After living and traveling around Australia for two years, I can honestly say that my favorite place is a place that many people overlook. I don’t know exactly what it was that made me fall in love, the amazing locals, the beautiful waterfalls, the fact that it’s so Australian, the unbelievable sunsets, the clear starry skies or maybe a mix of everything, but yes I was in love.
My first impression of Darwin was probably, damn it’s hot here! We arrived late April 2016, just at the start of the dry season and since the dry kicked in very late that year it was VERY hot. Around 36-38 degrees and very humid, but once the dry came we had about four or five months of clear blue skies and nice dry heat. When you first get to Darwin it’s easy to get stuck in the tourist traps and a lot of people I’ve met who has traveled through said they didn’t find much to do apart from going out. That’s what I thought as well, but I was so wrong! Sure hanging out at the lagoon (a beach in town where you can swim) with all the other backpackers and going out on Mitchell Street (the street where most of the bars are) every night is a lot of fun and I probably did that every other day but there are so much more to see around this town! There is no way I’m letting you leave Darwin without going on a road trip first, and here is my idea of a perfect one…
Your first stop is about 45 minutes away from town and is, like most places on this road trip, a place for swimming. Once you get to Darwin you’ll understand why (Darwin is pretty warm). Berry Springs has a few different swimming pools and is just a beautiful little place to chill out and float around in the water for a while. This spot also makes for a perfect day trip since it is so close to town.
Litchfield National Park
About 1,5/2 hours drive from Darwin is the beautiful Litchfield National Park. We mainly came here to swim in the waterfalls but there are a lot of other things to see like termite mounds and rock holes etc. Florence falls and Wanggu falls are my favorites and they’re perfect for swimming and also have a lot of cliffs around the edges to jump from if you’re looking for a rush of adrenaline. Although I don’t think you’re actually allowed to jump because of previous accidents, just make sure you have a thorough look before jumping in! I think we went to Litchfield at least once a week, cold swims are really the way to go when you’re in Darwin. The falls in Litchfield are absolutely beautiful, so this is a must do on your Darwin road trip!
When you’re done splashing around the waterfalls you shouldn’t head back into Darwin just yet. The best camping spot I have ever been to is pretty close to Litchfield National Park and is called Umbrawarra Gorge. It takes a while to get there driving on a dirt road (expect a bumpy ride) but WOW. Such a cool spot to camp at. I don’t know if you’re actually allowed to camp here, but as long as you clean up after yourself I don’t see why not. The best way and maybe the only way if you don’t want to get a heat stroke, to camp in Darwin is with a swag. A swag is kind of a sleeping bag and a tent in one. Perfect for warm weather and gives you the luxury of falling asleep to a beautiful starry sky above you. Nothing like sleeping under the stars in a beautiful place like this!
After waking up why not make tracks to the next waterfall? Because what is a road trip without waterfalls… And the national parks outside of Darwin has a lot of them. Edith falls is probably my favorite waterfall, divided into a few different pools (the lowest one has freshwater crocs so watch out), and with plenty of lookouts and cliffs to jump from.
Douglas Hot Springs
Before driving back into Darwin you can stop over at the Douglas Hot Springs, not that you in any way will be in need of a warm bath but it’s still pretty cool to walk around the streams and feel the water go from cold to burning hot. This place is especially cool at night, laying in the hot springs in the dark, watching the stars. Did I mention I love watching the stars…
When you get back into town you’ve got something really special in store. If there’s one thing I’ll never forget about Darwin, it’s the sunset. You get the best and most colorful ones in the wet season or just before or after (October – May). Almost every day we would gather some friends, bring a picnic and some wine and watch the beautiful show of colors painting the sky.
My favorite spots are Mindil Beach, where they have a sunset market every Thursday and Sunday. Mindil can get really crowded though. Another one of my favorite places for sunset is East Point (5 minutes drive from town), where there’s an old tower you can climb up. Bring blankets and bean bags and you have the best sunset view in town! There’s also a spot at East point on the rocks just by the water where the view is amazing. This is also a popular spot for cliff jumping, just watch out for the crocs! 😉 East point also has a coastal walkway that makes for a beautiful sunset walk. By the Nightcliff jetty, you will also get a pretty amazing sunset. Okay, the sunset is amazing from anywhere in and around Darwin, but these are my favorites. And then, of course, there is Cullen Bay, at walking distance from town. There is a big grass area in front of the beach filled with palm trees that make for the perfect picnic spot. If you feel adventurous there’s a cliff on the right side of the beach you can climb up that gives an awesome view.
You can also see the sunset from Casuarina beach, it’s a bit further away from town but definitely worth a visit. This actually looks like a swimmable beach but I’m not going to recommend anyone to jump in, although I think during the dry season they put up flags and have lifeguards so you can go for a dip. In case you didn’t know, in Darwin, you’re not supposed to swim in the ocean because there are both crocodiles and a lot of jellyfish in the water. I’ve been swimming in the ocean so many times in Darwin because I didn’t think that the crocodiles actually were in the ocean, but we’ve heard of people seeing crocs now at the exact spots where we’ve been swimming. Wooops! Just be careful. Anyway Casuarina Beach has the cutest little outdoor cafe/restaurant with bean bags and blankets and really nice food, with the sunset it makes for an awesome dinner spot!
This is my idea of a perfect road trip in Darwin. So if you ever go, make sure to stop by a few of these places and I can assure you-you will be blown away by Darwin’s incredible nature!