Australia’s northernmost city perched in the warm tropical climate of the Northern Territory, Darwin has a rich history — being the traditional home of the Larrakia indigenous Australians, as well as the site of Australia’s largest military attack.
A trip to the city will give you an opportunity to learn about the aboriginal Australians, try their traditional food and see ancient cave paintings. There is also a rich military history with many sites and artifacts from the 1942 air raids during World War II.
Named after Charles Darwin, the famous British naturalist, animal lovers will enjoy close encounters with crocodiles, wallabies, and dingos, whether it’s in the mountain hikes through Kakadu or Litchfield National Parks, or from the abundant natural escapes within the city.
There’s no shortage of natural wonders to discover in Darwin, such as feeding crocodiles and swimming in pristine waterfalls which are some of the things you can enjoy while in town.
Read on to find all the best things to do in Darwin when you take a trip to the capital of the Northern Territory of Australia!
1 – Swim with crocodiles at Crocosaurus Cove
See the country’s largest saltwater crocodiles, as well as plenty of other marine life at the world’s largest display of Australian reptiles, Crocosaurus Cove right in the heart of the city in Darwin.
One of the most popular attractions here is the Cage of Death, which is the only crocodile dive in Australia, where you swim alongside these reptiles from the safety of a glass cage.
If swimming with crocodiles is a bit too hardcore for you, consider the other thrilling experience of feeding crocodiles, and even getting a selfie with a baby croc afterward!
2 – See the city on a hop on hop off bus
This sightseeing double-decker bus stops at key landmarks around the city, with tickets valid for 24 or 48 hours — a great way to see a lot of the city in a short period of time.
These hop-on-hop-off buses give you access to two different routes, stopping at all the important places around town such as the waterfront precinct and the Darwin Military Museum.
3 – Spot the animals at Crocodylus Park
Visiting this premier wildlife conservation center is one of the exciting things to do in Darwin.
Founded by world-renowned Biologist Professor Grahame Webb, Crocodylus Park is home to several species of crocodile, as well as a huge amount of other native Australian animals (and a few from afar as well).
Hop on the thrilling boat cruise, where you can experience a live crocodile feed as they leap right out of the water for their food!
4 – Unwind on a Litchfield National Park day tour
A popular day trip from Darwin, Litchfield National Park, also known as the Lost City, is full of waterfalls, rock pools and rivers.
You can hop on an early morning tour to avoid the crowds and be taken on a cruise down the Adelaide River that passes through the national park, stopping at Buley Rockhole, Wangi Falls and Florence Falls along the way.
5 – Grab some finger food at Parap Village Markets
In the heart of Parap Village, just moments from Darwin’s center, you can find a market that runs every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s a feast of food and drinks with tropical flavors and local produce.
There is also live ambient music and many stalls that sell locally made crafts, making this an ideal place to pick up a souvenir.
6 – Wander through the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens
Located 2 kilometers north of the city, this 42-hectare botanical garden houses mostly native Northern Australian tropical plants.
There’s a free self-guided walking tour that teaches you all about the various tree species, as well as the traditional uses of native plants by the indigenous people.
In addition, you’ll also witness local wildlife in the garden, from the Rufous owl to bush chooks, possums, and much more!
7 – Leap into a jumping crocodile cruise
On an hour tour from Darwin along the Adelaide River, you’ll be able to find the local jumping crocodiles in their natural habitat.
Transport to and from the city is included in the tour package, and you’ll get to see the crocodiles leap out of the water as they are fed!
Traveling with kids? Take them to meet some of the wild residents, from meerkats, monkeys, and dingos.
8 – Cruise over to Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls
For those wanting to get closer to nature, heading out to Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls on a day trip is one of the best things to do in Darwin. You can take a tour to cruise through Katherine Gorge, where you’ll find freshwater crocodiles, and visit the crystal clear waters of Edith Falls where you can go for an afternoon swim.
You’ll also get the opportunity to explore the 292,000 hectares of Nitmiluk National Park to observe indigenous rock paintings.
