We arrived in Darwin at 2am in the morning, to be hit immediately by the intense humidity and heat and this is the dry season (supposedly the coolest)! This city might be Australia’s best-kept secret, but be prepared everything here is in the extreme, including the creepy crawlies! There are the usual beautiful beaches but to us the real appeal was the total wildness of the outback on your doorstep. However, if its surfers paradise you’re after forget it! Swimming in the water is only for the brave hearted; salt-water crocs and lethal jellyfish dominate here. The Aussies answer? Build a Lido in Darwin where part of the sea has been netted off, to stop the blighters getting in! So if you want to get away from the searing heat we would recommend cooling off here, there are lots of nice surfy shops and some lush eateries too. Shellfish, Barramundi are part of the staple diet but if you get a chance try the mud crab – makes our little Cromer crab look a bit of a joke! They’re best eaten on the Barbie of course and if you’re brave enough to catch your own, then freeze them first before you spear through the brains, is the most humane way.
If you are mad enough to want to get up close to the Crocs, then the safest route is to take a trip to the Croc Park, about an hour out of Darwin. Here you can take a guided tour down the river with a real life Crocodile Dundee and experience these powerful and fascinating creatures being fed. Even I wasn’t prepared for how close they actually came up to the side of the boat but check out the pics for yourself! The world famous Kakadu National Park is a fair old trek from Darwin (be prepared everything is a lot further than you think) but if you want to do the nature thing without the distance then Lichfield is a good choice. There are some amazing waterfalls and rock pools where you can swim and dive amongst beautiful fish. Take a picnic and spend the day its worth the 2 hour trip.
If you are looking for something really special, then a visit to Crab Claw Island is well worth the extra dollar. It costs around $400-500 to stay in one of the lodges for the weekend but what an experience. The wooden lodges are basic but comfortable, built on stilts to make the most of the fantastic views over the water. There is a lovely restaurant on site serving good quality food all day. We decided to do our own thing for breakfast and lunch, as all the lodges have fridges and if you’re on a budget you can take your own drinks and snacks, which cuts down the cost. Dining outdoors watching the sunset and listening to the cicadas makes this place feel like you are on your own tropical island and a little bit special.
Darwin has a reputation of having a laid back hippy feel. There is a distinct relaxed mood, which I haven’t experienced in other cities around Oz and everyone here enjoys the outdoor life. Take a night out down to the hippy markets – there you will get the real sense of this relaxed Aussie lifestyle. You can buy all manner of local crafted goods; everything from homemade soaps, knitted bags to dream catchers or you can just browse for hours. You can also eat yourself around the world; with every different street food you could wish to buy on tap all at very reasonable prices. But many folks just take a picnic and sit on the grass or use one of the communal BBQ’s – now you know you are in Australia! Relax with a cold beer enjoy the blue skies and think of those long cold grey days in England. A bit of a culture shock but it’s well worth the 18 hour flight from the UK.