Australia has long been a favorite travel destination for those intrepid enough to go the distance – and expense – of getting there. Seeing the Sydney Opera House, diving the Great Barrier Reef, exploring cities like Melbourne and Brisbane, it’s all on the must-see radar for world travelers worth their salt.
However, not many tourists make the trek to Darwin at the tip of the “Top End” of the Northern Territory.
So is it worth heading to Darwin if you’re traveling down under? More germane to this website, is it worth dragging the kids there if you’re touring with the family? As with all travel recommendations, it depends on your personal budget, timeframe, and interests, but if you want a taste of authentic Oz it doesn’t get much more “fair dinkum” than Darwin (“for real” in Aussie slang).
Darwin is an odd blend of tropical lushness and outback ruggedness with a pinch of cosmopolitan charm thrown in. Being closer to Singapore than Sydney, it’s a cultural melting pot with a lot of South East Asian influence in its markets and restaurants. The locals tend to be friendly, laid-back, down-to-earth folks who appreciate “the bush” (Crocodile Dundee wasn’t much of a stretch in these parts) and there is also a strong Aboriginal presence.
The Territory’s main tourist draw, Uluru (aka Ayers Rock), attracts visitors in droves but most don’t bother to continue the journey north. I think they’re missing something. If a two-day drive up a dusty red highway elicits groans from the kids, consider taking the Ghan, a grand train ride running from Adelaide through Alice Springs to Darwin, or save time and effort by flying in.
Darwin is a great launching point to explore nearby Kakadu National Park, the quintessential Aussie-scape complete with Aboriginal cave art, billabongs and wildlife galore. If you can swing it, a 3 to 5 day camping safari here is amazing. However, don’t overlook the town itself as worthy destination.
Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at some other can’t-miss attractions for travelers to NT.