People lean over the side of a boat while a large crocodile jumps up from the water to grab a chunk of meat
Photograph: Tourism NT | Shaana McNaught | Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise

The 18 best things to do in Darwin

Looking for things to do in Darwin? You will have a snapping good time swimming with crocs and slurping laksa

Melissa Woodley
Contributor: Melissa Woodley
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We're calling it – Darwin is one of Australia’s best-kept secrets. It’s that far northern city where people put ice in their beer, dodge cyclones and take their life into their hands if they ever step into the sea. And while there is something a little untamed about Australia’s northernmost capital city, that’s what makes it so much fun to visit. 

Whether you’re here to access the majesty of Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, check out the incredible international food scene or just planning to kick back by the water in this tropical paradise while the rest of the country shivers through winter, there’s something in Darwin for everyone. 

RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in Darwin right now.

Best things to do in Darwin

What is it? A wildlife park specialising in the local apex predator in the centre of town.

Why go? Do you dare to enter the cage of death – where you will spend 15 minutes submerged with the ultimate apex predator lurking only metres away – or are you more a feeding a sweet baby crocodile type? You can do both at Crocosaurus Cove in central Darwin. There’s also a pool with glass panels into a crocodile enclosure, and you can attend reptile shows and feeding demonstrations daily.

What is it? A lush and verdant corner of the Northern Territory that often gets forgotten.

Why go? If you’ve got a few days, consider doing a day trip to Litchfield National Park. Just 60 minutes from Darwin, you can drive or get a bus out there year-round from Darwin’s CBD. Entry to the park is free, and there are a bunch of campsites you can stay at. Note: camping is the only accommodation available in Litchfield, so make sure you bring gear. In the dry, you can swim in numerous pristine water holes that are completely croc-safe. In the wet, many of these waterholes and 4WD access roads are closed, but the waterfalls are thundering and fewer tourists are buzzing around, which makes for an entirely different (yet equally spectacular) experience. 

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Maya Skidmore
Contributor
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Saltwater Cultural Tours

What is it? An intimate tour where you'll forge deep connections to our ancient culture and the sea.

Why go? To really learn about the rich and varied stories of Darwin’s traditional custodians, consider doing a day with Larrakia man, Trent Lee, owner of the family-run Saltwater Cultural Tours. You will experience a beautiful Welcome to Country, learn how to throw spears, make fire from scratch, gather and braid natural grasses, and learn all about the intricate stories and natural world that make this land so special. This one is definitely worth your time. 

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Maya Skidmore
Contributor

What is it? A thrilling boat tour where you can see live saltwater crocodiles.

Why go? Ah, the crocs. Dangerous yet fascinating. Darwin has these creatures of the deep in spades, so there are ample opportunities to get up close with them. If you have a day free, book in for the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise on the Adelaide River, where a professional crew ferry you out onto one of the NT’s most crocodile-infested rivers. Sit (far) back as a brave crew member chucks them chunks of meat, which makes these prehistoric predators ‘jump’ out of the water with full, reptilian force. There ain’t nothing like it, but just know you can’t do it during the wet season for the simple reason that there are too many crocs and too much water for a boat to safely go out. Yikes.

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Maya Skidmore
Contributor
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What is it? Prepare to find your senses saturated as Darwin brings a taste of Southeast Asian night markets to its shores.

Why go? Don’t say we did not warn you, for the vibrant animation of space and place at Mindil Beach Sunset Market will turn your farmers market “vibe” into an allegiance. Nothing is more inviting than the disrupting scent of fragrant spices in hot oil, the anticipatory sheen of grease post-market stir fry against the considerately more harmonious riffs of aged cheeses, ripening fruit respites and butter desperately waiting to be enrobed with a duvet of bubbling batter. 

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Mimi Wong
Contributor

What is it? A not-for-profit outdoor cinema down by the water.

Why go? Seeing a movie at the Deckchair is like a right of passage for anyone visiting Darwin. As long as you’re visiting in the dry season you can expect to recline in striped lounge chairs on a balmy evening, and if you don’t have a cushion, they have a box of them on a first-come-first-served basis. They show blockbusters, indie releases and arthouse films. A different local business does the catering for each movie so you can get dinner and a drink beforehand while the sunsets. Just be careful the possums don’t steal your snacks.

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What is it? A special café and shop stocking the work of local designers and artists.

Why go? There's nowhere quite like Aboriginal Bush Traders. This 100 per cent not-for-profit business is Indigenous-led and committed to selling sustainable (and ethical) products that directly help out Indigenous communities Australia-wide. Pop in for a stellar coffee and a delicious array of bush foods that you don't usually get the chance to try anywhere else. Whether it's roasted kangaroo, a buffalo and egg wrap with bush tomato relish, pavolva with rosella cream or a lemon myrtle protein ball, this place will probably blow your mind. Pop over to the art gallery next door to pick up something gorgeous that'll last the trip home. 

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Maya Skidmore
Contributor

What is it: This is the leading cultural destination in Darwin, housing natural history displays, art retrospectives and exhibitions.

