How to Spend 72 Hours in Darwin, Australia

Fall in love with the epic Northern Territory capital

Written by: Dave Owen

Darwin, the capital city of Australia’s epic Northern Territory, enjoys an adoring reputation with backpackers, and for good reason. The city itself is packed with exciting things to do, alongside an abundance of job opportunities. It also serves as a base for visiting some of the country’s most incredible natural wonders and Indigenous cultural sites of the so-called Top End.

Even if you’re only here for a short time, there are so many wonderful things to do in Darwin that you’re guaranteed to make memories that will last a lifetime.

mindil beach sunset market

Working in Darwin

Backpacker jobs in Darwin are plentiful, making it a great spot for travellers to settle and top up their budgets. Bar work and hospitality roles, construction, farm work, and many more are available. This makes it easy to properly immerse yourself in the easygoing atmosphere of the city, and gives you the chance to explore everything Darwin has to offer during your days off. Make the most of it!

Adventure

Outback floatplane adventure

The city of Darwin is bounded by some of the most astonishing natural landscapes in Australia (and the world!), and the best way to appreciate it is from the air. A floatplane ride takes your soaring over the sprawling bush, before making a dramatic landing on the placid waters of Sweets Lagoon. From there, you can cruise the area in a fan boat, keeping your eyes peeled for crocodiles and other spectacular wildlife.

Australia North to South – Darwin to Adelaide

From: £1,143 / 14 Days

Between Darwin and Adelaide there’s a lot to see, so be prepared to pack a whole lot into this two-week itinerary. Heading south from the Northern Territory, you’ll be making stops at two of Austr...

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Jet boating

There’s plenty of boating action closer to the city too. There are few thrills like skimming over the waves of Darwin Harbour at 90kph in a jet boat, performing physics-defying spins and twists, the city whipping past alongside you.

Don’t worry, more sedate harbour boat cruises are also available, many serving food and drinks (and not challenging you to keep them down). Head out at sunset for spectacular views.

Day trip to Tiwi Islands

A leisurely ferry ride from Darwin takes you across to the beautiful Tiwi Islands. Most visit Bathurst Island, a modern day Aboriginal community, which offers unique insight into the rich culture and lifestyle of the Tiwi people. You can also visit Melville Island, the second largest in Australia, or take a boat tour around the other, uninhabited, islands.

Day trip to Litchfield National Park

litchfield national park

Litchfield is a must-see of Australia’s Top End, and its location just a short drive from Darwin makes it easy to visit in a single day. Explore the iconic magnetic termite mounds and the otherworldly sandstone pillars of the Lost City, before retreating to one of several stunning waterfalls to cool off in the idyllic crystal clear pools below them.

Darwin Waterfront

Unfortunately it’s recommended you don’t swim in Darwin Harbour, but the Waterfront offers a great alternative in its Recreation Lagoon. This offers water safe for swimming and a natural beach, as well as the Wave Lagoon, where you can play in man-made waves (or sunbathe with a cold drink at the side), all right within the city.

Kakadu Katherine & Litchfield Adventure

From: £740 / 4 Days

Journey into the Northern Territory's rugged Top End on this short but sweet four-day tour. Learn about Indigenous legends and customs during the Top Didj cultural experience, go bird and croc spottin...

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Wildlife

Jumping crocs on the Adelaide River

If you’re in the Northern Territory, you’re probably keen to see a saltwater crocodile. These massive prehistoric predators are an unforgettable sight, and a Jumping Crocodile Cruise gets you within touching distance (though don’t touch them. Seriously). A boat takes you onto the Adelaide River, where crocodiles leap from the water alongside to snatch scraps of meat. Keep your arms in the boat!

Crocosaurus Cove

crocosaurus cove cage of death

If jumping crocks isn’t a close enough encounter for you, how about joining them for a swim? It might sound like insanity, but Crocosaurus Cove in central Darwin is the only place in Australia where you can safely dive with saltwater crocodiles. Step into the ‘Cage of Death’ (don’t worry, it’s just a name) and hang on as it submerges you into a tank alongside four-metre long crocs. We’ve done it – it’s incredible.

Crocosaurus Cove also boasts the largest collection of Australian reptiles in the world, so you can see snakes, lizards, turtles, geckos, and many more.

Culture

Deckchair Cinema

Set against the backdrop of gorgeous Darwin Harbour, the open air cinema operates through the dry season, showing a range of movies to suit any taste. Showings begin at night, so you can kick back in a deckchair with a drink and snack, the stars twinkling overhead, and enjoy a movie like never before.

Outdoor festivals

darwin australia summer festival

A rich programme of outdoor festivals and events runs throughout the year in Darwin, particularly during the dry season. A highlight of the music festival calendar is the annual Bassinthegrass, the largest held in the Northern Territory. You also shouldn’t miss Garrmalang Festival, an awe-inspiring four-day celebration of Indigenous culture.

Food, drink, and nightlife

Mindil Beach Sunset Market

Welcome to street food paradise! Open every Thursday and Sunday night throughout the dry season, Mindil Beach Sunset Market offers a huge range of options for keen foodies – including Aussie tucker, Thai, Chinese, Sri Lankan, and many more – alongside craft stalls and entertainment. Once you’ve chosen your dinner, you can take it onto the beach to eat with the glorious sunset for entertainment. Bliss.

Northern Territory Encompassed Southbound

From: £1,745 / 9 Days

Embark on a Northern Territory adventure, from Darwin to Alice Springs, taking in the region's biggest and best-known drawcards along the way. Head out croc spotting in the Mary River Wetlands and ge...

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Cafes and restaurants

Darwin is packed with cafes and restaurants. Alley Cats, just off Mitchell Street, is a glorious feline-themed cafe offering fresh bakes, brunch, and lunch, while Lola’s Pergola in picturesque Cullen Bay is a quirky carnival-themed restaurant and bar with a wide menu. The proximity of the harbour means fresh seafood (barramundi, anyone?) is plentiful, while Darwin’s ethnic diversity means you’ll find great Chinese, Indian, and Greek restaurants.

A night out on Mitchell Street

Darwin always has a lively backpacker scene, meaning plenty of bars offer cheap drinks and top entertainment. Mitchell Street is the place to be, particularly on weekends. Monsoons is relaxed by day, before transforming into a raucous party at night, with live entertainment seven nights a week. Close by you’ll find Tap on Mitchell, The Trader Bar, and Shenannigans, all offering budget-friendly prices and a great atmosphere for young travellers.

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