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Darwin lies along the northwest coast of the Northern Territory. It is a city which is isolated by the Australian desert. An important event in Darwin’s history was in 1974 when Cyclone Tracy swept across the coast destroying more than 50% of Darwin's buildings and taking nearly 70 lifes. Darwin is now the capital and is the largest city of the Northern Territory, offering many sights from the colonial past, excellent shopping and many different dining opportunities. During the colonial times, this area was sought by the French, Dutch and British, and was eventually established as the town of Darwin in 1869. The city was named after naturalist Charles Darwin who stopped here during his historic voyage aboard the M.S. Beagle. In 1942, the city came under the threat of a Japanese attack forcing the establishment of a major Australian military base. During the Second World War the Japanese bombed the city on several occasions, taking more than 240 lives. Darwin is very different from the other state capitals. There are no skyscrapers. It's more like a rural city. There is a outback atmosphere which is very laidback. Because it is so close to Indonesia the Asian influences are very noticable, and don't bother bringing a jacket and tie here. Shorts and sandals will get you most places even the swankiest official state invitations stipulate dress as "Territory Rig," meaning long pants and a short-sleeved open-neck shirt for men.
 
The Darwin waterfront underwent a major redevelopment in 2009, with a new shopping and recreation precinct springing up near Stokes Wharf, looking out to the Arafura Sea. A large lagoon, wave pool, new hotels, high-rise residential apartments, restaurants, and shops are linked to the city center by a covered, elevated walkway through a corridor of bushland. Some locals think the advent of high-rise buildings -- also springing up within the city itself -- will alter the face of Darwin forever. Whether it will change the city's character as well, only time will tell. For the moment, it's still relaxed and very casual. Don't bother bringing a jacket and tie; shorts and sandals will be acceptable most places -- even the swankiest invitations stipulate "Territory Rig" dress, meaning long pants and a short-sleeved open-neck shirt for men.
 
Darwin is most commonly used as a gateway to Kakadu National Park, Katherine Gorge, and the Kimberley, and many Australians have never bothered to visit it -- or at least not for long. And that's a shame, because it is an attractive and interesting place. Give yourself a day or two to wander the pleasant streets and parklands, see the wildlife attractions, and discover some of the city's rich history. Then take time for some wetlands fishing, or shop for Aboriginal art and the Top End's South Sea pearls. An easy day trip is Litchfield National Park, one of the Territory's best-kept secrets, boasting waterfalls that you'd usually only see in vacation brochures to swim under.
 
Darwin is most commonly used as a gateway to Kakadu National Park, Katherine Gorge, and the Kimberley, and many Australians have never bothered to visit it or at least not for long. And that's a real shame, because it is an attractive and interesting place. Give yourself a day or two to wander the pleasant streets and parklands, visit the wildlife attractions, and discover some of the city's rich history. Then take time for some wetlands fishing in outlying regions, or shop for Aboriginal art and the Top End's South Sea pearls. An easy day trip is Litchfield National Park, one of the Territory's best-kept secrets, boasting the kind of beautiful waterfalls to swim under that you only see on holiday brochures.
 
Where You are Docked
Cruise ships dock at Fort Hill Wharf. Paid shuttles are provided dropping off in front of the visitor's centre but you can easily walk (if you can stand the heat) using a public elevator to get up the hill.
A new Darwin cruise ship terminal has been built for the increasing cruise passenger numbers as the convention centre and waterfront developments make Darwin an even more attractive destination. Cruise lines may provide shuttle service in this port.
Helicopter flights from the terminal to the spectacular waterfalls and national parks of the Top End are available from North Australian Helicopters. Darwin is a popular destination. Passenger numbers from cruise ships increased steadily from 2007 to 2015 and there are an increasing number
of visits scheduled for 2016.
 
