12 Best Sights in Darwin, The Outback

Litchfield National Park

Fodor's choice

This beautiful park lies just 120 km (75 miles) southwest of Darwin off the Stuart Highway. Its 1,500 square km (579 square miles) are an untouched wilderness of monsoonal rain forests, rivers, and striking rock formations. The highlights include four separate, spectacular waterfalls—Florence, Tjaynera (Sandy Creek), Wangi, and Tolmer Falls—all of which have secluded plunge pools.  The pools are suitable for swimming but occasionally there are crocs here, so observe any "no swimming" signs.

There is also a dramatic group of large, freestanding sandstone pillars known as the Lost City (accessible only by four-wheel-drive track), and Magnetic Termite Mounds, which have an eerie resemblance to eroded grave markers, which dot the black-soiled plains of the park's northern area. You'll need to camp if you want to stay in the park; campgrounds and RV sites are located near several of the major sights (call the Parks and Wildlife Service of the Northern Territory at 08/8976–0282 for more information on the facilities, as they vary by campsite). There are also a few restaurants and modest hotels in the nearby town of Batchelor, though most folks just visit Litchfield as a day trip from Darwin, about a 90-minute drive away.

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

Fannie Bay Fodor's choice

Collections at this excellent—and free—museum and art gallery encompass Aboriginal art and culture, maritime archaeology, Northern Territory history, and natural sciences. One gallery is devoted to Cyclone Tracy, where you can listen to a terrifying recording of the howling winds. You can also see "Sweetheart," a 16-foot, 10-inch stuffed saltwater crocodile that was known for attacking fishing boats on the Finniss River in the 1970s.


Doctor's Gully

You can hand-feed hundreds of fish at this beach on the north-western end of the Esplanade. At high tide people wade into the water with buckets of bread to feed the schools of batfish, bream, catfish, milkfish, and mullet that come inshore in a feeding frenzy.

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Crocodylus Park


This research facility has an excellent air-conditioned crocodile museum and education center. There are more than 1,200 crocodiles here, from babies to giants up to 16 feet long. The saurian section of the zoo includes the croc-infested Bellairs Lagoon and pens for breeding and raising. The park also has enclosures with lions, tigers, American alligators, cassowaries, primates, turtles, an emu, and a dingo, among other animals, and holds one of the biggest snakes in Australia: a Burmese python weighing 308 pounds. Tours and feedings are at 10 am, noon, and 2 pm, while a croc boat cruise gets you a little closer to these magnificent creatures twice a day at 11 am and 1 pm.

Crocosaurus Cove

Right in the heart of Darwin City, this is the place to go swimming with saltwater crocodiles and live to tell the tale. Feeding times for the big crocs (daily at 11:30 am, 2:30 pm, and 4:30 pm) and the Cage of Death, a not-for-the-faint-of-heart attraction where visitors are lowered into croc-infested pools in a clear perspex container (A$175), are not to be missed. Bring your swimsuit along and take a photo of you swimming alongside these impressive creatures (again, you're in a completely separate pool). Feedings and presentations happen at different times throughout the day in the four main sections—fish, big crocs, turtles, and nocturnal reptiles—during which you can take your turn feeding young crocs and holding a variety of reptiles.

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Darwin Aviation Museum

Due to its isolation and sparse population, the Northern Territory played an important role in the expansion of aviation in Australia, and this impressive museum traces the history of flight Down Under. Planes on display include a massive B-52 bomber on permanent loan from the United States and a recently retired RAAF F-111 fighter jet, as well as a Japanese Zero shot down on the first day of bombing raids in 1942. There's also a great exhibition on female aviators, including Amy Johnson, the first to fly solo from the U.K. to Australia in 1930.

