Popular Darwin Shore Excursions
Australia's northernmost capital is filled with stories of courage, adventure and lucky escapes along with plenty of hands-on attractions.
Crocosaurus Cove proves you don't need to go far in Darwin to meet some of the largest saltwater crocodiles on the planet. This wildlife park in the CBD is home to the world's largest display of Australian reptiles and plenty of crocodiles including Burt, the croc who starred alongside Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee. Hold a baby crocodile or pull on your swimmers and enter the Cage of Death, the world's only underwater cage that brings humans face-to-face with some of the largest 'salties' in captivity. Most of the attractions are outside, so bring a hat and plenty of water. Crocosaurus Cove is open daily from 9a.m. to 6p.m.; prices vary depending on the choice of activities.
The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory offers an appealing combination of art, nature and local history. 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, 5-metre (16.4-foot), man-eating saltwater croc with a story to tell. 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.
The Australian Aviation Heritage Centre holds one of Australia's most impressive plane collections, including an F-111 and a mighty B-52 bomber. Visitors are encouraged to handle the exhibits and 'feel' their history. While holding a bomb fragment from the WWII raid is deeply moving, this place is far from sombre. It is impossible not to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the volunteers who have plenty of tall tales to tell about the centre's aircraft and artefacts. The Australian Aviation Heritage Centre is 7km (more than 4 miles) from the CBD, and can be reached by taxi or bus 8 to Palmerston. Stop 4 is at the front gate.
The strikingly modern Parliament House, at the corner of Bennett and Mitchell streets, overlooks the 1883-built Government House (open occasionally) and the harbour. It is open to the public daily. Free tours occur on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the state library for periodicals and research is accessible to the general public.
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 WWII.
WWII Oil Storage Tunnels, Kitchener Drive, are located right near the port. One of Darwin's more unusual tourist attractions, the historic tunnels were constructed during WWII to protect fuel supplies from Japanese air raids. Number 5, which is open to the public and runs 120 metres (394 feet) beneath the city is lined with dozens of WWII photographs. Images of the bombing show the harbour covered in plumes of black smoke, but most of the photos are candid shots of those who served. Airmen lean nonchalantly against an aircraft fuselage as they conduct a debrief, and pretty girls and their beaus kick up their heels at a dance. This deeply moving photographic display shows the human face of the war effort. Admission is $7.
The Wave Lagoon at the waterfront precinct provides a cool way for families with young children -- and the young at heart -- to embrace Darwin's endless summer. Entry to this public pool includes the use of boogie boards and water tubes. Older children (and their parents) can take on waves ranging up to 1.7 metres (5.5 feet) high while youngsters paddle in the shallow zone. Admission only costs a few dollars or you can swim for free at the nearby recreation area.
Litchfield National Park, located 120kms (almost 75 miles) south of Darwin, encompasses 145 hectares 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. Cruise ship tours ensure you get back to the ship on time, but do not allow much time for exploring.