Getting Around
By Foot: The walk to town takes about 15 minutes. Once there, the center is walkable in about 20 minutes, from end to end.
By Taxi: Taxis will be available at the pier, and a ride to the city center should cost about $8.
By Bus: Cruise lines may run a shuttle bus for the short distance into town. The bus terminal for the local Darwin bus is located along Harry Chan Place, off Smith Street, at the end of the main shopping street, near the port. Timetables are available, and drivers do make change. A single ticket ($2) allows three hours of travel -- enough for a roundtrip to some destinations. All-day passes are also available ($5). The Darwin Airport Shuttle meets all flights and provides direct transfers to all hotels.
By Car: Driving is on the left, as in Britain, and the area's roads are well-maintained. Car rental agencies give good value for three to five people. Try Hertz (corner of Smith and Daly Streets), Europcar (77 Cavenagh Street and Darwin Airport) and Advance Car Rentals (86 Mitchell Street).
 
Attractions
 
Empty World War II oil storage tunnels (tel. 08/8985 6322), on Kitchener Drive, in the Wharf Precinct, house a collection of black-and-white photographs of the war in Darwin, each lit up in the dark. The simple but haunting attraction is worth a visit. Admission is A$5 adults and A$3 children. The tunnels are closed in December and February. They open daily from 9am to 4pm May through September and 9am to 1pm Tuesday through Sunday and public holidays October through April.
 
Even if you are not a military or aircraft buff, you may enjoy the excellent Australian Aviation Heritage Centre, 557 Stuart Hwy., Winnellie (tel. 08/8947 2145; www.darwinsairwar.com.au). A B-52 bomber on loan from the United States is the prized exhibit, but the center also boasts a B-25 Mitchell bomber; Mirage and Sabre jet fighters; rare Japanese Zero fighter wreckage; and funny, sad, and heartwarming (and heart-wrenching) displays on World War II and Vietnam. Hours are daily from 9am to 5pm (closed Good Friday and Dec 25). Admission is A$12 for adults, A$9 for seniors, A$7.50 for students, A$7 for children 11 and under, and A$30 for families. Guided tours are at 10am. The Heritage Centre is 10 minutes from town; take the no. 5 or 8 bus.
 
For an insight into Darwin's pearling industry, visit the Australian Pearling Exhibition (tel. 08/8999 6573), on Kitchener Drive near the Wharf Precinct. It has displays following the industry from the days of the lugger and hard-hat diving to modern farming and culture techniques. It's open from 10am to 3pm daily; closed December 25 to February 28. Tickets cost A$6.60 for adults, A$3.30 for children, and A$17 for families of five.
 
If you have an evening free, get out on the harbor. Australian Harbour Cruises (tel. 0428/414 000 mobile phone; www.australianharbourcruises.com.au) offers 3-hour sunset cruises aboard the restored lugger Anniki. They leave Cullen Bay Marina daily at 4:45pm and cost A$70 for adults and A$50 for kids 15 and under. The price includes a glass of bubbly and some nibbles. Darwin Harbour Cruises (tel. 08/8942 3131; www.darwinharbourcruises.com.au) operates a sunset champagne cruise aboard the sailing schooner Tumlaren, which costs A$70 per adult and A$45 for children 2 to 12. A sit-down four-course dinner cruise aboard the Alfred Nobel costs A$110 adults and A$65 children 2 to 12. Cruises leave from Cullen Bay Marina.
 
The Top End's wetlands and warm oceans are fishing heaven. The big prey is barramundi, or "barra." Loads of charter boats conduct jaunts of up to 10 days in the river and wetland systems around Darwin, Kakadu National Park, and into remote Arnhemland.
 
The same company that runs Darwin's Tour Tub bus runs the Northern Territory Fishing Office (tel. 1800/632 225 in Australia, or 08/8985 6333; www.ntfishingoffice.com.au), a booking agent for a number of fishing charter boats offering barramundi day trips and extended wetland safaris, reef fishing, light tackle sportfishing, fly-fishing, and estuary fishing. A day's barra fishing on wetlands near Darwin will cost around A$320 per person; for an extended barra safari, budget between A$550 and A$825 per person per day, depending on the size of your group (up to five people). If you simply want to cast a line in Darwin Harbour for trevally, queenfish, and barra, the company will take you out for A$110 per person (or A$95 for kids under 12) for a half-day. It also rents skipper-yourself fishing boats and tackle. Also check out the fishing section on www.travelnt.com for detailed information on fishing tours, guides, and everything you need to know to make your arms ache from reeling 'em in!
 