9 – Spot some crocodiles at Corroboree Billabong
Bring your camera to this wild ride! Corroboree Billabong is known to be the largest saltwater river which yields a large variety of exotic wildlife, including the largest group of saltwater crocodiles.
Located in the Mary River Wetlands, make sure to book a boat experience, and glide safely through the wetlands with the guidance and knowledge of a tour guide!
If you choose accordingly, some tours will include lunch on board!
10 – Relax in the shade of Berry Springs Nature Park
A huge reserve filled with native flowers and birds, Berry Springs has a large number of military artifacts from when there were 100,000 armed soldiers based there during the Second World War.
Make sure to bring your swimwear to jump into the pool, taken straight out of a movie, surrounded by natural wildlife.
March to April is one of the best times to visit when all the flowers and plants come into bloom!
11 – Explore the Darwin Military Museum
At the Darwin Military Museum, you’ll be able to learn all about the city’s involvement in the Second World War.
The highlight of a visit to the museum is the interactive “Defence of Darwin” where you can see what happened on the day 188 Japanese air bombers attacked the city.
Open 7 days a week, tickets start at $20 AUD for adults and $10 AUD for children.
12 – Head out on a Kakadu National Park & Nourlangie day tour
In Kakadu National Park, which is full of indigenous cultural sites and landmarks, you can learn all about the native people of Australia.
As you cruise down the Yellow Billabong through the national park, the key stops include the ancient aboriginal art at Nourlangie, also known as the cave museum.
Considering that full-day excursions are available from Darwin, a scenic lunch is provided on the tour, in the middle of nature.
13 – Stroll down Stokes Hill Wharf
Strolling along the Stokes Hill Wharf, which was built in the 1950s, will give you an insight into the city’s history and throughout its progress since the war.
This functioning wharf welcomes everyone to walk the seaside platforms and watch cruise ships and yachts come and go. You can also do recreational fishing, shopping, dining and drinking while enjoying live music.
14 – Learn about the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS Darwin)
The Royal Flying Doctor Service is a renowned medical service that deploys doctors around remote parts of Australia where patients can’t reach hospitals.
At the RFDS tourist facility, you can get a backstage pass to see how this unique service works, and also get a virtual reality experience that shows you the life of a flying doctor!
Tickets start at $12.50 AUD for adults and for children ages 5-12 it’s $6 AUD, or check out the tour packages for convenience and extra bonuses.
15 – Get some waves at Darwin Waterfront Precinct
The Darwin Waterfront Precinct sits right alongside the city and is home to Recreation Lagoon, Darwin’s only man-made lagoon — with lifeguards from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It still contains marine life, but it is built to keep stingers and sharks out, keeping you safe!
There’s also the Wave Lagoon, which covers 4,000 square meters of land and conducts regular wave programs for those who enjoy a light surf.
16 – Catch a barramundi at Mary River National Park
A natural sanctuary for wildlife, Mary River National Park is full of bushwalks and four-wheel driving tracks. One of the highlights of this park is the fishing spot Shady Camp, known for its great barramundi fishing.
For those interested in history, there’s also a 6 kilometers walk in Point Stuart Coastal Reserve that heads out to Stuart’s Memorial Cairn.
17 – Learn about indigenous culture on a Tiwi Islands day tour
You can find the indigenous community of the Wurramiyanga people on the Tiwi Islands which can be reached on a ferry from Darwin.
A tour will take you to and from the islands, showing you a traditional smoking ceremony, as well as the beauty of the area led by a local Tiwi guide.
As tours typically last the whole day, a communal lunch cooked over the fire is provided.
18 – Be guided around Arnhem Land on a day trip
Arnhem Land is a vast wilderness 500 kilometers north of Darwin, right at the top of Australia. Day trips to the area are fully guided by indigenous people, giving you a true insight into the culture of the native people of Australia.
Working with the indigenous population of Darwin and Arnhem Land, it is the only tour to allow you access to the highly protected Injalak Hill, which contains ancient aboriginal paintings.
