Darwin – a modern gateway to Australia’s ‘Top End’ -enjoys a relaxed, tropical lifestyle and is an ideal base for visits to such spectacular World Heritage areas as Kakadu National Park. Darwin offers a range of attractions and activities to visitors that include the following. East Point Military Museum depicts World War II activities in the Northern Territory, Asia and Europe. Visitors can see footage of the Japanese bombing of Darwin in 1942 and re-live the terrifying moments of the first attack by a powerful enemy force on the Australian mainland. Other displays include the historic ‘gunners’ artillery pieces, photos and memorabilia.
Fannie Bay Gaol Museum houses the old gallows used for the last execution in the Northern Territory in 1952. The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory houses a fine collection of work by major Australian artists, an outstanding collection of Aboriginal art, and South-East Asian and Oceanic artworks and objects of cultural and archaeological significance. There are also natural science and maritime galleries and a Northern Territory history gallery concentrating on cyclone Tracy which devastated Darwin in December 1974.
The Australian Aviation Heritage Centre, 15 kilometres from Darwin, displays the city’s aviation history with exhibits that include a B52 bomber, a B25 Mitchell bomber, a Spitfire replica, a Sabre jet and other aircraft. Videos of the war years in Darwin can be viewed.
Aquascene in Doctors Gully Road provides a daily fish-feeding ritual. The tide brings in milkfish, catfish, mullet, bream and many other varieties of fish to be fed by hand. It opens only at feeding times and the hours vary with the tides, to a maximum of three hours a day. Indo Pacific Marine, at The Wharf precinct, combines the brilliant natural eco-systems of coral reef with informative talks and demonstrations. Tours at night feature fluorescing corals.
Darwin Sunset: Just outside of Darwin is the Territory Wildlife Park, Berry Springs, displays wildlife of the Northern Territory in natural surroundings. Visitors may tour the park by train or use walking trails. There are many special displays featuring birds of prey, fish feeding in the underwater aquarium tunnel, and pelican feeding at the wader lagoon.
The Darwin Crocodile Farm is located on the Stuart Highway at Noonamah, 40 kilometres from Darwin. There are crocodile-feeding displays and guided tours. The farm is laid out in park-like grounds, with billabongs (waterholes) and lakes accommodating thousands of animals. There’s a kiosk, souvenirs that include crocodile-skin products, and a picnic area.
A great outdoor venue is the Darwin Botanic Gardens, a wonderland for nature lovers, set in a beautifully landscaped site. Of special interest are The Plant Display House, which contains plant species from the Asia/Pacific region, and a tropical palm collection. You can also soak up the local colour at one of the markets such as Mindil Beach Markets held every Thursday and Sunday night from April until October. Take a harbour cruise to explore mangroves, beaches and World War II sunken ships.
Nightlife in Darwin includes the MGM Grand Darwin casino set in tropical gardens, on the edge of the golden sands of Mindil Beach, only three minutes from Darwin’s city centre. It provides four-star accommodation, extensive entertainment options, dining choices and recreation facilities in and around the complex.
Also in the Darwin region are a number of National Parks. Litchfield National Park, 120 kilometres and a two-hour drive south of Darwin, offers a true taste of the Top End. This is an area of rocky escarpments, four spectacular waterfalls which plunge from the plateau’s edge, safe swimming holes, rainforest beauty and varied wildlife.
Kakadu National Park, 252 kilometres east of Darwin, is a World Heritage area in a rugged country of magnificent escarpments, vast wetlands teeming with wildlife and ancient rock art. There are wonderful swimming holes and waterfalls at Jim Jim Falls and nearby Twin Falls. All kinds of accommodation are available including the crocodile-shaped Gagudju Crocodile Hotel. Cruises operate along the East Alligator River and Yellow Waters Billabong.
Cobourg Peninsula, 350 kilometres north-east of Darwin, is a pristine wilderness rich in Aboriginal culture and relics from Macassan trading days. The appeal of the place includes the wildlife, sandy beaches, skin diving in clear waters.
To experience Aboriginal culture, visit Bathurst and Melville Islands, 80 kilometres north of Darwin. The islands – home of the Tiwi Aborigines for thousands of years – offer an opportunity not only to learn about Tiwi culture but to join in their activities. Colourful Tiwi fabrics and arts and crafts can be bought there. The islands can be visited on a guided tour, which includes a short flight from Darwin.
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