Further to yesterday’s post about traveling in Australia’s Northern Territory, here are a few fun things to do with your family in and near Darwin.
Stare Down a Crocodile
Crocs and kids might not seem like a great combination to most moms, but youngsters are thrilled to see these stealth and powerful prehistoric creatures up close (at these places it’s safe – fair dinkum!). Crocodylus Park and Zoo is a world-class wildlife research and education center complete with a crocodile museum and feeding shows that all ages will enjoy. You can also take the Adelaide River Queen Jumping Crocodile Cruise and see these impressive reptiles in the wild and in action as they burst out of the water to chomp their prey.
Go Waterfall Hopping
A must-do daytrip from Darwin is Litchfield National Park about 100km southeast from town. A series of funky rock formations hosts a series of wonderful waterfalls, shimmering cascades and crystalline freshwater pools that make for an idyllic day of swimming or gazing at mother nature’s handiwork (you can only swim in the Dry Season from May to October but the waterfalls are at their scenic peak in the Wet Season from November to April). You can explore the surrounding lushness through a series of walkways and lookout points. There are well-appointed picnic and camping facilities if you want to stick around a few days. Make a pit stop at the termite mounds, a Stonehenge-like forest of 6m tall insect skyscrapers, and gain a little respect for the architectural ingenuity of these pesky creatures.
Walk the Wharf
As the gateway to Asia, Darwin is a working port city – its harbor is bigger than Sydney’s – so a stroll down to the wharf area is in order. This area was hard hit by bombings during WWII (as depicted in the new Australia movie). Today, it’s mainly a place to grab a good casual meal or an ice cream, poke around a shop or two and just sit back and relax and soak in the laid-back vibe. There’s live entertainment on Sundays and Dry Season Wednesdays. Check out the exhibition on the area’s pearling industry and the Indo Pacific Marine where you and the kids can learn about coral reef eco-systems (the night tour is particularly cool as you can see fluorescent coral and nocturnal sea life). The Wharf Precinct and Stokes Hill Wharf are also the launching points for Darwin’s various harbour cruises.
Splash in a Watering Hole
Unfortunately Darwin’s coastline is plagued with box jellyfish (not to mention a few aforementioned crocodiles!) so the Darwin beaches aren’t for swimming. There are, however, several local watering holes you and the kids can cool off in. Bring a picnic to Lake Alexander in East Point Reserve and enjoy a swim, then take a boardwalk stroll through the coastal monsoon and mangrove forests. Stick around for sunset, as that’s when mobs of wallabies (small kangaroos) come out. South of town is Howard Springs Nature Park and Berry Springs (located next to recommended Territory Wildlife Park), both lush options for safe freshwater swimming and nature gazing.
Hand-Feed Some Fish
Hundreds of hungry fish descend upon Aquascene at high tide looking for a spoon-fed meal. Kids seem to love getting swarmed by the greedy catfish, mullet, milkfish and barramundi – it’s been going on for about 60 years, and so generations of fish have grown to expect this daily ritual. Times change daily according to the tides, so check ahead before visiting.