Top End trip August 2006

Nov 7th, 2005, 11:56 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2005
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Top End trip August 2006

I'm hoping to get some help with planning a trip to the Top End. The players will be my husband and myself (both in our 50's) and our 10 yr. old daughter. This will be my 6th trip to Australia, my husband's 3rd and our daughter's 2nd. But we've never been to the Darwin area.

We will fly from Cairns to Darwin just about the time that the Darwin Festival will be starting I think. First question: has anyone been in Darwin during this Festival?

Since there will likely be a lot of people there then I need to nail down accommodations early. Here is our tentative itinerary:

Darwin--arrive at 8:20 p.m. on Wed. night
Stay until Sat. morning

Kakadu--drive ourselves to Kakadu, stay Sat. and Sun. nights

Katherine--drive out on the Kakadu Hwy. stay Mon. and Tues. nights

Litchfield--stay Wed. and Thurs. nights.

Drive back to Darwin on Friday, stopping at the Territory Wildlife Park and Berry Springs.

We have a flight to Sydney leaving at 1:30 a.m. from Darwin on the Saturday morning.

Any thoughts about places to stay, whether this is a good itinerary (too long or too short in places?), comments on Darwin during the Festival...will be greatly appreciated.

Also, I need to figure out when to get the rental car. Will we need a car in Darwin or will it be easy enough to walk around, use public transport, etc.? If I could get the car just before leaving for Kakadu that would save money and would rather not hassle with a car & parking in Darwin unless necessary. Seems like there might be shuttle buses or something available during a festival time. Anybody know?
LynAK is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 04:47 AM
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One of the highlights of our trip to Darwin was taking the 'Jumping Crocodile' boat tour. My husband still laughs when we talk about that trip. The crocs are huge (in the river east of Darwin) and jump for bait until they are totally out of the water. We got a B&B rate from one of the downtown hotels for our lodging in Darwin. There is a tram that circles all visitor spots, (hop on, hop off), very reasonable. They have a very nice museum.
sandy222 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 03:42 PM
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Good news to hear about the tram around town. Where did you stay in Darwin? Were you happy with it?
LynAK is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 11:15 PM
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Hi Lyn,
I spent 10-12 days on a similar itinerary in 2003. I had a few days in Darwin before Kakadu/Litchfield (tour) and used the hop-on/hop off shuttle very happily. It does pick-ups and you can also catch it down-town if you prefer. The guides were all locals, very knowledgeable & helpful. When I came back I hired a car for a few days as I wanted to venture a bit further afield.

A few things you might enjoy: Open air cinema along the esplanade; Fish & chips on the pier (best barramundi in Aust Go for a sail on a catamaran late afternoon/sunset; Night markets at Mindil Beach.

It's a great place and your daughter will love it. Very laid back
Bokhara is offline  
Nov 9th, 2005, 06:16 AM
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Our family has spent a lot of time in Australia (lived there for a few years) and we always enjoy going to Darwin. In fact, we were there this past August. If I were you, I would add another full day to Darwin and Katherine and eliminate the nights at Litchfield. (Unless there is some specific reason you want to spend two nights at Litchfield, I would just make it day trip from Darwin.) This is my suggested itinerary:

Darwin--arrive at 8:20 pm on Wednesday. Thursday--sightsee in Darwin. Friday--day trip to Litchfield or Territory Wildlife Park/Berry Springs. Saturday--day trip to either of the above. Leave on Sunday for Katherine.

Katherine--arrive on Sunday. If you arrive by 2pm, take the free tour of Springvale Homestead at 2pm. Monday--take a picnic lunch to Edith Falls NP. Hike to the upper pool for a swim and then come back to the lower pool for a picnic and another swim. That evening do the "Crocodile Night Adventure" at Springvale. Tuesday--Arrange for either a full or half day canoe rental at Katherine Gorge. Wednesday--leave for Kakadu

Kakadu--Arrive Wednesday and spend Wednesday and Thursday nights here. Possible activities--Yellow River Boat Tour, hiking to see Aboriginal drawings, etc. Splurge and stay at the Crocodile Hotel.