Why go? If you're after a big day of discovery, the MAGNT is a sure bet. This two-in-one museum and gallery houses more than 30,000 artefacts, including the body of Sweetheart, a 5.1m saltwater crocodile responsible for attacking boats; relics from the category four Cyclone Tracy that changed Darwin’s urban landscape; and bones of Melville, the Northern Territory’s 21.9m pygmy blue whale. The MAGNT is also home to the annual Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards - the most significant award of its kind nationwide.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia
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What is it? A weekly ritual for spicy noodle soup.

Why go? We’re told that locals in Darwin wake up craving laksa on Saturday mornings, so entrenched is the ritual of heading to the Parap Markets and joining the queues for a spicy noodle soup. There are also stalls selling every fried snack you can think of from Southeast Asia, juice vendors, barbecue carts and banana stands. This is where you can see the full diversity of migrant populations that call Darwin home, and try some of the best regional cuisine in the city.

What is it? A beachfront sailing club for water sports and socialising.

Why go? Watersports are a way of life in Darwin, not just because you can’t swim in the water due to the apex predators. There are multiple sailing clubs, but the one in Fannie Bay has the kind of beer garden that tourism brochures live for. The huge green lawn is set with big white plastic tables that extend down to the point where the grass meets the sand of the beach. This is where you want to sit in the afternoon sun under the palm trees, with a local green ant gin and tonic in hand.

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  • Sri Lankan

What is it? A contemporary Sri Lankan restaurant by MasterChef contestant, Minoli De Silva.

Why go? Nothing can beat a great curry and few chefs can outdo Minoli De Silva’s jaggery goat with spiced sticky figs. The former MasterChef contestant has set up a city centre establishment that marries creativity with reverence for traditional Sri Lankan ingredients. Fill the table with curry leaf-cured snapper, spiced lamb ribs and black pepper pork belly, and pick from Ella’s extensive cocktail list, where ingredients like makrut limes, cardamom and pandan steal the spotlight.

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Leah McLennan
Contributor

Street art tour

What is it? Where the gallery meets the streets.

Why go? Humongous, vibrant and seriously striking – Darwin is home to some truly spectacular street art that all deserves a squiz. You can stroll around in your own time and get surprised by the bright and massive murals hanging in the city's most obscure corners, or take a more systematic approach and do a walking tour. If visiting around winter, you should time your trip with the Darwin Street Art Festival which transforms the streets into a spectacular outdoor gallery. 

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Maya Skidmore
Contributor
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What is it? A celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, design and culture.

Why go? Darwin is also an important spot for Indigenous Australians from all throughout the Top End. The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair that pops up once a year in August is a notable must-see. If you are going up during the dry and you love art, do not miss this jaw-dropping showcase of First Nations art from all over the country in one, stunning place. You’ll want to buy everything. 

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Maya Skidmore
Contributor

Laksa House

What is it? A famous cheap eat known for their charcoal chicken.

Why go? You will drive right past this simple establishment on the highway as you criss-cross Darwin, but the locals know to factor in a visit to Warung Ibu Amye, as it is also known, especially on a Friday when they are doing their famous charcoal chicken with an addictive chilli sauce. This is one of those local gems that Darwin residents are fiercely proud of.

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  • Things to do
  • Fairs and festivals

What is it? Australia's hottest winter arts festival in August.

Why go? When it comes to Darwin’s showiest and most epic cultural event of the year, the Darwin Festival probably takes the crown. Expect shimmering fairy lights, incredible street food and a vibrant array of epic live performances, music and art that all need to be seen to be believed. Going down every year in August, (in 2024, it'll be lighting up from August 8 to 25), this vivid festival is all about long, hot summer nights while the rest of the country is deep in the middle of winter.

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Maya Skidmore
Contributor

What is it? A wild helicopter experience that you can’t get anywhere else.

Why go? This pub crawl is just as insane as it sounds, and for those with cash to spare, we cannot recommend it enough. You and your mates can charter a private helicopter that takes you on a once-in-a-lifetime eagle-eye tour of the NT’s most remote pubs, where you can land and get acquainted with the wild publicans who own them. Down a schooner at the turquoise water paradise of Crab Claw Island, and then fly over to Goat Island, where you can drink a cold one with King Kai

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Maya Skidmore
Contributor
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What is it? A local produce market for groceries and snacks.

Why go? The sheer scale of fresh produce available at these local markets is staggering: you can smell the fresh herbs in the air and buy exciting ingredients like winter melon, Meyer lemons, whole turmeric, tempeh so fresh it’s still warm, and locally roasted coffee. Once your shopping bags are full, head out the back to where the food trucks are and get a tropical juice with lime and honey, a green papaya salad, tofu and fish skewers.

What is it? The largest music festival in the Northern Territory, held every year in May.

Why go? Every year at the start of the dry season, the epic Bass in the Grass festival arrives in Darwin, heralding in a perfect storm of sequins, disco and quality music acts that draws in great crowds and even greater times. Blazing sunsets, incredible street food, stunning music, a whole plethora of parties, silent discos and rainbows galore make Bass worth your salt. Although this one-day festival does only happen once a year,  if you're planning on making the trip up north, think about making it coincide with this big and fabulous day out. 

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Maya Skidmore
Contributor

More great things to do in Darwin

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