The gateway to Asia
Thanks to its proximity to the continent, Darwin is known as “Australia’s gateway to Asia”, home to over 60 different nationalities out of a population of just 135,000.
Southeast Asian communities have a particularly strong presence, which is most notable in the city’s cuisine. In fact, laksa – a spicy, creamy noodle soup found across Southeast Asia – has arguably become Darwin’s favourite dish.
The best places to sample city’s culinary diversity are the Parap Village and Mindil Beach Sunset markets, where you can find everything from authentic Vietnamese pho to crocodile tail sushi.
More than 25% of the people in the Northern Territory are from aboriginal communities, a higher proportion than anywhere else in Australia. Some 80km off the coast of Darwin and connected by ferry services are Bathurst and Melville, jointly known as the Tiwi Islands.
The Tiwi people had only limited contact with mainland aboriginal societies until the nineteenth century, so they developed their own distinct language and culture.
You can visit the Tiwi Islands on a day trip from Darwin, but if you have more time available, travel 150km east of the city to Kakadu National Park. As well as a profusion of wildlife, the reserve has some eye-catching examples of ancient aboriginal rock art, some of it over 20,000 years old.
Out on the town
Darwin’s nightlife is famously lively, and is at its most raucous in the pubs, bars and clubs strung along Mitchell Street in the city centre. For something a bit classier, head to The Pearl, a hip bistro tucked away off the pedestrianized Smith Street Mall with a great cocktail list – try the espresso martini.
Stokes Hill Wharf, which has undergone a major revamp, is another popular drinking spot, with an array of restaurants and bars overlooking a croc- and jellyfish-free lagoon and beach. And at sunset, the beachside Darwin Ski Club, north of the city centre, is hard to beat.
Bushwalking in Litchfield
Located 100km south of Darwin and easily accessible as a daytrip – or better still an overnight stay – Litchfield National Park is a great place for a spot of bushwalking. The reserve is home to a series of dramatic waterfalls, innumerable giant termite mounds, and plenty of swimming holes to cool off in – though you should only swim in designated areas and steer well clear of any with crocodile warning signs.
Litchfield is also rich in birdlife: keep an eye out for spangled drongos, rainbow bee-eaters, and yellow orioles.
Image by BRJ INC. on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)