East Point Reserve:
This spit of undeveloped bushland north of Fannie Bay is good to visit in the late afternoon when the wallabies come out to feed. A cool breeze usually springs up as you watch the sun set across the bay. There's also a salt-water, jellyfish-free lake where swimming is possible all year round.

Indo-Pacific Marine & Australian Pearling Exhibition:
This excellent aquarium displays living coral ecosystems and an array of exotic creatures associated with coral, such as sea horses, clown fish and butterfly fish. Housed in the same building is the Pearling Exhibition, which deals with the history of the pearling industry and has informative audiovisual displays.

Mindil Beach Market:
People begin arriving at Mindil Beach market around dusk on Thursday and Sunday nights during the dry season. They bring tables, chairs, rugs, grog and kids and settle under the coconut palms to watch the sunset and decide which of the tantalising food-stall aromas has the greatest allure. Thai, Sri Lankan, Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Greek and Portuguese meals and snacks are all available. There are also cake stalls, fruit-salad bars, handicraft stalls, and sometimes entertainment in the form of a band or street theatre.

Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory:
The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Conacher Street, Bullocky Point (tel. 08/8999 8201), also holds an attraction for crocodile fans the preserved body of Sweetheart, a 5m (16-ft.) man-eating saltwater croc captured in Kakadu National Park. The museum and gallery is a great place to learn about Darwin's place in Australia's modern history. It has sections on Aboriginal, Southeast Asian, and Pacific art and culture, and a maritime gallery with a pearling lugger and other boats that have sailed into Darwin from Indonesia and other northern parts. A highlight is the Cyclone Tracey gallery, where you can stand in a small, dark room as the sound of the cyclone rages around you. Gallery and museum are open from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday, and 10am to 5pm weekends and public holidays; closed Christmas, Boxing Day (Dec 26), New Year's Day, and Good Friday. The cafe has lovely bay views. Admission is free to the permanent exhibits. Take bus no. 4 or 6.
Darwin Crocodile Farm:
The Darwin Crocodile Farm, 40km (25mi) south of the city, has around 8000 estuarine (saltwater) and freshwater crocodiles. When a croc is taken out of one of the Territory's waterways, this is usually where it ends up. But don't imagine they're here out of human charity - this is a farm, not a rest home, and around 2000 of the beasts are killed each year for their skins and meat (you can find croc steaks and burgers on menus all over Darwin). Get here in the early afternoon for feeding time, if you can. If you don't have your own car, there are plenty of day tours to the farm running from Darwin.

Crocodylus Park:
A small crocodile museum (tel. 08/8922 4500), a 15-minute drive from town at 815 McMillan's Rd., Berrimah (opposite the police station), holds croc-feeding sessions and free, guided tours at 10am, noon, 2 and 3:30pm. It also doubles as Darwin's zoo, with exotic species including lions, Bengal tigers, and monkeys on display. It's open daily from 9am to 5pm (closed Christmas). Admission is A$22 (US$14) for adults, A$18 (US$12) for seniors, A$11 (US$7.15) for children 4 to 15, and A$57 (US$37) for a family of four. Take bus no. 5 (Mon-Fri only) or the park shuttle bus (tel. 08/8928 1100) that costs A$35 (US$23) adults or A$90 (US$59) family for return transport from the city and park entrance.

Howard Springs:
This crocodile-free swimming hole is a very pleasant spot, surrounded by forest. It's about 35km (22mi) east of the city and makes a great break from the heat, but it can get uncomfortably crowded at weekends. Nevertheless, it's a good spot for an excursion, and there are short walking tracks and lots of bird life. You can see all sorts of fish and turtles, and tame wallabies graze around the springs.

Litchfield National Park:
It's a way out of town, but this 650 sq km (254 sq mi) national park is well worth a visit. The park, 140km (85mi) south of Darwin, encompasses much of the Tabletop Range, a wide sandstone plateau surrounded by cliffs. Four waterfalls, which drop off the edge of this plateau, and their surrounding rainforest patches are the park's main attractions. The swimming holes at the bottom of these waterfalls are beautiful spots for a dip. You can camp at the park, and there are cruises of the Reynolds River system that runs through the park. You can either take your own car to Litchfield, or go on an organised tour from Darwin.
 