Leave Kakadu on Friday and drive back to Darwin, stopping to see "jumping crocs" if you like. Do more sightseeing in Darwin.

I have never been to Darwin during the Darwin Festival, so I don't know what activities you might want to see connected with that. The things we have enjoyed doing in Darwin are:
longhorn55 is offline  
Nov 9th, 2005, 06:48 AM
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Sorry...I accidentally hit "Post my Reply" before I was finished! I was going to say that on our first visit to Darwin, my son was about 10 years old, so perhaps your daughter might enjoy the same activities:

Hand-feeding the fish at Aquascene--my 13-year-old daughter LOVED this and we even went back a second time at her request. The feeding can only be done at high tide, so contact them ahead of time to find out when they will be open. (They will have the high tide schedule.)
Visit the Fannie Bay Gaol. This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but my kids found it fascinating.
Visit the Northern Territory Musuem--it has a fabulous Aboriginal art section, but there are also lots of natural history exhibits. My kids loved looking at "Sweetheart", the huge stuffed croc and at the exhibits of deadly jellyfish, deadly snakes and deadly spiders. There's also a good exhibit on Cyclone Tracy and you can experience what it was like.
Mindil Beach Sunset Market--This is on Thursday night and should not be missed. There's good food and fun entertainment (magicians, acrobats, etc.) and fun stalls for shopping. Your daughter should love it.
Day Trip to Litchfield--You can drive in on the west side and exit through the east side. Part of the road on the west side is not sealed, but you can do it in a regular car--no 4WD needed. It's a bit dusty, but it brings you first to Wangi Falls, which is our favorite stop. The swimming is fabulous and there's a shallow, sandy area if your daughter is not completely comfortable in the water. Great picnicking spot too or you can buy food from the kiosk. There are other swimming holes in the park, but Wangi Falls is our favorite. Be sure and make a stop at the Magnetic Termine Mounds.
Day trip to Territory Wildlife Park--We got here mid-day and wished we had gotten here earlier as you could spend a full day here. We first stopped at Berry Springs for a swim and picnic, but we probably should have done the wildlife park first and then had a late-day swim at the springs.
Places to stay--We always stay in serviced apartments for the extra room, washing facilities and kitchen. We have stayed at the Parap Village Apartments--good, but a bit of a drive to town. On our last visit, we stayed at the Cullen Bay Marina Apartments--very good and a much better location. There places are moderately priced, but if you want to spend more, the Saville Park Suites and the Novotel are right on the Esplanade in town.
Dining--We really enjoyed "Tim's Surf and Turf". It's located on a small street behind the GPO. You will either need reservations or go early. Dining is in a lovely courtyard with a waterfall and there was good music the night we were there. It's casual, child-friendly and reasonably priced.
Lodging in Katherine--We love the St. Andrew Serviced Apartments--good place, good price, good location.
Activities in Katherine--If you want to canoe through the Katherine Gorge, you will need to make reservations well ahead of time as the number of canoes is limited. You can do this through "Travel North". The Crocodile Night Adventure was lots of fun--spotlighting crocs at the river's edge from your boat, a fabulous BBQ dinner under the stars, an "up close" experience with a croc. Either "Travel North" or your hotel can arrange reservations which should be made in advance as well. You can also take a helicopter tour of the Gorge, but we have not done this. Another good stop is the Cutti Cutti Caves. We did the first tour of the day and had a private tour--no other visitors but us!
Dining in Katherine--We always enjoy the RSL Club--good variety of food, child-friendly and good prices. There's also some great barra in the local fish-and-chip takeaways.

Hope this info is helpful. As you can probably tell, Darwin is one of my favorite places in Australia.

longhorn55 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2005, 11:00 AM
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Thanks so much for the replies. This is just the kind of info I'd hoped for. Question for longhorn55: Is there a special reason your proposed itinerary has us going to Katherine first and then to Kakadu? Is it so we could do a tour of the Springvale Homestead on Sunday? Unless there is a specific reason to get there then I thought it might be better to be esploring Kakadu on the weekend/Sunday when things in Katherine would likely be closed.

