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10 Unexpected Travel Experiences in Darwin

29th July 2016

Darwin may be our smallest capital city, but as a travel destination it’s packed full of surprises. Firm favourites like the redeveloped Waterfront, Mindil Beach Sunset Market and the excellent Museum and Art Gallery of the NT are a must, but here are some options for your Top End ‘to do list’ that you might not have considered…

Book a BBQ at the NT’s best restaurant

Asian cuisine features strongly in Darwin’s dynamic culinary scene. Innovation and creativity abound and nowhere is that more apparent than at Little Miss Korea, winner of Best Restaurant in the NT in the Financial Review’s Top 100 Australian Restaurants for 2016. Housed in a former supermarket loading dock, this superb eatery is entered off graffiti-encrusted Austin Lane. Enjoy traditional Korean BBQ or a mouthwatering selection from the a la carte menu.

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Nosh at Little Miss Korea, The Financial Review's Best Restaurant in the Northern Territory
Nosh at Little Miss Korea, the 'Best Restaurant in the Northern Territory'. Photo: Little Miss Korea

Take a Barramundi cooking class

You’ll find Barramundi on many a menu across the Top End, but what you may not realise is that the Barra is actually Indigenous bush tucker. Traditionally it’s wrapped in paperbark and roasted over hot coals, but for a more modern take, join a Barramundi group cooking class at Wharf One Food & Wine on the Darwin Waterfront. Wharf One is one of Darwin’s premier modern Oz eateries and the resident chefs share their secrets on preparing, cooking and serving this iconic fish.

Pay a visit to Paris, Top End style

Darwin may well seem a million miles from the French capital (13,804km to be exact), but in the courtyard of the historic Victoria Hotel, off the Darwin Mall, you will actually find the NT’s own little piece of Parisian glamour. With its French salon inspired décor, The Pearl Darwin offers a contemporary menu with a Francophile twist. Book well in advance for the three course prix fixe lunch menu on Fridays.

Pull up a deckchair for the director’s cut

For film lovers, the Darwin Film Society’s hugely popular Deckchair Cinema is a must. Situated on the edge of Darwin Harbour, Deckchair Cinema screens a mix of mainstream, arthouse and foreign releases seven nights a week during The Dry. Settle in from 6.30 to watch the sunset, before enjoying the evening’s cinematic offering. Check the website for special events and Q&As.

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People enjoy a sunset at one of many Darwin Harbour watering holes
Enjoy a sunset champagne at one of many Darwin Harbour watering holes. Photo - Getty Images

Enjoy a champagne sunset

There’s a reason Darwin turns on such spectacularly fiery sunsets during The Dry. It’s all thanks to smoke haze from the controlled burning of the savannah spear grass. Deep reds and vivid oranges ignite the twilight sky. Perhaps the best place for an unobstructed view is on Darwin Harbour. Sail Darwin offers a three-hour sunset dinner cruise, including bubbly and a tasty tapas-style menu.

For foodies: Fresh Food Ideas in Multicultural Darwin

For nature lovers: True Wilderness in Australia's Northern Territory

Take a pearl appreciation class

Shopping for pearl bling has always been a popular tourist pastime in Darwin. Commercial pearling here dates back to the late 1800s, but by the middle of the 20th century, overfishing had led to a steep decline in natural production. Today cultured pearls are the name of the game and The Pearl Galleria on the waterfront offers a complimentary pearl appreciation class every Wednesday morning at 11. Call ahead to reserve your spot.

Frock up for the Darwin Cup

For those with a passion for fashion, time your visit to coincide with the Darwin Cup carnival in July and a glimpse of the Territorian fashionistas that descend on Fannie Bay Racecourse. Fashions on the Field is very serious business here, not least of all because the winner gets automatic qualification into the preliminary finals of the exclusive Melbourne Cup Fashions on the Field at Flemington. Expect all manner of haute couture hijinks.

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Indigenous Australian Art at the Injalak Art centre
Buy straight from the artist at Injalak Art. Photo: Adam Ford

Shop for Indigenous art in Arnhem Land

There are plenty of options for purchasing Indigenous art in Darwin, but in most cases you’ll be dealing with a middleman who is probably taking a hefty cut. Injalak Arts is a community-owned Aboriginal art cooperative located in the Arnhem Land settlement of Gunbalanya around 300km east of Darwin. Top End Day Tours offers a day trip out to the settlement and a guided walking tour of sacred rock art sites with one of the local artists.

Go croc spotting at Corroboree

When it comes to wetland cruises spectacular Kakadu gets most of the attention. But if you only have limited time, the Corroboree Billabong 90 minutes east of Darwin is just as magnificent. Join a day tour with Wetland Cruises and enjoy around 2.5 hours cruising the tranquil 40km billabong with its prolific birdlife and of course, resident saltwater and freshwater crocodiles.

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Underwater shot of people swimming with giant crocodiles at Crocosaurus Cove
Experience an unforgettable swim with giant salt water crocodiles! Photo: Crocosaurus Cove

Get up close and personal with a hungry salty

It’s estimated that 100,000 saltwater crocodiles roam the Top End and Crocosaurus Cove is the place to learn more about these prehistoric predators. Located right in the heart of Darwin’s Mitchell Street, a visit here can be a heart stopping affair for those who take the plunge in the rather colourfully named Cage of Death. Be lowered into a croc enclosure in a Perspex tube with up to 1,000kgs of hungry salty at feeding time.