Introducing guest blogger Stephanie from Navigating Adventure
Darwin is a unique, vibrant and multicultural city that is often overlooked by families looking for their next holiday destination. But its laidback atmosphere, friendly locals and a long list of child-friendly activities makes it an exciting and memorable place to visit.
I lived in Darwin for eight years with my husband and stepchildren and we loved exploring the city and beyond during our free time. We never ran out of things to do.
Darwin is a town that inspires adventure. Nature and wildlife take centre stage – huge prehistoric crocs fascinate, and spectacular waterfalls astound. It’s a city that is rich in history and culture, with something for everyone. Here I will share my top tips for exploring Darwin with kids.
This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of local parents
The Best Time to Visit Darwin
Due to Darwin’s tropical climate, the ideal time to visit is the dry season. Running from about May to August each year, you’ll be guaranteed plenty of sunshine and a warm, but comfortable temperature without the stifling humidity. This also makes it the perfect time for sailing, so you’ll see a lot of yachts, multihulls and catamarans hitting the water around this time.
Most natural swimming holes are only open in the dry season due to the risk of saltwater crocodiles at other times of the year.
The Festivals and Events
The best reason to visit Darwin in the dry season is all the festivals and events that are held at this time of year.
Mindil Beach Markets are on every Thursday and Sunday night from late April to October every year. These have a great atmosphere and are super popular with both local and visiting families.
Darwin Festival is held for 18 days in August each year. It features a program packed full of music, theatre, visual art, and dance events with lots of family-friendly events to choose from. The Darwin festival makes the most of the city’s unique tropical setting and is one of the few places in Australia that you can enjoy Australia’s best acts in an intimate outdoor theatre complete with sparkling with fairy lights.
The Greek Glenti and Italian Food Festivals, as well as other food and wine festivals, are also held during the dry season.
For a day of fun, the Darwin Lions Beer Can Regatta sees teams race their homemade rafts made of (you guessed it) beer cans. This event is held at Mindil beach and is a huge hit with the whole family.
Where to Stay in Darwin
The Darwin Waterfront is a great place to stay during your family holiday. Here you can enjoy restaurants, cafes, a wave pool and swimming lagoon set amongst landscaped parkland. The CBD and Stoke Hill wharf are a short stroll away. At the Waterfront, you can find comfortable accommodation in one of two hotels, or many self-contained apartments that available for short-stay rentals.
Other options include the CBD and Cullen Bay, or AirBnB rentals in surrounding suburbs. If you’re on a budget, there are several caravan parks available around town which offer comfortable cabins, swimming pools and plenty of space for the kids to run around.
How to Get Around in Darwin
Renting a car is recommended when holidaying in Darwin. Public transport is limited and not very convenient. Many attractions such as Litchfield Park and Adelaide River Jumping Crocs are located outside of town and will be much easier to visit with a car.
Where to Eat in Darwin with Kids
Mindil Beach Markets
If you’re visiting during the dry season, then a trip to the Mindil Beach markets is a must. Bring a picnic blanket, a bottle of wine and try cuisine from one of the many, and varied multicultural food stalls. Enjoy your dinner on the beach, while you watch the sun set over the water.
The Ski Club and the Trailer Boat Club
Casual dining at its best – both the Ski Club and the Trailer Boat Club are popular with families. They both provide uninterrupted views of the spectacular sunset over the beach. The kids can run around on the lawn while you enjoy a pub meal and chilled beer.
Stokes Hill Wharf
One thing Darwin isn’t short of is places to eat with a view. This time you can eat dinner while overlooking the harbour and the kids will get a thrill watching the fish that come up for a feed.
Best family-friendly attractions and activities in Darwin
You’ll never run out of things to do in Darwin. Here are just some of our favourite attractions and activities, sure to please the whole family.
Adelaide River Jumping Crocs
If you’re game, head out to Adelaide River and board a boat to watch the big crocs leap out of the water right in front of you! Located approximately a one-hour drive from Darwin city, there are a few operators to choose from and prices start from about $40 per adult. On the way back to town, grab lunch at the Humpty Doo Tavern for a real local experience.
Litchfield National Park
You’d be crazy to leave Darwin without taking a trip to Litchfield National Park. Located a 90-minute drive from the city, you will experience towering termite mounds, spectacular waterfalls and gorgeous swimming holes here. We recommend you put the whole day aside to explore the park, and take a picnic (along with your swimmers, plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat).
For a spot of culture, stop into the Coomalie Cultural Centre on your way back. They have a collection of Aboriginal artwork from across the Top End and Central Australia.
See the big crocs up close, right in the middle of the CBD! This attraction houses big saltwater crocodiles, as well as freshwater ones, and other reptiles. Crocosaurus Cove is famous for its “Cage of Death” – an experience you’ll never forget!
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
To learn about the history of Darwin, head to the museum at Fannie Bay. The exhibit on Cyclone Tracey – the most destructive cyclone to ever hit Australia – is a must-see. And the kids will be fascinated by Sweetheart – the infamous five-metre crocodile that is on display. The gallery exhibits Aboriginal Art from across the Northern Territory. The museum café is a lovely spot for lunch, overlooking the water.
There’s a great guide here for more on Darwin’s history & culture for families
Defence of Darwin Experience – Darwin Military Museum
For more history, head to the Darwin Military Museum at East Point. This interactive experience offers an opportunity for families to learn about the region’s contribution to WWII and the devastating bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942. Here you can view real life artillery, bunkers and buildings from the war.
For something a little different, head to Lola’s Pergola for an afternoon drink and cheese platter. This unique bar overlooks the yachts at Cullen Bay and features a circus theme which will keep the kid’s entertained. It even has it’s very own merry go round!
Aquascene Fish Feeding
I didn’t think feeding fish could hold that much appeal, but this is an attraction that is always a hit with the kids! Each day hundreds of local fish come to be fed by the visitors. Check the website to plan your visit as opening hours vary each day depending on the tides.
Territory Wildlife Park
A forty-five-minute drive south of Darwin, the Territory Wildlife Park is a great place to learn about the habitats and meet the creatures of the Top End. Find crocodiles, dingoes, birds of prey, lizards, snakes, emus, wallabies and echidnas (just to name just a few).
Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water – as there is plenty of walking to be done. You could spend most of the day here, but if you have time afterwards we recommend you stop just down the road at Berry Springs for a refreshing swim.
The Esplanade Playground
If it’s one of those days and the kids just need to burn off energy – head to the Daly Street end of the Esplanade for a fantastic playground. Well shaded, it includes a tall space net and slide, flying fox, smaller slides, swings, and an interactive water pump. It’s great for children of all ages and there is an exercise station for the parents too.
These are just some of my favourite attractions and activities to do with kids in Darwin. I hope that it has inspired you to get out and explore this amazing city in the Top End of Australia.
For more ideas on what to do in Darwin, see my series on Darwin as a Family Holiday Destination at Navigating Adventure.
About the Blogger
Stephanie Perez is an Australian family travel blogger. She is passionate about inspiring families to get outside and explore with their kids. She blogs about her family’s adventures and travels at Navigating Adventure.
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With thanks to Stephanie for her contribution to our guest series. You may also like to explore further around the top end of Australia, check out our guide to Broome with Kids and things to do in Port Douglas.
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