I don't want to get a car until we are ready to leave Darwin and don't want to take day trips from Darwin to Litchfield as I think there will be lots going on with the festival and would rather go to Litchfield at the end of the loop or else at the beginning of the loop when we have the car.

I'm looking at the Palms City Resort in Darwin as a place to stay. Any experience with or knowledge of that place? It is on the Esplanade and I think that might be good since I don't think we'll have a car at that stage.

Your suggestions of things to do in both Darwin and Katherine were very helpful. I will look into the travel agency you mention.
LynAK is offline  
Nov 11th, 2005, 12:38 PM
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Hi Lyn,
There's a travel agent in the Smith St. Mall who just knocked my socks off with her helpful advice on local things. And, I might add, I only used her to book one thing, a catamaran sail. Just could not recommend her highly enough. She gave me so many helpful tips and lots of times told me not to bother booking - just go.

Her name is Dawn Hunt and she's the owner/opertor of Independent Tour Operators Agency, 45a Smith St. Mall. T: + 612 8 8981 6473

BTW, seeing the reference to Parap - there's a good market there, too. I think that's where I bought some gorgeous 100% cotton shirts for $20 from a Seafolly (swim & leisure wear) outlet. They're perfect for the climate, very, very light and long sleeved to deflect the sun/mozzies/flies. Another good market is at Nightcliffe (?) (Someone help me out, please if I've mistaken the name).

The standout, for all round experience,quality & variety of goods, ambience & accessibility etc., is Mindil Beach Markets. Take a bottle of wine, buy some food from the stalls and enjoy it sitting on the beach listening to the band in the market behind as the sun sets into the ocean.

I bought some very good quality sterling silver & shell pendants (not touristy stuff at all), for example that I've not seen elsewhere. Good paintings/prints. If you run out of cash (as I did, LOL), there's an ATM in the Casino - just at the beginning of the markets.

Another great place is the Darwin Boat & Sailing Club. Very casual and you don't need to be members. Good food, outdoor setting on the beach. Excellent spot for relaxing with kids.
If you're taking a light flight out, you might consider a movie at the Open Air Cinema and then dinner at Pee Wee's at the Point. This is a gorgeous restaurant, tables outside just above the shoreline and they're very happy to accommodate late diners. I did that and it was a most enjoyable way to spend what can be a real drag: those hours between sundown & the "red-eye" midnight+ flight.
Bokhara is offline  
Nov 11th, 2005, 01:04 PM
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Er... that would be "Night" flight out ! I like light planes, but that's probably not going to be your exit vehicle back to the US (LOL); Haven't had my coffee yet !
Bokhara is offline  
Nov 15th, 2005, 05:17 AM
Join Date: May 2005
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This is a great thread about Darwin and the Top End. Are you aware of the world class pearling industry there? Paspaley Pearls has shops in Sydney and someplace else in Australia I believe, and I am looking forward to seeing their museum and store. I found it on line. I believe. ..The pictures on their website of their pearling areas show how beautiful the coastline and waters are! I don't know if it is a big deal there or not.
Also, I just read a wonderful book called "In a Sunburned Country" By Bryson that was wonderful. I actually got a book on tape from my library so I could listen in my car and in the evenings at home. That way I could hear the correct pronunciation of the names of the towns, etc. At home as I listened I followed Bryson's journey around Australia with my travel book and that made it even more interesting. Have a great trip!
Geckolips is offline  
Nov 15th, 2005, 07:54 AM
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Yes, this has been very helpful to me in thinking about our trip to Darwin. I have read Bryson's book and ought to do it again now that I'm back in Australia mode.

Question to anyone who ventures here on this thread...I'm still hoping to find someone who has been to Darwin during the Darwin Festival or knows something about it in 2006. I have some questions about being in Darwin during that time.

It was held this year from August 11-28, 2005 and they say it attracted 53,000 people! The lineup of shows and performances from 2005 sounds outstanding. I can't find the dates of next year's event anywhere and I've even e-mailed the contact address on the website that has all the info about last year. No reply as yet.
LynAK is offline  

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