Our travel guide to the top things to see and do in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia in a weekend:
Getting to and around Darwin, Northern Territory:
We flew into Darwin via a direct flight from Singapore on Jetstar. The schedule worked well enough for us to enjoy the full weekend without needing to take any precious annual leave (win!). We departed late Friday evening, landing early Saturday morning and returned in the early hours of Monday morning with time to reach the office by 9 am. Note - Coffee is highly recommended throughout Saturday and Monday if you do take these flight options. It's a 4-hour flight from Singapore to Darwin, much the same as the flight duration from most major Australian capital cities.
We knew a major part of our trip would involve a visit out to the national parks, so opted to rent a 4-wheel drive from the airport. Most attractions in the city are spread out, having a car made life much easier.
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Where to stay in Darwin, best hotel accomodation deals:
We booked a hotel Darwin CBD. There were many options to choose from all affordably priced and quite modern. Given we were only visiting for a weekend, the CBD was a perfect base for us to explore from. If we had longer, however, it would have been ideal to also stay closer to Kakadu national park allowing us to venture further, as this is quite a drive for just a weekend trip.
When to visit Darwin, Northern Territory:
The ideal time of year to visit Darwin is Mid-Jun to September to enjoy cooler weather and low changes of rain. We visited the first week of October, and still enjoyed no rain and clear skies.
Our Darwin weekend itinerary: The summary
Morning: Breakfast in the CBD at Ray’s Patisserie followed by exploring the cities street art murals
Lunchtime: A visit to the Darwin Military Museum and esplanade
Afternoon: Crocodile Jumping boat tour followed by a visit to Fogg Dam
Evening: Sunset drinks and dinner at the Darwin Sailing club
Morning: Breakfast at Laneway Specialty coffee
Afternoon: Spend the day exploring Litchfield National Park
Evening: Darwin night markets
Our top things to see and do in Darwin, Northern Territory:
Get up close to some wild Crocodiles:
If there’s one thing iconic to the Northern Territory, it’s crocodiles! With a high prevalence of these prehistoric creatures roaming Darwin’s waters, expect to see plenty of signs along beaches and National Park watering holes bearing warnings where it’s not safe to swim. As we preferred to keep our limbs intact, we opted for a safer choice, booking an afternoon crocodile jumping cruise along the Adelaide River (about a 45-minute drive from Darwin) with jumpingcrocodilecruises.com.au.
This tour company is family-owned and has been around since 1984. They offer small boat tours along the river taking around 30 passengers. The seats are 2 by 2 along the boat guaranteeing an up-close experience to the crocodiles. Our tour lasted around 1 hour and cost $30 per person. Within minutes of our boat pulling away from the jetty, we witnessed several crocodiles floating past us. This is when we learned some scary facts about Crocodiles. Firstly, their hearing is so strong they can hear the boats engine from 2kms away. Secondly, even without the boat engine, they can hear our heartbeat from 1km away. Finally, they are attracted to colour, so a bright yellow life vest would not do any good in the water. Lesson being, if the boat sinks, we are all screwed. This information was quickly clarified by the fact that this has never happened on a tour and no one has been injured before.
Knowing the boats well, the crocodiles know that it’s snack time and happily swim up close to jump for their food, resulting in some very close and hair-raising encounters with these modern-day dinosaurs. All passengers survived and thoroughly enjoyed their experience.
Witness the diverse wetlands at Fogg Dam:
As we left our Crocodile jumping tour for the drive back to Darwin, our friendly tour guide recommended a detour via Fogg Dam, not far off our route home. This was well worth the pitstop, witnessing beautiful wetlands, birdlife, wild water buffalo and the infamous ‘beware of crocodile’ signs. This resulted in just a quick exit from the car for a few pictures.
