Why Darwin?

 

It’s Australia’s best tropical city: Whisper it quietly, but the cities in tropical Queensland are a little underwhelming. Darwin, however, has bags of personality. This is partly due to population blend. It’s a weird mix of rough-and-ready, beer-swilling Northern Territory blokeishness, alternative lifestyle hippyishness and Asian migration. And somehow it works to form a small but enticing city with a distinctive attitude towards life.

Mindil Beach night market: During the dry season months, the Mindil Beach Night Market offers more than just shopping. Sure, you can go round the stalls buying trinkets, but it’s the food and entertainment that set the market apart. Food stalls represent pretty much the whole of Asia, while street artists and performers bring the place to life. It all stops for sunset, however – people pile onto the beach to watch the setting sun turn the sky an incredible range of reds, oranges and yellows.

Sitting through a cyclone: In 1974, Cyclone Tracy tore Darwin to shreds. The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory takes you through the experience, the highlight being a bone-chilling blackened booth where you can see nothing and listen to the recordings made at the time of the cyclone ripping through the city.

Swim with crocodiles: At Crocosaurus Cove, it’s possible to do something you can’t do anywhere else in the world – strip down to your swimmers, enter a glass box and then get lowered into the enclosure of a hefty 5m-long crocodile. It’s not a challenge for the feeble of heart. But if you’ve ever wondered what shark cage diving is like using some of the biggest crocodiles in history instead of sharks, this is your answer.

Or watch them jump up the side of your boat… If swimming with saltwater crocodiles for some reason seems like a bad idea, then a marginally less intense close encounter can be found on the Adelaide River. Around an hour’s drive from Darwin, this is where a number of ‘jumping crocodile’ cruise operators ply their trade. The premise is fairly simple – it’s a boat trip down a crocodile-infested river. The twist is that the crew hang pieces of meat out of the boat on fishing rods. The crocs spy a meal, saunter up, then jump out of the water right next to the boat in order to get their feeds. They are, to put it mildly, somewhat intimidating.

Litchfield National Park: Just to the south of Darwin, the Litchfield National Park offers an accessible slice of Northern Territory ruggedness. It’s full of towering sandstone rock formations, daintily pretty waterfalls and enormous termite mounds. Safe swimming holes – ones that crocs have been chased out of – offer welcome respite from the heat in a region that makes for a perfect day trip.

You can get Darwin included as a stopover on your RTW here