The first pleasant surprise about Darwin is the weather. For days I didn’t see a cloud in the sky, with the average temperature being 33 degrees in August -” what a perfect time to escape the winter.
Darwin is rich with art, culture, history and friendly locals. The art lover can’t go past The Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory. The MAGNT is set in a tropical garden at Bullocky Point and holds the region’s collection of Aboriginal art, visual arts, craft, maritime archaeology, Northern Territory history and natural science. The fantastic Cyclone Tracy exhibition takes you through one of the worst natural disasters in Australian history with documentary footage, photographs and sound recordings of the disaster -” you almost feel part of the devastation that put Darwin on the map on Christmas Day 1974.
After whiling away a few hours at the museum, lunch at the Buzz Cafe was in order. Cullen Bay marina is the perfect spot to soak up the atmosphere, or sit and chat to the locals. The public boardwalk plays host to numerous restaurants -” Asian, Greek and Italian -” making Darwin an attractive destination for foodies.
The popular Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, which run Thursday and Sunday evenings from April to October, are a treat for any visitor. Thousands of people surround the many eclectic stalls.
You can grab a bite to eat while strolling, pick up bush art, locally made clothing, contemporary sculpture, authentic didgeridoos, hand-made local jewellery, or aromatic oils. It’s a good opportunity when you are away to have your palm or tarot cards read. If you don’t enjoy the mystical side of journeys, you can watch the performing artists, an up-and-coming live band, or just kick back with one of the many delights of a multicultural food store, and watch the sun go down. Darwin is most famous for its spectacular sunsets.
I was lucky enough to visit Darwin during the Darwin Festival which runs for two weeks in August and plays host to local and national talent. With diverse entertainment running each night the hardest thing is trying to decide which show to watch. I opted for the local Indigenous dancers, who were breathtaking.
For those of you looking to experience Darwin’s LGBT nightlife, there is one place and one place only: Throb nightclub. A gay club with a mixed audience, Throb is a welcoming host to Darwin’s diverse population, with locals and tourists catching the drag shows on Friday and Saturday nights. These are so popular it’s sometimes difficult to move.
To get close to nature, I stayed at Feathers Sanctuary, which was beyond tranquil. Set on two acres of landscaped gardens and surrounded by wildlife, including endangered birds, this beautiful bed and breakfast is the perfect location for anyone looking for that ideal city escape.
A one and half hour’s drive out to Litchfield National Park and I’m surrounded by monsoon rainforest, magnetic termite mounds and majestic waterfalls. Swimming in Florence Falls was magnificent and worth spending a day trekking through the numerous bushwalking trails and historic ruins.
And to round off a weekend visit there’s no better thing to do on a Sunday afternoon than board the Anniki Pearl Lugger Sunset Cruise. The Anniki is a spectacular traditional 1950s pearl lugger used in the movie epic Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. The Anniki sets out just before sunset and cruises around the harbour.
While sipping on my complimentary champagne I was lucky enough to see dolphins dancing along the boat’s wave. Experiencing the warm night with the sunset over the water is one of Darwin’s many delights, and one I’m hoping to experience again soon.
info: For more information on travelling to the Northern Territory visit www.travelnt.com.