Litchfield National Park, located 75 miles south of Darwin, encompasses 360,000 acres and is noted for waterfalls cascading from escarpments into plunge pools (some, a swimmer's delight), deep prehistoric-looking forests and thousands of six-foot-high termite mounds. There are numerous marked walking trails for short and long hikes. Admission is free. Take the Stuart Highway south, and turn off the road to Batchelor.

The Esplanade:
Makes a pleasantly short and shady saunter, and the 42-hectare (104-acre) George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens (tel. 08/8981 1958), on Gardens Road 2km (1 1/4 mile) from town, has paths through palms, orchids, every species of baobab in the world, and mangroves. Entry is free. Take bus no. 4 or 6; the buses drop you at the Gardens Road entrance, but you might want to walk straight to the visitor center (open 8.30am-4pm daily) near the Geranium Street entrance (open 24 hr.) to pick up self-guiding maps to the Aboriginal plant-use trails.

Fannie Bay:
From the MGM Grand to the East Point Military Museum is also worth doing. Keep a lookout for some of the 2,000 wild wallabies on the east side of the road near the museum.

Territory Wildlife Park:
Darwin has two wildlife parks worth visiting at the 61km (38 miles) south of Darwin at Berry Springs, you can take a free shuttle or walk 6km (3 3/4 miles) of bush trails to see native Northern Territory wildlife in wonderfully re-created natural habitats including monsoon rainforest boardwalks, lagoons with hides (shelters for watching birds), a walk-through aviary, a walk-through aquarium housing sting rays and sawfish, and a nocturnal house with marsupials such as the bilby. Bats, birds, spiders, crocs, frill-neck lizards, kangaroos, and other creatures also make their home here (but not koalas, because they don't live in the Territory). A program of animal talks runs throughout the day. The best is the birds of prey show, at 10am and 3pm. Go first thing to see the animals at their liveliest, and allow 4 hours to see everything, plus 45 minutes traveling time. Open daily from 8:30am to 6pm (last entry at 4pm), and closed Christmas. Admission is A$18 (US$12) for adults, A$9 (US$5.85) for students and children 5 to 16, and A$40 (US$26) for a family. Take the Stuart Highway for 50km (31 miles) and turn right onto the Cox Peninsula Road for another 11km (7 miles). If you don't have your own wheels, the cheapest way to get there is aboard the Rainbow Down the Track and Back (tel. 08/8948 4248) bus service that runs direct to the park for A$25 (US$16) per person, round-trip, half price for kids under 5. It departs from the McCafferty's/Greyhound Pioneer coach terminal at 67-69 Mitchell St. (behind the Darwin YHA hostel). Call for schedule details.

East Point Military Museum:
East Point Road, East Point (tel. 08/8981 9702; www.epmm.com.au), housed in a World War II gun command post, plays a video of the 1942 to 1943 Japanese bombings and has small but fine displays of photos, memorabilia, artillery, armored vehicles, weaponry old and new, and gun emplacements outside. Open daily from 9:30am to 5pm (closed Christmas and Good Friday). Admission is A$10 (US$6.50) adults, A$9 (US$5.85) seniors, A$5 (US$3.25) children, and A$28 (US$18) family.

Australian Aviation Heritage Centre:
[ST], 557 Stuart Hwy., Winnellie (tel. 08/8947 2145). A B-52 bomber on loan from the United States is the prized exhibit, but the center also boasts a B-25 Mitchell bomber, Mirage and Sabre jet fighters, rare Japanese Zero fighter wreckage, and funny, sad, and heart-warming (and heart-wrenching) displays on World War II and Vietnam. Hours are daily from 9am to 5pm (closed Christmas and Good Friday). Admission is A$11 (US$7.15) for adults, A$8 (US$5.20) for seniors and students, A$6 (US$3.90) for children 6 to 12, and A$28 (US$18) for a family. Guided tours are at 10am, 2pm and 4pm. The Centre is 10 minutes from town; take the no. 5 or 8 bus.