19 – Indulge on a food tour
Darwin has a large variety of places to eat and cuisines to try, so a food tour makes it easy to sample them all.
Each tour is different, but you’ll always be taken to three of the best places around the city to try anything from fresh seafood to traditional bush tucker. You’ll get a sample plate at each destination, so you can be sure you’ve tasted the best food on offer in Darwin.
20 – Navigate to the Magnetic Termite Mounds
In Litchfield National Park, 120 kilometers south of Darwin, you can find enormous, 2-meter high termite mounds that serve as giant magnetic compasses. Their walls point north and south, and provide a perfect environment for the termite populations.
There are also 4-meter high mounds known as cathedrals found nearby, built by another species of termite.
To get the best views, walk through the elevated boardwalk, and don’t forget to bring your camera!
21 – Get your adrenaline pumping on a jet ski
A jet ski tour with a knowledgeable guide is one of the best things to do in Darwin for thrill-seekers.
Your guide not only can race around the shoreline of the city at great speeds, but also point out the passing marine life as you zip around. Everything from sunscreen to refreshment is covered on this tour, making it great for those short on time!
If you want to get involved in water sports in the Northern Territory of Australia, Darwin Ski Club is one of the best-known places to go.
At the club, you can hop on a wakeboard, go scuba diving or even paddle a canoe. There’s also a waterside restaurant and bar for refreshments after a day on the water.
22 – Head over to Mindil Beach
People flock to this shoreline in the Darwin suburb of The Gardens for a perfect sunset view in the central business district.
It also hosts the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets during the dry season between May and October. With over 200 stalls of local craft and produce, as well as live entertainment, the markets are open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays.
23 – Unwind at Darwin Trailer Boat Club
Darwin’s oldest seaside club that began in 1958, the Darwin Trailer Boat Club faces west, which makes it a perfect place to watch the sun go down after a day of fishing or sailing around the shoreline.
The food on offer is all inspired by local produce and fresh fish, making it a great spot for dinner or lunch.
24 – Fly above Kakadu on an airplane tour
The landscape of Kakadu National Park is so expansive that sometimes it is best experienced from the air.
Hop on an airplane tour that soars over the millions of years old terrain, and spots the flowing waters of Jim Jim Falls and the rocky cliffs of Arnhem Land.
For as low as $170 AUD, feel like a bird, while listening to the knowledge that your pilot shares with you. Private and non-private tours are available.
25 – Meet the local animals at Territory Wildlife Park
Regarded as the most comprehensive collection of local wildlife in the Northern Territory, this park has habitats that are open to the public.
You can walk through the aviary and wander through the lagoon, watching the animals move past you.
From native fish, the Australian Pelican, and the Darwin Carpet Python, to learning about nocturnal animals, everyone from children to adults will enjoy the fascinating animals living at the Territory Wildlife Park.
26 – Find some local art at the Aboriginal Fine Arts Gallery
If you want to know more about the indigenous people of Australia, check out their visual art housed at the Aboriginal Fine Arts Gallery.
The aboriginal people have been producing art for over 40,000 years, so you’ll find a rich artistic history if you pay this gallery a visit. You can also purchase any of the pieces as a traditional souvenir.
27 – Stop by Saint Mary’s Cathedral
Built in honor of Australian soldiers in World War II in 1958, Saint Mary’s Cathedral is one of the centers of Christianity in Darwin, as well as a war memorial to allied soldiers during the wars.
If you love history and architecture, stopping by and seeing the huge collection of stained glass windows is one of the best things to do in Darwin.
28 – Have High Tea in the garden at Eva’s Botanical Garden’s Cafe
Offering a myriad of delectable pastries, sandwiches, wraps, soups, and more, surrounded by the bountiful botany of the gardens, a meal at Eva’s Botanical Garden’s Cafe is anything but average.
After your meal, explore the space amply to find an amphitheater and the visitor center with exhibits showcasing native flora and fauna of the Northern Territory.
The cafe can be found inside George Brown Botanic Gardens.
