The city of Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory, presides loftily over the top end of Australia. Set on a rocky peninsula that stretches into one of the most beautiful natural harbours on the north Australian coast, the city is surrounded by water on three sides, which allows it to be fanned by cool breezes that temper the tropical heat and humidity of its climate.
Bicentennial Park, Darwin © Yeowatzup
Darwin has survived destruction three times: the city was hit by a cyclone in 1893; it was then bombed by the Japanese in 1942 during World War II; and more recently, in 1974, Cyclone Tracy levelled the city on Christmas Eve. It is a tribute to the pioneering spirit of its cosmopolitan population of 87,000 that it has not only overcome these calamities, but gone on to thrive.
The city is compact, and the areas of most interest to tourists are easy to explore on foot. The tropical climate encourages outdoor living and simply strolling through the leafy streets, browsing art galleries and enjoying refreshments at sidewalk cafes, is a pleasure for visitors. Shady parks can be found behind busy shopping streets and are a delight with exotic flowering trees like frangipani, banyan and tamarind.
Darwin is a youthful, tropical city, small enough to feel friendly and relaxed, and a great travel hub for exploring the incredible natural wonders on the city's doorstep.
Saltwater Crocodile © Tourism NT
Crocodylus Park and ZooHousing over three decades of research on Australian crocodiles and a comprehensive crocodile museum, not to mention more than a thousand resident crocodiles, the Crocodylus Park and Zoo is designed to educate people about this lesser known predator. While the focus at the park is on crocodiles, there are plenty of other animals to keep visitors interested. At this, the largest attraction in Darwin, visitors can learn about these reptiles as well as view a collection of other animals such as big cats, monkeys, birds, snakes and turtles, to name a few. Regular daily tours, including crocodile feeding sessions, will captivate visitors. There are well-trained guides who are willing to answer any questions about the dinosaur-like creatures, both the species in general and the particular crocodiles housed at the park. Visitors are allowed to get as close as is safe to get the best pictures possible.
Address: 815 McMillans Road, Knuckey Lagoon; Website: www.crocodyluspark.com.au
Deckchairs © Ellen Munro
Deckchair CinemaOperated by the Darwin Film Society and completely independent, the Deckchair Cinema is unique in more than one way. Screening mainly films that would otherwise be unavailable to local audiences, the Deckchair Cinema is set outdoors on the edge of Darwin Harbour and is the perfect location for a sunset picnic followed by a movie. The cinema usually operates seven nights a week during the dry season (April to November) and screens a range of movies from family friendlies to foreign films. With 250 deckchairs and about 100 straight-backed seats, the cloudless skies above the Deckchair Cinema and harbour lights make a breath-taking backdrop for the screen. An evening at the Deckchair Cinema makes for a unique way to experience Darwin and its beautiful outdoors.
Address: Jervois Road, off Kitchener Drive, Darwin Waterfront; Website: www.deckchaircinema.com
Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory © Ron Knight
Kakadu National ParkThis stunning park, covering almost 12,500 square miles (32,375 sq km) was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage areas in 1984 and is regarded as one of the natural marvels of Australia. The land itself is believed to be more than two billion years old, and is a jigsaw of wetlands, gorges, waterfalls, floodplains, rainforest pockets and escarpments. It offers the visitor an impressive variety of superb landscapes teeming with wildlife, and features some of Australia's most magnificent examples of Aboriginal rock art. About 5,000 Aboriginal sites have been identified in the park area, making it arguably the best destination in Australia for those wanting to experience the oldest living culture on earth. The park can be visited on a day-trip from Darwin and contains more than 1,600 species of plants and 500 different kinds of birds and animals.