The Australian Pearling Exhibition:
(tel. 08/8999 6573) on Kitchener Drive near the Wharf Precinct. It has displays following the industry from the days of the lugger and hard-hat diving to modern farming and culture techniques. It's open from 10am to 5pm daily, except Good Friday, Christmas, Boxing Day (Dec 26) and New Year's Day. Tickets cost A$6.60 (US$4.30) adults, A$3.30 (US$2.15) children, and A$17 (US$11) family of five. And if you've got an evening free, get out on the harbor with Darwin Pearl Lugger Cruises (tel. 08/8942 3131). For A$46 (US$30) adults (kids half price), you can spent about 3 hours aboard the lugger Kim, built in 1953 and now restored to take up to 30 guests on sunset cruises, which leave Cullen Bay Marina daily at 5:15pm. They even throw in a free glass of bubbly and some nibbles, and you can buy more drinks.

Darwin's Beaches:
Darwin has plenty of beaches, but you'd be wise to keep out of the water during the wet season because of the deadly box jellyfish. Popular beaches include Mindil and Vestey's. In north Darwin there's a stinger net protecting part of Nightcliff Beach. A stretch of the 7km (4mi) Casuarina Beach further east is officially designated for nudies.he Top End's wetlands and warm oceans are fishing heaven. The big prey is barramundi. Loads of charter boats conduct jaunts of up to 10 days in the river and wetland systems around Darwin, Kakadu National Park, and into remote Arnhemland. The same company that runs Darwin's Tour Tub bus also runs the Northern Territory Fishing Office (tel. 08/8985 6333; www.ntfishingoffice.com.au), a booking agent for a number of fishing charter boats offering barramundi day trips and extended wetland safaris, reef fishing, light tackle sportfishing, fly fishing, and estuary fishing. A day's barra fishing on wetlands near Darwin will cost you around A$250 (US$163) per person; for an extended barra safari, budget about A$420 (US$273) per person per day. If you simply want to cast a line in Darwin Harbour for trevally, queenfish, and barra, they will take you out for A$75 (US$49) per person for a half day, or A$135 (US$88) per person for a full day. They also rent skipper-yourself fishing boats and tackle. Check out www.fishingtheterritory.com for detailed information on fishing tours, guides and everything you need to know to make your arms ache from reeling 'em in!
 
Darwin Botanical Gardens, Garden Road, is walkable (just over a mile) from the center of town or reached by buses 4 or 6 from the bus terminal and along Cavenagh Street. The 105 acres are replete with collections of palms, orchids, boab trees and mangroves. The gardens are open daily, and admission is free. Pick up a self-guiding trail map.
 
The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is perhaps the most worthwhile Darwin destination. It's 20 minutes by buses 4 or 6 to Conacher Road and a five-minute walk toward the water. Aboriginal and Indonesian art take up two galleries, and two more hold an amazing collection of preserved Australian birds, mammals and reptiles. See whistling spiders, giant water scorpions, black-headed pythons and Stoke's sea snake, plus Sweetheart, a preserved, 17-foot, man-eating saltwater croc captured in Kakadu National Park. In the Cyclone Tracy gallery, poignant photos and narrated film footage tells the story of the 1974 storm that blew the city apart. The museum is open daily, and admission is free
 
Bicentennial Park, a leafy linear greensward, paralleling the Esplanade and the cliffs overlooking the water, is punctuated by war memorials -- including one to the U.S.S. Peary, an American warship sunk nearby during World War II.
 
Eating Out
Cullen Bay Marina, a half-hour walk or a short taxi ride from the city center, has a seafront and boardwalk, packed with restaurants and cafes. Harbor cruises and fishing trips leave from there as well. Book a taxi for your return. Cullen Bay Marina, a 25-minute walk or a short cab ride from town, is packed with trendy restaurants and cafes. If it's Thursday, don't even think about eating anywhere other than the Mindil Beach Sunset Market. And on Saturday, head to the suburban Parap markets for Asian goodies.
 
Cheap Eats & More!
 