29 – Walk around Bicentennial Park
For those looking to work up a sweat, Bicentennial Park has plenty of public exercise equipment, as well as great walking and cycling trails. Children can enjoy the
Be sure to stop by the USS Peary Memorial which pays tribute to the sunken USS Peary ship destroyed in 1942. The memorial consists of a plaque as well as one of the guns recovered from the shipwreck.
30 – Take a dip at Tjuwaliyn (Douglas) Hot Springs
Located in the northern part of the Tijuwaliyn Hot Springs provides relaxing warm bathing experiences to tourists, with wildlife found along the Douglas River. If you want to experience this nature preserve more, camping is available on site. You can truly escape the chaos of the city and unwind in the Australian outback.
The traditional owners of the area — the Wagiman people — still perform ceremonies around here, so you might be able to learn about the native culture as well!
31 – Discover the outback on a camping safari
If you hop on a three-day 4WD tour around Darwin, you’ll be taken to Litchfield, Kakadu and Yellow Water Billabong.
You’ll cover a lot of ground and immerse in the beauty of the Northern Territory, as you camp, swim in waterfalls and see indigenous art.
3-4 day safari excursions are available to venture onto the rugged nature of the Northern Territory, for your own choosing.
32 – See Darwin from the sky and water on an airboat
Riding an aircraft that can also travel on the water can be a great way to see Darwin from all angles. On an airboat tour, you can fly over the rocky terrain before plunging down and traveling alongside the crocodiles on the water. The trip lasts an hour and heads out from the convenient location of Stokes Hill Wharf.
Many airboat experiences include a BBQ buffet and drinks to enjoy onboard.
33 – Make a splash at Palmerston Water Park
A public water play facility with free admission, Palmerston Water Park has a 14-meter high racing water slide, a paddling pool for the young ones and plenty of barbecues and picnic areas for lunch.
It’s only an express six-minute train ride out of Darwin, making it an easy stop to make.
The Australian heat is no joke, so make sure to pack sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses!
34 – Jump on a World War II walking tour
In 1942, Darwin was struck by Japanese air raids in the heart of World War II. A walking tour or a boat tour takes you across all the key sites of the raid, as well as teaching you all about Darwin’s role in the war.
Also on a boat tour, you’ll see East Point Military Precinct, which is Australia’s only wartime battleground, WWII Oil Storage Tunnels and other important military sites.
35 – Eat at the best restaurants
Situated in the East Point Nature Reserve, Pee Wee’s at the Point offers extraordinary nature views with incredible dining options.
Down for some wood-fired food? Head to Wharf One Food & Wine. Charlie’s of Darwin is the perfect place for a fancier dinner event, whether you’re there for a hearty dinner, or to drink a crafted cocktail in the lounge.
Hanuman Darwin takes the palette through Indian and Thai flavors, bringing to Darwin an incredible symphony of flavors to every plate.
Try the award-winning Char Restaurant, featuring quality at a variety of price points, and nothing short of scrumptious local foods.
36 – Feed the fish at Aquascene Sanctuary
Aquascene Fish Feeding Sanctuary located on the shoreline of Darwin attracts over 70,000 visitors annually.
Feed the local species of fish, which have grown used to human interaction and are more than happy to come right up to you — and eat right out of the palm of your hand.
To view a fish feeding, make sure to book your tickets in advance on their website, starting at $15 AUD per adult.
37 – Discover the history of flight at Darwin Aviation Museum
Darwin Aviation Museum documents the history of flight and the development of airborne travel in Australia, with displays of planes and historical exhibits.
Learn all about the great air race from 1919 where the Australian Prime Minister offered 10,000 pounds to whoever could manage to make the trip from England to Australia in under 30 days.
Only 8 kilometers from downtown, tickets start at $16 AUD for adults, and for children under 12, $8 AUD.
38 – Fly above Darwin on a helicopter tour
This is the kind of experience where the designated driver is a pilot, who safely flies you across different incredible pubs throughout Darwin, for the ultimate, unique experience!