Experience the outback and watering holes of Litchfield National Park:
Our visit to Litchfield national park was an amazing taste of outback Australia, enjoying waterfalls and watering holes and epic surrounds. The national park was within a two-hour drive from Darwin allowing it to fit perfectly within our weekend itinerary. The other beauty of the park is that the attractions are all close by and cater to the level of adventure you want to take on. Being short on time and wanting more of a relaxing day, it was perfect for us that the stops are all drivable, with each major attraction only a few hundred metres from a car park. This allowed us to cover all of he highlights of the park within a single day. For the first few stops, there weren’t a lot of food options, so we’d recommend packing a few snacks for the drive.
Our Favourite sites within Litchfield National park (in driving itinerary order):
The Magnetic Termite Mounds:
This is quite possibly one of nature’s most fascinating examples of what teamwork can achieve. Towering way above our height is an array of large carefully planned structures built by the combination of millions of tiny ants working together to protect themselves from natures elements.
We next reached our first watering hole of the day, a plunge pool at the bottom of Florence Falls. From the top, we witnessed these waterfalls flowing over the rocky cliff edge into the swimming hole below. Just a short few hundred metres walk down to stairs to the bottom we reached the small pool entrance, where we enjoyed a quick dip.
Not far from Florence falls was the Bluey Rockpools. This was our favourite swimming spot of the day, featuring a group of small cascading pools flowing down in a stream towards Florence Falls. There were enough small little pools that each group visiting had their own little space.
By the afternoon we were starting to get hungry and the first stop we reached with a café is Wangi falls (Café is open until about 2 pm). We stopped here for a few snacks and enjoyed another beautiful waterfall view. Top tip for a snack to try when visiting Australia: Golden Gaytime ice cream, it's one thing missed living abroad.
Experience Darwin's Café Culture:
Crocodile Dundee. Outback. National Parks. Those are the top 3 things that come to mind when planning a trip to Darwin. When we stepped through the doors of Laneway Specialty Coffee we almost wondered if we’d accidentally taken the wrong flight and landed in Melbourne. This place could certainly belong in one of Melbourne’s trendy neighbourhoods or laneways. There were black features, exposed brick with a mix of tropical greenery decorating the cafe. The atmosphere was buzzing with a full crowd enjoying their Sunday morning routines. This was the place to be. We left happily caffeinated and with stomachs full of eggs and smashed avo to fuel us for the day.
Darwin city was teaming with amazing little café finds. Our first morning took us to Ray’s Patisserie, another popular local favourite, featuring a very instagramable swing, relaxed vibe and even more amazing coffee.
Hunt for Darwin's famous Street Art murals:
It's not just the cafe culture that had us confused as to whether we were in Darwin or Melbourne, it was the street art too! It seems every laneway in Darwin has something to show for itself, with art depicting the local culture and stories.
The Darwin Military Museum and Australian war history:
In case you're new to this blog, one thing you will quickly learn about us is that history always features a role in our travels. As such, taking time out to learn more about Darwin's world war two history was an essential part of our weekend itinerary. On 19 Feb 1942 Darwin was overwhelmed by Japanese Air raids, destroying much of the cities buildings and killing hundreds of people. It was a history I'd learnt it school but not fully grasped the extent of the devastation inflicted until actually paying a visit here. We learned all about this during our morning spent at the military museum, reading stories of local experiences on that devastating day. Right by the museum is an old gun battery and esplanade that makes for a scenic stop as well.
Watch the famous golden Top End sunset at Darwin Sailing Club
After a long day of sightseeing we capped it off with an outdoor sunset dinner and drink overlooking the beach at Darwin's sailing club.
Purchase some uniquely Australian souvenirs from Darwins Night Markets:
As the sunset, we made our way to the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, one of Darwins largest evening events running during the dry season (April to October only). With a few hundred stalls running along the beachfront esplanade it's the perfect spot to pick up an authentically Australian souvenir from a local craftsman, options include aboriginal artworks, boomerangs and Didgeridoos. There's also plenty of street food selections and regular shows, we enjoyed watching a band play the Didgeridoo and a whip-cracking show.
We hope you enjoyed our travel itinerary to Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. For more blog posts on weekend getaways and travel itineraries check out the destinations section of our blog.
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