Defence of Darwin Experience at the Darwin Military Museum

WWII came to Australia when 188 Japanese planes bombed Darwin on February 19, 1942, killing 235 people and injuring an additional 400. This high-tech, newer section of the museum at East Point—opened in 2012 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack—tells the story of the people who were there that day, the events that led up to and followed it, and Darwin's role in the war. The Defence of Darwin Experience is the highlight—when you hear the air raid siren, head to the back of the museum and enter the theater to view an intense, multisensory telling of what happened that day, complete with loud explosive sounds, strobe lights, and flash effects. It's part of the Darwin Military Museum, which has lots of guns and other military equipment on display, as well as some original buildings that were there during World War II.

George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens

Mindil Beach

First planted in 1886 and largely destroyed by Cyclone Tracy, the 103-acre site today displays rain forest, mangroves, and open woodland environments. There are more than 450 species of palms growing in the gardens. A popular walk takes visitors on a self-guided tour of plants that Aboriginal people have used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The Children's Evolutionary Playground traces the changes in plant groups through time, while the plant display house has tropical ferns, orchids, and other exotic plants to check out. Head to Eva's, a lovely café nestled in a Heritage-listed church within the gardens—it's open from 7 am to 3 pm for breakfast and lunch, and offers a variety of tasty baked goods, coffee, and tea in case you need a break.

Gilruth Ave. at Gardens Rd., Darwin, Northern Territory, 0820, Australia
sights Details
Rate Includes: Free

Indo Pacific Marine

Wharf Precinct

This marine interpretative center houses a large open tank with one of the few self-contained coral-reef ecosystems in the southern hemisphere—and it's been growing on its own for more than 20 years. Other exhibits include a static display of rare, deepwater coral skeletons and an exhibit explaining the effects of global warming on the planet. Night tours, which begin at 6:30 on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, take you by ultraviolet flashlight to view the biodiversity of the fluorescing reef and live venomous animals; the colors the coral produce are astounding. You'll also get a four-course seafood dinner, followed by a nocturnal coral reef tour of the exhibitions. Bookings are essential.

29 Stokes Hill Rd.
- 08 - 8981–1294
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Rate Includes: From A$27, Apr.–Oct., daily 10–4; Nov.–Mar. call for opening times.

Mindil Beach Casino

Mindil Beach

Mindil Beach Casino is one of Darwin's most popular evening spots. More than 700 gaming machines open 24 hours a day, while gaming tables are open from noon until 4 am Thursday and Sunday and until 6 am Friday and Saturday. Fancy a break from the betting? Choose from one of four restaurants—Cove (steak house), Dragon Court (Asian-fusion), il Piatto (Italian), or The Vue (bistro dining). SkyCity's bars—Sandbar, The Sportsbar, Lagoon Bar, and INFINITY, a new beach club–themed bar beside the casino's infinity pool—are just as fabulous.

Territory Wildlife Park

With 1,544 acres of natural bushland, this impressive park is dedicated to the Northern Territory's native fauna and flora. In addition to saltwater crocodiles, dingoes, olive pythons, and waterbirds, among other animals, the park also has an underwater viewing area for observing freshwater fish and a nocturnal house kept dark for late-night creatures. The treetop-level walkway through the huge aviary allows you to watch native birds from the swamps and forests at close range. Daily events include feedings, guided walks, and a birds of prey display: see the website for daily schedules. There's also a nifty tram to help you get around.

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The Darwin Waterfront Precinct and Stokes Hill Wharf

Darwin Harbour

The best views of Darwin Harbour are from Stokes Hill Wharf, a working pier that receives cargo ships, trawlers, defense vessels, and, occasionally, huge cruise liners. It's also a favorite spot for Darwinites to fish, and when the mackerel are running, you can join scores of locals over a few beers. The cluster of cafés becomes crowded on weekends and when cruise ships arrive. On the city side, in the Waterfront Precinct, is the Wave Lagoon (entry is $7; open daily 10 am to 6 pm) and a free, stinger-free (safe from jellyfish) swimming lagoon. Both are popular on hot days. The Waterfront is also home to some of the city's best restaurants and cafés, and is where free festivals and movie nights are held during the dry season.