If it's Thursday, join the entire city and hundreds of other visitors at the Mindil Beach Sunset Market to feast at the 60 terrific (and cheap -- most dishes are less than A$10 a serving) Asian, Greek, Italian, African, Mexican, and Aussie food stalls; listen to live music; wander among almost 200 arts-and-crafts stalls; and mix and mingle with masseurs, tarot-card readers, and street performers as the sun sets into the sea. The action runs from 5 to 10pm in the Dry (approximately May-Oct). A smaller market of about 50 stalls runs Sunday from 4 to 9pm. The market's season changes from year to year, so if you're visiting on the seasonal cusp, in April or September, check whether it's on by calling the organizers (tel. 08/8981 3454) or visiting www.mindil.com.au. The beach is about a 20-minute walk or a A$10 cab ride from town, or take bus no. 4. The Tour Tub's last run of the day, at 4pm, goes by the markets, and some hotels provide a shuttle bus.
 
On Saturdays (8am-2pm), head to suburban Parap Markets, which transform a small street into a corner of Asia. The focus is on food, with a sprinkling of arts and crafts, and it's a favorite place for locals to have breakfast or brunch, choosing from the Southeast Asian soups, noodle dishes, and satays, washed down with fresh-squeezed tropical fruit drinks. The market stalls cover only about a block, on Parap Road in Parap (tel. 08/8942 0805 or 0438/882 373 mobile phone).
 
Restaurants in Darwin representing many nationalities and price levels, abound in the city center. Taxes and service are included, though a couple of dollars extra is appreciated. Hanuman, 28 Mitchell Street, with perhaps the most sophisticated atmosphere in town, serves Thai, Tandoori and Chinese/Malaysian fusion cuisine. Main courses range from $20 to $35.
 
Tim's Surf 'n' Turf, 10 Litchfield Street, is tucked away on a side lane in a renovated house, set in a tropical garden. Dining is inside and out under the palms. Food and drink are ordered at a counter and are brought to your table by waiters. Specialties are fresh oysters, crumbed barramundi (a freshwater fish), crocodile schnitzel and Malay curries. Reasonable main course prices range from $12 to $25. Shenannigan's, 69 Mitchell Street, is a bustling indoor/outdoor pub, serving all walks of life and age groups with luscious Irish stews and pies and something called "Taste of the Territory" -- crocodile, kangaroo and barramundi served on a spinach mash. Main courses are $15 to $25
 
Shopping
Shopping was the most common activity for cruise ship passengers and crew, undertaken by over threequarters (77%). Walking around the Darwin city centre (72%) and eating at a local restaurant (41%) were also popular. Take home a touch of the Top End with artworks, fashion and souvenirs from the region's unique boutiques, markets and galleries.
 
Darwin's best buys are Aboriginal art and crafts, pearls, opals, and diamonds.You will find many shops and galleries selling authentic Aboriginal artworks and artifacts at reasonable prices. To make a heavyweight investment in works by internationally sought-after artists, visit the Aboriginal-owned Aboriginal Fine Arts Gallery, on the second floor at the corner of Knuckey and Mitchell streets (tel. 08/8981 1315; www.aaia.com.au). Its website is a useful guide to art and artists.
 
The world's best South Sea pearls are farmed in the Top End seas. Buy, or just drool in the window at Paspaley Pearls, at the Bennet Street end of the Smith Street Mall (tel. 1300/888 080 in Australia or 08/8982 5515; www.paspaleypearls.com). The World of Opal, 52 Mitchell St. (tel. 08/8981 8981), has a re-creation of an opal mine in the showroom. If you fancy a pink diamond (the world's rarest) from the Argyle Diamond Mine in Kununurra, you can get them at Creative Jewellers, 27 Smith St. Mall (tel. 08/8941 1233; www.creativejewellers.com), an Argyle-appointed supplier that buys direct from the mine. It also stocks the champagne diamonds, for which Argyle is renowned, and other Argyle diamond colors, as well as South Sea pearls and opals. The jewelers try to fashion pieces for overseas visitors in a short time to match your traveling schedule.
 
Jokes about "snapping handbags" abound in croc country. For your own croc-skin fashion statement, head to di Croco, in the Paspaley Pearls building in Smith Street Mall (tel. 08/8941 4470; www.dicroco.com). You'll find bags, purses, wallets, card holders, belts, pens, and other accessories, all made from saltwater croc skins farmed locally.



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