Helicopter pub crawls have reinvented the traditional pub crawl, by taking you to some of the most remote pubs in the outback, allowing you a glimpse into the rugged nature, while drinking up at the most fascinating pubs, ever.
Snap your photos with the ultimate background, for extra bragging rights.
39 – Play a round of golf
With a lot of open space and countryside, Darwin has plenty of golf courses for players to try out when they are staying in the area.
Palmerston Golf Course has a professional-grade, 18 hole course and pro shop for picking up some golfing gear. Garden Parks Golf Links is famous for its mini-golf course, making it a great family-friendly location. Darwin Golf Club not only has a full 18 hole course but also on-site dining options, providing a full day out.
40 – Explore Charles Darwin National Park
Charles Darwin National Park contains a diverse range of local flora and fauna, as well as Aboriginal and World War II history.
This large nature reserve is home to 36 different species of mangrove trees across the Port Darwin Headland — one of Australia’s most important wetlands. There are also great trails for cycling or walking where you can find many historical sites along the way.
41 – Crack open some champagne on a sunset cruise
This three-hour sunset cruise takes you out from Darwin just as the sun heads down over the horizon.
Watch the sunset from the deck of the yacht or the comfort of the air-conditioned cabin on extra hot evenings. Sparkling wine and snacks are also provided, or you can also bring your own beverages onboard.
Due to its high popularity, make sure to book soon in order to save your spot securely.
42 – Visit the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Located in Bullocky Point in Darwin, the MAGNT is one of the best places to see the creations of local artists. It has a vast collection of cultural and scientific artifacts from the Northern Territory of Australia.
The gallery also has exhibitions that showcase the history of flora and fauna and other scientific discoveries in Darwin.
Check out their events calendar, with occasions where guests can participate in yoga at the beach and children can enjoy outdoor poetry readings.
43 – Let loose at Leanyer Recreation Park
If you want to relax and enjoy your time without spending money, this public park on Vanderlin Drive in the heart of the city can be your best option.
It has water slides, basketball courts and a skate park. There’s also an accessible playground and a walking trail, so everyone will have something to do if you head here!
44 – Catch some dinner on a fishing charter
Darwin has a lot of great fishing spots and getting a fishing charter can help get you there quickly and catch some fresh fish.
You can hop on a 21-foot aluminum boat and be taken to all the best spots around town, with all the equipment needed at your disposal.
Those who want to go all the way, look into booking a multi-day fishing safari from Darwin, for the ultimate fishing experience, available only Februrary-May and September-December.
45 – Drink up the sunset with a cocktail at Zen Rooftop Lounge Darwin
A perfect spot to catch golden hour, Zen Rooftop Lounge Darwin is a hot spot to grab drinks with friends, mingle with locals, and absorb the beauty of Darwin city center from above.
The also family-friendly venue offers a succulent, tropical rooftop garden on its panoramic balcony, with bonus views of Mindil Beach and Frances Bay.
If you’re visiting during Territory Day (July 1st) then you’re in for a treat, as this lounge has a perfect seat to enjoy the fireworks display!
46 – Catch an outdoor film at Deckchair Cinema
At Deckchair Cinema, Darwin’s premier outdoor cinema, you’ll be able to watch all the latest releases, all out in the open under the Australian night sky. The lawn in front of the screen is covered in comfortable deck chairs, making for a relaxing experience.
Be sure to check the program for when you’re in town.
Feel like a movie star and book tickets for the Darwin International Film Festival, taking place here in September 2023.
47 – Try your luck at Mindil Beach Casino
A popular destination for those seeking an exciting night out in Darwin, Mindil Beach Casino Resort has over 600 gaming machines, as well as a large number of table games to play.
The casino is open seven days from 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. and offers accommodation, a spa and plenty of dining options for those wanting to stay at the beachside resort.
48 – Have dinner at Cullen Bay Marina
The Cullen Bay Marina, located just 2 kilometers from Darwin’s central business district, is where more than 250 vessels moor overnight.
Hosting some of the city’s best restaurants, it’s a great place to take yourself out for dinner and watch the sunset over the boats on the water.
