Written by Leah
Continuing with the Kidstylefile ‘Best Things To Do With Kids’ series, this week we put the spotlight on Darwin. With a bevy of exciting activities to explore with the kids, Darwin is a fabulous destination for families. On my recent adventures to Darwin with my family, we were able to pack in a week of fun without finding ourselves exhausted. Pace yourself and enjoy the ride! I have listed some of the fun places you could enjoy below, but feel free to leave a comment here or on our Facebook Page if you think we should add some further places.
Don’t forget to also check out the other amazing places we have recently covered: for the US check out Los Angeles, New York Part 1 and Part 2, & San Francisco; or for adventures closer to home, check out Sydney & Melbourne.
With picture perfect locations, blue skies and friendly locals, Darwin is family friendly and a perfect location for a family holiday. It gets a tick in all the right spots: relaxed – tick, water – tick, lots of activities for the kids – tick, and clean – tick.
Of course, a trip to Darwin wouldn’t be right without seeing a crocodile (5). The safest way to do so is to either visit one of the parks that they have in Darwin ( Crocosaurus Cove or Crocodylus Park (4)), or take an organized tour to Adelaide River for the Jumping Crocodile Cruise. We took a half day trip to Crocodylus Park where the kids feed a saltwater crocodile from a safe distance, held a hatchling, visited the monkeys, and last but not least we visited the lions (new lions are arriving this month!). The park is a breeding location, so be prepared for the site of hundreds of crocodiles in breeding pens.
Ever wanted to feed wild fish by hand? Here’s your chance with a 5 minute drive from the city centre to Aquascene, Doctors Gully, Darwin (3). Each day at high tide sees mullet, milkfish, bream, catfish and many other species swim to this location to feed from your hand. Make sure you check the feeding times so you don’t miss out (these change daily) and pack a spare set of clothes because you are certain to get a little wet.
After some modern history? If you have watched Baz Luhrmann’s “Australia”, you will know that Darwin plays a significant part in Australia’s WWII history. With this in mind, you may want to visit some of the local attractions that will provide you and your kidlets with some insight into this period. First stop, the WWII Oil Storage Tunnels (1) which run from the Darwin Wharf entry into the cliffs below Darwin City. My kidlets loved looking inside the storage tanks and looking at the image collections. Next stop, Darwin Military Museum (11). A 15 minute drive out of the city centre will take you to the museum situated on to this gorgeous East Point Reserve location. The tanks, willie jeeps, and a HUGE range of paraphernalia from this period of Australian history is eye opening (did you know that Darwin endured 64 air raids during WWII?). Worried about your kidlets getting bored? Don’t be: the forts and replica cannons are in the open air for you to climb up and explore.
Cyclone Tracey is also a moment in Australian history that is often thought of as one of the largest natural disasters of living memory. If you visit the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory (6) you will wander through the Cyclone Tracey exhibit which features footage, sounds, recounts and photographs from this period of time to reveal the impact of the cyclone on the people of the Northern Territory. The sound booth is quite scary, so the adults may want to take it turns to try this out so the kids aren’t frightened. The highlight of any trip to the museum is “Sweetheart” (10), an iconic large saltwater croc who was known for attacking a number of dinghys. Cornucopia is the museum café and is a highly regarded eating spot. It is extremely popular, so book a table in advance if you can!
If you love parks, you may be interested in Darwin’s FREEPS (Free Recreation and Entertainment for Everyone in the Parks) which provides provides FREE activities such as local musical acts, food stall, arts & crafts, displays, face-painting and more throughout the year. Check the schedule for dates. Another great initiative is the Fun Bus for children aged 0-5 and their parents/carers. These informal sessions are full of resources and a great place to meet local mums and dads.
Darwin Wharf Precinct is a hive of activity. There are a number of child friendly cafes and restaurants, The Steam Pump House, the Civil Aviation Terminal and Stokes Hill Power Station are all interesting, but may not hold the attention of your young ones for long. There are a number of popular fishing spots in this area if you are interested, and I am told the fish bite regularly. Cullen Bay Marina (2) is also a location that is popular for its food establishments. We loved the beach across from the setting for its clear ocean views.
Markets are very popular in Darwin. Of these, the Mindil Beach Market (7) is possibly the most famous. Held every Thursday and Sunday night, it is very crowded and full of food stalls with almost every food cuisine possible including “Road Kill” at the Road Kill Cafe. We each had a try of possum, buffalo, crocodile, kangaroo and barrumundi. A once off experience for me, but I did give it a go! For the kids, they had a side carnival on location. Watch the sunset, enjoy the food and don’t forget a picnic rug so you can enjoy the ambience (and possibly the only crowd you’ll see on your visit).
Visit the old Qantas hangar (8) which is full of restored cars and aviation history if you are interested in something a little different and not on many of the tourist brochures. Master R and my husband had a blast there, and if it wasn’t for us girls, may have spent the day there.
South of Darwin, and less than an hours drive away, you will find the warm waters of Berry Springs (9). There are a number of natural water pools perfect for varying ages. The water is fresh and clear, and the waterfall at the top spring is perfect for little people (keep a hand on them as the water was up to my shoulders). Right next door is the Territory Wildlife Park which is quite an adventure. . Less than hour away is the beginnings of the Litchfield National Park which is a hot destination spot for its untouched beauty, crystal clear springs and rivers and wonderful assortment of wildlife and wildflowers. Around 4 hours drive further south you will come to Katherine which is home to the famous Nitmiluk Gorge (12, 14). Be sure to book a tour early as they are very popular. We did the short 2 hour tour which was perfect for my two under 4. They were excited to see the place where the rainbow serpent was said to reside. Katherine also has some lovely heated springs (13) which are quite refreshing after a hard day. On the way you can stop at the Adelaide River Pub (16) which has a Crocodile Dundee feel to it with the actual Buffalo from the movie in pride of place on the bar. Along the way, don’t forget to stop and check out all the large termite mounds (15) you’ll see littering the landscape.
East of Darwin is the famous Kakadu National Park with just under 20,000 square kilometres of pristine World Heritage listed land. You can grab a pass and drive here yourself, but my recommendation is to book a tour with one of the traditional custodians of the land through Ayal Aboriginal Tours.
If you are looking to escape winter but don’t want the hassle of a passport, I highly recommend a family trip to Darwin. Having just returned from a blissful week long trip to this sublime destination, we have decided to add this wonderful city to our bi-annual holiday schedule.