Darwin for families – 3 days – Tropical Summer
Darwin is paradise for kids – it’s always warm, water is usually involved in play time, animals and wildlife are everywhere, and there’s always plenty of fun activities to keep everyone busy. Whether the kids are little or big, they’ll find plenty do to as a family in Darwin.
Swim, slide and splash
Getting wet is a top family activity in Darwin, and there’s lots of places to do it safely. The Wave Lagoon at the Darwin Waterfront Precinct is a hit with kids of all ages, with a huge pool to ride the artificial swell on boogie boards and tubes, and shallow water play areas for toddlers as well. The free, patrolled recreation lagoon in the same precinct has a sandy beach and safe swimming in salt water.
Or head to the recreation parks in the suburbs of Leanyer and Palmerston, where there’s water slides, water play equipment, playgrounds, water play for toddlers and young children, and a skate park. Entry is free.
Meet the crocs
Meeting the Top End’s famous crocodile is high on the list for families. Head to Crocodylus Park, 6 minutes’ drive from Leanyer Recreation Park, and 15 minutes’ drive from the CBD, to see saltwater and freshwater crocs in their natural habitat. Plan to be there for feeding time. There’s also a wildlife park here with big cats, reptiles, monkeys and Aussie mammals.
In the heart of the city, see crocs up close in aquariums at Crocosaurus Cove. Kids can also watch crocs and turtles being fed and wander through the excellent reptile enclosure. This place is famous for the ‘Cage of Death’ where you can ‘swim’ with a monster croc. It’s not for kids under 15 though. Make sure you get your professional photo of the kids holding a baby croc.
Catch a movie under the stars
At the Deckchair Cinema - a Darwin institution. The whole family will enjoy lying back on their comfy chairs and watching a family movie during the dry season as the sun sets over the ocean. Hot food and drinks are available. Kids under five are free, and there are family tickets.
Check into your accommodation. There are many options available in Darwin, from luxury hotel rooms to camping grounds with excellent facilities, including:
• Club Tropical Resort Darwin
• Metro Advance Apartments and Hotel
• Adina Apartment Hotel Darwin
Hand feed fish at Doctors Gully
Kids love hand-feeding some very friendly fish at Aquascene, at Doctors Gully, tucked away a couple of minutes from Darwin’s CBD. At high tide, hundreds of mullet, stingrays, Berry Springs Nature Park barramundi and plate-shaped moonfish put on a great show floating in and out of the shadows as tourists feed them bread from their hands. Great family fun.
Explore the botanic gardens
The treehouse at George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens is a must-do for kids. Explore the winding paths, stream, tunnels, fountain and tropical orchards before having a bite to eat in the gardens’ beautiful café, formerly the historic Wesleyan Church.
Visit the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory
The Museum and Art Gallery of the NT is a family-friendly space with excellent permanent and rotating exhibits. Wander through the impressive NT flora and fauna exhibit, then see and hear the devastation Cyclone Tracy had on the city in 1974. Kids love meeting ‘Sweetheart’, a stuffed 5.1-metre crocodile who accidentally drowned when he was being removed from the wild for attacking outboard motors in the 1970s. Museum entry is free.
Taste the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
Thursdays and Sundays during the Top End’s dry season (May – October) herald one of Darwin’s biggest drawcards: the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. Take the family and wander around some 60 food stalls that serve dishes from all over the world. Eat on the beach as the sun sinks into the ocean then have a pony ride or watch the circus acts and fire breathers who entertain the kids as night falls.
If the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets aren’t scheduled for tonight, head to Cullen Bay Marina for takeaway fish and chips or dine at one of the beachside sailing clubs and watch the sun go down.
Take in the Territory Wildlife Park
Hire a car, and pack the bathers, for an action-packed family day! First stop is the Territory Wildlife Park, just under an hour’s drive from Darwin. Meet the animals of the Top End in the cool nocturnal house and aquarium, walk through treetop aviaries and stroll around the lagoon walk, then sit in for the birds show. All the attractions are linked by shuttle trains.
Grab a refreshing swim
Call into Berry Springs Nature Park (usually open May - November), located just 47 kilometres south of Darwin. Here families can enjoy a swim in the springs and a cool drink on the lawns from the kiosk, on their way back to Darwin.
Dinner with a view at the wharf
Return to Darwin and head to Stokes Hill Wharf in the Waterfront Precinct. This is a popular spot for fishing with the locals, and is dotted with restaurants, eateries and retail shops.
This is a great place to finish the evening with some fresh local fish and chips and watch one last iconic Top End sunset, with perhaps some dolphins frolicking in the water below. Relax at the Wharf with dessert from Trampoline Gelato and reflect on your Darwin adventures.