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Discovering Darwin

With dusty, ochre roads that stretch, straight as a die toward the horizon, and mango groves fringed with sturdy Pandanas, Australia’s Top End is the epitome of all things Aussie. Home to saltwater crocodiles, spectacular cascading rock pools and the endless serenity of Kakadu National Park, the Northern Territory has become a right of passage for backpackers touring the country – and Darwin is their base.

But this modern metropolis, where migrants meet and cultures collide, has a lot more to offer than cheap beer and budget accommodation and, for me at least, provides that slice of outback Australia I’ve been craving since moving to Sydney nearly four years ago.

Inhabited by Aboriginals for thousands of years, it wasn’t until 1911 that the sprawling settlement known as Palmerston was renamed Darwin. Since then, nature’s bounty of gold and pearls helped draw settlers from China, East Timor and Papua, helping Darwin on its way to become the most populous city in Australia’s otherwise sparsely populated top end.

Razed to the ground thanks to tropical Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve, 1975, for more than 50 years Darwin’s own landscape has been in flux – a fluid state of rebuild and rejuvenation. Positioned on a tropical outcrop on the country’s north coast, Darwin has been a target to more than the extremes of the changing seasons and, during WWII, the city found itself at the frontline of the Allied battle against Japan. Whilst the 64 military attacks left a permanent mark on the region, it was the force of Cyclone Tracy that displaced thousands of the city’s residents to elsewhere in Australia – many of whom chose never to return.

Today, its an eclectic mix of migrants and itinerant workers who call Darwin home. And, with its laid-back vibe and lazy shift between the – always warm – seasons, it’s easy to understand how so many have found their way here, only to forget to leave.

Whilst the city has been rebuilt, it’s the region’s natural wonders that have stayed very much the same, and that will hold you captive. Just one night spent in the city will leave you in no doubt that Darwin holds front-row seats to perhaps some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world. Dig a little deeper and you’ll uncover the natural beauty of Katherine Gorge, Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that despite the booming mining industry, which takes advantage of the region’s gold, zinc and bauxite reserves, it is tourism that fuels this city. A weekend in Darwin can easily be filled with day trips, and the tourism calendar is punctuated with annual festivals, celebrating everything from the first full moon of July to racing in boats made of beer-cans.

Where to Stay

Centrally located, Mantra On The Esplanade is the ideal location from which to enjoy your time in Darwin. If you’re planning on a day-trip to Kakadu or Litchfield, the early-morning pick up times are made all the easier with the bus-depot a stone’s throw from the hotel, and you won’t have far to walk to find good food and fun times on Mitchell Street when the sun sets.

What to do

Combine a love of shopping with an appreciation of nature with an evening at Mindil Beach Markets. The perfect location to watch the sun set whilst picking up souvenirs.

Venture further afield and take advantage of one of the many day trips to Litchfield or Kakadu National Park where you’ll appreciate the vast beauty and incredible wildlife of Australi’s Northern Territory. Visit www.darwindaytours.com.au for some great deals.

Where to eat

Wrap up your day with a delicious meal at Char. Home to only the finest produce, restauranteur John Kilroy has channelled his love and knowledge of beef into an innovative menu, complemented by a comprehensive wine list. Set in the grounds of heritage listed Admiralty House, visit www.charrestaurant.com.au to book.

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About the Author

Lizzy has more than ten years’ experience in the print and digital publishing arena and is the Editor at Single File. Having moved from the UK to Australia in 2008, Lizzy has worked for a number of leading publishers in Sydney and has particular expertise in the health, wellness and travel markets. If you have any questions for Lizzy, you can send them across by email to lizzy@singlefile.com.au.



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  1. Pingback: Discovering Darwin « Lizzy Wood

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