Darwin Festival features a variety of performances and includes outdoor events and delicious cuisine. The Aboriginal Art Awards attracts artists from all over the country and showcases both traditional and contemporary works. In June, The Greek Glenti is a time for the local Greek community to share their food, dance, music, and culture with the rest of the world. The Darwin Cup Carnival celebrates Darwin’s premiere horse racing event in July and August.
For a comprehensive list of cruises visiting Port Darwin through the end of 2009, visit the Cruise Compete website.