Soak up Darwin's balmy weather and the melting pot of food and cultures in the city's many outdoor festivals and markets. Then explore the region's dramatic history - from World War II air raids to Cyclone Tracey - in the museums and galleries. Sail Darwin harbour at sunset, cruise next to crocodiles and bushwalk through monsoon forest. Swim in the crystal-clear waterholes of Litchfield National Park and visit the colourful communities of the Tiwi Islands. This vibrant, tropical capital has a youthful energy you'll find hard to resist.
Five ways to discover Darwin and its surrounds:
1. At festivals, markets and on the harbour In Darwin, the action happens outside - in markets, parks, by the beach or on boats. You can join the locals with a crate and a plate of sizzling satay at The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets from May to October. Or watch them build boats out of beer or soft drink cans at the annual Darwin Beer Can Regatta in July. At the Deckchair Cinema from April to November you can watch movies under a canopy of stars with a drink from the bar and a picnic dinner. Soak up Darwin's tropical weather with a harbourside dinner at Cullen Bay Marina or a sunset harbour cruise complete with a history lesson.
2. With wildlife and in tropical parklands
Cycle past orchids and bromeliads and traditional Aboriginal plants in George Brown Botanic Gardens. Swim, have a sunset barbecue and explore sacred Aboriginal sites at Casuarina Coastal Reserve. In Berry Springs Nature Park, you can spot birds in monsoon forest and fish in the crystal clear swimming holes. Get up close to fish, birds-of-prey, nocturnal animals and reptiles in the Territory Wildlife Park, a 45-minute drive from Darwin. Have a close crocodile encounter at Crocodylus Park, the Darwin Crocodile Farm or on a crocodile cruise along Darwin's coastal fringe and rivers.
3. Hot on the heels of history
Learn more about Darwin's rich Aboriginal heritage in the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Here you can also relive the tragic Cyclone Tracy which hit Darwin on Christmas Eve in 1974. See the Chinese Temple it nearly destroyed in Litchfield Street. Darwin endured 64 Japanese air raids in World War II, and you can watch dramatic footage of the bombings and visit the bunker where Top End defense strategy was planned at East Point Military Museum. See original B52 bomber planes at the Aviation Heritage Centre and a network of walking trails leading to World War II oil tunnels around the Wharf Precinct. In Myilly Point Historical Precinct you can see some of the few surviving cottages designed by architect B.C.G Burnett in the colonial style popular before World War II.
4. Under the waterfalls of Litchfield National Park
Make time for a day trip to the waterfalls and plunge pools, wildlife and birdlife, ranges and rainforest of Litchfield National Park, a one-and-a-half hour drive from Darwin. Swim in the crystal-clear swimming hole at the base of Florence Falls and bush-walk through monsoon rain-forest to Walker Creek. Picnic next to roosting fruit bats at Wangi Falls and see sweeping valley views at Tolmer Falls. Take a wildlife cruise on the Reynolds River, part of a working cattle station. Explore this Tarzan landscape with traditional Aboriginal owners the Wagait people or peer into a pastoral past in the ruins of Blyth Homestead.
5. On a trip to the Tiwi Islands
Join in the excitement of the Tiwi Islands Grand Football Final, held every March in Nguiu. Browse and buy Tiwi art, distinctive for its strong design, decorative features and vivid colours. Take billy tea and damper tea with Tiwi ladies as they demonstrate traditional weaving and painting. Then watch them perform a traditional dance and a smoking ceremony to clear bad spirits. Catch big barramundi on a fishing tour on the Tiwi coast. You'll find a warm welcome and a lush landscape of rainforest, beaches and rock pools on Melville and Bathurst Islands, together known as the Tiwi Islands. Explore them on a day or overnight tour, traveling a 20-minute flight or two-hour ferry from Darwin.
Melbourne is a maze of hidden laneways, opulent bars, exclusive restaurants and off-the-beaten-track boutiques. Here you can soak up culture, hit the sporting grounds, taste the dynamic food and wine scene, dance til dawn or wander the parks and leafy boulevards. Visit Federation Square, the city's landmark cultural space, and enjoy a sunset beer on the St Kilda promenade. Shop till you drop on funky Brunswick Street or upmarket Chapel Street. Wander Southbank's cafes, bistros and bars and get a world tour of cuisines in Carlton, Richmond and Fitzroy. Take an Aboriginal Heritage Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens and cheer with a capacity crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Five Must-Have Melbourne Experiences:
1. Shop till you drop
Bag a bargain at the Rose Street Artist's Market and browse the funky boutiques on Brunswick Street. Buy designer labels such as Akira Isogawa and Zimmerman on Chapel Street in Prahran or in the historic Melbourne General Post Office, which covers an entire city block. For everything from fashion to furnishings at fantastic value, visit Bridge Road in Richmond. Melbourne is a shopper's haven, offering eclectic boutiques, high-end fashion, funky homeware stores and European style piazzas in the city's arcades and hidden laneways.
2. Bar hop and dance till dawn
Sip a cocktail in a converted sea container in Chinatown, enjoy a sunset beer in a St Kilda pub or listen to cabaret in lush retro surroundings in jazz bars in the city. Linger over exquisite tapas and exotic wine in a Little Collins Street bar and mingle in a pink parlour with fake grass in Bourke Street. You can party from dusk in the bars of Brunswick Street. Or dance till dawn in bars in the city's lantern-lit laneways, secret apart from the spill of coloured light under heavy brass doors.
3. Get into the gourmet goodness
Let the aroma of good coffee waft over you in Melbourne's gothic European laneways. The city is famous for its coffee and old-world café culture but there's so much more to explore. Once you've downed a 'short black' or taken an afternoon aperitif, try tea in a nineteenth-century hotel or salivate over your silver spoon in acclaimed restaurants like Nobu, Botanical and Becco. Pick up fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood at the Queen Victoria Market on a Saturday, known for its bustling crowds and buskers. Try out the restaurants, cafes, bistros and bars in Southbank or Federation Square. Make your way around Melbourne's multicultural cosmos of cuisines: Carlton for Italian classics, Richmond for budget-friendly Vietnamese and Fitzroy for Spanish tapas.
4. Fill up on culture
See a performance by the Australian Ballet, which is based here in Australia's cultural capital. Or enjoy a dazzling musical at the Princess Theatre. Browse the Southern Hemisphere's best collection of international art at the National Gallery of Victoria. Or visit the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Federation Square, a landmark cultural 'space' for Melbournians. Challenge yourself with the creative collections in the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Southbank. To learn more about Melbourne's Aboriginal cultural heritage, see contemporary and dreamtime art or take an Aboriginal Heritage Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens.
5. Go sports mad
Cheer for an Australian Rules Football game with a capacity crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground over winter. Go cricket mad in summer, when the city hosts the Ashes and one day internationals. Or join the huge crowds watching the Australian Tennis Open at Melbourne Park. Rev heads head to Melbourne in March for the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Albert Park. And whether you are a racing fan or just a casual punter, you won't want to miss the Melbourne Cup - the world's richest horse race on the first Tuesday in November.
Mary River National Park
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