Better yet, grab your food to go and plop yourself in green spaces facing the water for a true pinch-me moment.
49 – Hop aboard a dinner cruise
A dinner cruise around Darwin combines the great scenery, picturesque sunset and fresh seafood all in one activity.
The dinner aboard the vessel is four courses, with everything from local Northern Territory banana prawns to freshly caught fish. You can also bring your own drinks with ice and glasses provided by the hosts!
Whether you purchase your drinks aboard or you BYO, find a cozy spot on the multi-level boat to catch your perfect view of golden hour.
50 – Spend a night out at Mitchell Street bars and nightclubs
Mitchell Street is the center of nightlife in Darwin, with a high concentration of bars and nightclubs.
This area hosts the best places to go to after the hot sun has set and you need to unwind, including The Precinct Tavern which has 44 beers on tap and Discovery Nightclub which has three levels of dance floors and DJ booths.
51 – Watch a production at Browns Mart Theatre
This traditional black-box style theater holds shows all year round, focusing on showcasing local Darwin artists and talent.
With its intimate capacity between 81 to 136 seats, Browns Mart Theatre has shown from traditional plays to indigenous storytelling.
The theater is deeply intentional in highlighting Aboriginal talent and stories, so make sure to check their events calendar to be in the know for an upcoming show that catches your eye.
52 – Soak up local culture at the Darwin Entertainment Centre
The Darwin Entertainment Centre has hosted a bulk of the theater and shows put on in the city. It also holds the Darwin Fringe Festival, as well as concerts from the Darwin Symphony Orchestra.
While you’re in the area, visit the neighboring Shenannigans Pub which serves traditional Irish food along with live music most nights of the week!
How to get to Darwin?
Not sure how to get to your hotel from Darwin International Airport? With a variety of options to choose from including shuttles, rideshares, and public transport – private airport transfers are a great option to choose above the rest.
Airport transfers offer privacy, ease of mind, and less stress when arriving at the busy arrivals gate. Once landing, you’re ride will be awaiting you.
Where to stay in Darwin?
Stay close to the best restaurants in Darwin and shops at Smith Street Mall when you stay at Oaks Darwin Elan Hotel. Featuring spacious, clean, and open hotel rooms, enjoy private balconies with panoramic views of the city, and the airport only a 10-minute drive away.
Perfect for families who may want access to a kitchen, a stay at Capitanos is a great option, especially considering its outstanding location in downtown Darwin. Work on your tan on the rooftop sun terrace, or walk over to Mindil Beach not too far away.
For budget travelers and lovers of a good deal, you cannot beat Argus Hotel Darwin, offering visitors a beautiful hotel space, with a large outdoor (covered) pool, bright, open hotel rooms, and a 24-hour front desk. Enjoy the complimentary breakfast served daily, before heading out on your adventures, starting with the Darwin Entertainment Center, a few blocks away.
Where to go next?
After exploring Darwin and all it has to offer, be sure to check off some other Australian destinations by reading up on all the best places to visit in Australia.
Though a trip to Sydney and Melbourne are some of the most famous stops in Australia, there are a few other destinations not so commonly mentioned worth visiting.
Venture into one of the most important destinations when it comes to Aboriginal culture and history, Arnhem Land. Located northeast of Darwin, some 583 kilometers, this sacred land has ample opportunities to explore the remarkable wall paintings and local wildlife, including wallabies and dingoes.
The only way to visit Arnhem Land is via a certified tour experience, otherwise going on your own requires a few extra steps.
Don’t stop at Arnhem Land when thinking of other potential day trip options from Darwin, with many multi-day trips offered. Visit places like the Kakadu Outback or camping safaris throughout Darwin.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the best things to do in Darwin, and most importantly, that you’ve got a few ideas to add to your Darwin itinerary.
From the incredible Kakadu National Park (not to mention the wildlife!) to the ever-present and fascinating Aboriginal culture throughout the city. Darwin is a must-visit destination that will leave you wanting more.