Things to See and Do
Where do I start?
For many years, Darwin had two weekly markets: Parap Markets on a Saturday morning and Rapid Creek Markets on a Sunday morning. It would appear that markets have become the "in thing", the "place to be seen", now there are three more weekly markets plus on permanent market a la' Bali. The most popular markets are the Dry Season Mindil Beach Markets. Mindil Beach Markets are a production bigger than Ben Hur. On any Thursday night (and now, Sunday afternoons), you can find literally thousands of tourists and trendy Darwinians milling around the various food stalls and art / craft stalls which make up these markets. Chardonnay swilling, sunset watching, exotic ethnic food eating hordes, make this an unpleasant place to visit more than once - that's my opinion anyway.
Palmerston Markets take place on a Friday night during the Dry and are a smaller version of the Mindil Beach experience sans the Sea. Nightcliff Markets take place on a Sunday morning and are a smaller version of the Mindil Beach experience sans the Sea. Neither are very exciting so save time and if you must visit one of these markets go to the biggest which is Mindil Beach.
Both Rapid Creek and Parap Markets have been on the go for many years and each fulfils the function for which it was originally intended i.e., providing the local community with cheap fresh vegetables and fruits, clothing, flowers and plants along with one or two art and craft stalls. Both of these markets have a very strong local following.
Where would we be without crocodiles? How could we scare tourists into visiting Darwin if it wasn't for crocs wandering through peoples gardens and chewing up the occasional unwary angler? How on earth would the NT News fill its front page if there were no crocodile stories to run?
Yes, there are crocodiles around Darwin, in fact, the Conservation Commission and its contractors pull more than one hundred crocodiles out of Darwin Harbour each year. But in all honesty, they don't make much of an impact on your life unless you go looking for them or do something stupid like going for a swim in a tidal river. It would be a bit like being a white, middle class, male tourist, wandering into an area of East L.A. without a bodyguard - really stupid (that may be a bit of a generalisation, sorry to anyone from East L.A.).
If you want to see crocs there are two crocodile farms open to the public close to town. The closest to Darwin is Crocodylus Park which is only a few kilometres from the town centre, while the Crocodile Farm is out at Noonamah, about 40km down the track. Both ventures have daily crocodile feeding displays and the normal touristy gimmicks on sale. Crocodylus Park also boasts monkeys and one or two other creatures. Either place is worth a visit just to get a close up view of one of these creatures.
If you would like to see crocs in the wild then the very, very commercial Jumping Croc Cruises may just be your cup of tea. This is a boat tour on the Adelaide River, during which crocodiles are enticed to jump out of the water by suspending dead chickens on poles over the water. The crocs then launch themselves out of the water and snatch the chook off the pole. This keeps the tourists enthralled while providing the local crocs with a daily aerobics workout. Note: do not fall into the water, crocs can't tell the difference between a dead chook and a live human (actually, they can't tell the difference between a dead chook and a fully grown bull elephant either).
If you want to see a stuffed crocodile (which I personally believe is the best way to see them), go to the museum and have a look at Sweetheart. This 5m + croc had a penchant for outboard motors which it used to bite off the back of small boats as they passed by its place of residence. Alas, poor Sweetheart bit the dust when it was drowned during an unsuccessful attempt to capture it.
If you've ever wondered what it looks like diving on a reef but, like Michael Douglas, you're worried about putting your head underwater, Indo Pacific Marine is the place to go. This place started off many years ago as the hobby of someone who liked to collect fish and marine animals from tidal pools along Darwin's beaches. It's now grown into one of only a few places in the world with fully self supporting reef ecosystems. Indo Pacific Marine also has live specimens of the Box Jellyfish on display - know your enemy. Go see, it's worth a visit.
Our ex-Chief Minister and his wife have a prime piece of real estate at the end of the Esplanade in Darwin which goes by the name of Doctor's Gully. Here, at certain times of the day, you can go fish feeding. Over the years, fish from the harbour have grown accustomed to being fed at this spot and consequently, congregate here for a feed everyday (depending on tides). You can stand in knee deep water and hand feed the various species of fish as they swim past your toes.
There are several museums in Darwin:
The Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery has excellent displays of Aboriginal Art, traditional sailing boats and flora and fauna - all the usual stuff.. This is the biggest museum in the territory and you can easily spend a day wandering around.
Australian Aviation Heritage Centre has some good displays of aircraft bits pieces from WWII. There is also a genuine B52 Bomber housed inside the museum, which was donated by the USAF. Spitfire replicas and all sorts of other things.
East Point Military Museum houses memorabilia from the various wars which service personnel from Darwin took part in. Set in delightful grounds at East Point, the museum also has a massive gun emplacement in its grounds.
Fannie Bay Jail is the old Darwin jail which was in use until just a few years ago. Security here was so bad that prisoners used to regularly climb the fence in the evening to have a beer with mates before climbing back over the fence to go to bed. The last hanging in the NT took place here and the gallows are still set up for bloodthirsty spectators to see.
Lyons Cottage was the relay point for the Overland Telegraph Office, and passed messages on from Europe to the southern states.
The Territory Wildlife Park is definitely the place to go to if you wish to see native creatures in their normal habitat. Situated a short drive out of Darwin, the Wildlife Park is very popular with both locals and tourists alike. It features bird of prey displays and an acrylic underwater tunnel where you can walk underneath an artificial pool containing, amongst other things, crocodiles. There is also a nocturnal house for those party animals who only come out at night time.
Another good place to find native animals is at the side of the road. Unfortunately they're normally a bit flat, however road kills do provide the tourist with a good insight into what can be found walking around in the bush.
There is only one park close to Darwin and that is Litchfield Park down at Batchelor. Litchfield is a great place to visit, marvellous swimming holes and waterfalls. Good all weather access. Camping, BBQ's, what more could you want. It's far better than Kakadu and won't cost you an arm and a leg to visit. Another bonus is that it only takes about an hour to get there. Go - you won't be disappointed.