With apologies to Enid Blyton, this blog is subtitled ‘Ten go to Darwin!’ And just like the Famous Five our seniors group had adventures but not ‘lashings of ginger beer’ just some very good cocktails!
With Qantas and Virgin offering half-price flights within Australia and overseas travel not allowed, we snapped up $179 flights to Darwin. I think we had our fingers crossed for weeks after Covid outbreaks and lockdowns in Perth and Darwin but we were lucky and managed to get a great holiday.
Our G2G passes were approved instantly but we had to update them twice later – not through any change in our circumstances but by direction of the authorities.
Northern Territory applications are assessed on arrival. All the NT Border entry staff were pleasant and professional. It took about twenty minutes to go through the formalities and get our luggage. We also had to download The Territory check-in app, similar to the Safe WA app. Most shops and restaurants asked to see a completed check-in before allowing entry.
Masks are mandatory at Perth and Darwin Airports and on all flights except when passengers are ‘actively’ eating. Note the word actively; it is not enough to have a cold cup of coffee on your tray table! We travelled to Darwin on Qantas, which provided a hot lunch. Smooth flight but packed.
We stayed at the 100-room Argus Hotel, which is a five to ten minute walk from the CBD. The hotel has a gym and a small cool-down pool rather than a swimming pool. Rooms were a good size and comfortable although the walls seemed quite thin.
The airport is about 15-20 minutes outside the city. We organised Hughes Darwin for pick-up and return. We also used Metro minibuses to take us to and from restaurants and attractions outside the CBD. Ubers are readily available and public transport is free for seniors from all over Australia.
Darwin Council is presently conducting a 12-month trial for e-scooters that have a maximum speed of 15 km. Users download the Neuron app and create an account. Typical costs are $1 (to unlock the scooter) and $0.38 per minute. Users must be 18 years or over and wear the provided helmet.
Big Bus Tour
$42.50 (Seniors – $37.50) for a 24-hour hop on-hop off ticket. There are twelve stops including Cullen Bay, the Casino and the Darwin Waterfront. Darwin is not really a scenic city but we learned our way around and a lot of history about the city.
$185 pp. Wallaroo Tours took us to Litchfield National Park where we saw termite mounds and swam at Florence Falls. There are 135 steps to the swimming area or a 1.8 km walk to get there. After a light lunch at Wangi Falls we travelled to the Adelaide River and all twenty passengers piled on board a small boat owned by Pat, a rugged NT bushman who is passionate about crocodiles and stringent about safety on board.
This was an amazing part of our week in Darwin. Pat introduced us to the crocs, as in getting up close and personal with three alpha males – Sneaky, Aggro and Notch. These reminders of the Dinosaur Age were huge, magnificent and scary so we were all very conscious of keeping our arms and legs on the inside of the boat! Pat dangled chicken carcasses from the side of the boat and the crocs jumped well out of the water to reach the food.
On our way back to the city we stopped at the Humpty Doo Tavern, made famous by the Crocodile Dundee films. The tour finished with a glass of champagne and some prawns at Fannie Bay Beach. Travel is in an air-conditioned mini-bus and it’s a long day. We left at 7am and got back around 7:30pm, but the tour is definitely worth it.
This lies about 40 minutes outside of Darwin. A car is preferable but in our case, we hired a minibus to take us there and back. It’s a good place for a picnic. There is a short woodland walk, a kiosk for the caffeine-addicted and bbqs available. Main attraction is of course the hot springs – not boiling hot but pleasantly warm. Hire a noodle and drift down the lazy river.
Darwin Aviation Museum
Admission is $16 (Seniors $12) The museum is on public bus routes 5 and 8. It was very interesting and very informative. For instance, none of us had any idea that Darwin was bombed more than Pearl Harbor during WW2.
With more than 21 engines and relicts of crashed aircraft as well as 19 civil and military aircraft including the legendary B52 bomber, this museum gets a big thumbs up.
Darwin Military Museum
Adults -$20. Interstate seniors – $15. Military vehicles, uniforms, photographs and artillery are on display. Australia at War is the theme with an emphasis on the bombing of Darwin and Australians in Vietnam. This is a stop on the afternoon Big Bus Tour.
Darwin Museum and Art Gallery
Free admission. Interesting collections about dinosaurs, crocodiles and other wildlife as well as a maritime gallery. Film footage of Cyclone Tracy including a black room where patrons can hear the sound of the cyclone was popular. There is a small souvenir shop and a café. The museum is a stop on the Big Bus tour and public buses 4 and 6.
Swimming in the sea is not recommended because of the danger from saltwater crocodiles and jellyfish, however, a section of the sea has been cordoned off at the waterfront and is pleasant to swim in. Sunbeds and umbrellas are provided free of charge. There is also a wave pool which is well utilised by families.
The Waterfront is the go-to place for restaurants and pubs.
A free shuttle bus runs between the Waterfront and Stoke Hill Wharf home to the RFDS and even more restaurants.
Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
Held every Thursday and Sunday from April to October, the Mindil Markets are a huge drawcard for locals and visitors. With more than 200 stalls including 60 food trucks, it’s a great place to wander and pick out your evening meal. We bought Calamari (Calamari King truck), which my husband thought was some of the best and freshest he had ever tasted. But visitors can take their pick of cuisines – Malaysian, Indian, Spanish, French, Brazilian, Italian – lots of good places to try. The beach was very busy with everyone staking a place on the sand to watch the sunset.
The whole area is smoke free and animals (apart from service dogs) are not allowed. Patrons are encouraged to BYO as no alcohol is sold from the trucks. Mindil Beach is a three kilometre walk from the CBD and is on bus routes 4 and 6.
Royal Flying Doctor Service Tourist Facility
Admission -$28 (Seniors -$22). One of the best attractions in Darwin. An interactive story telling experience utilising virtual reality headsets, hologram films and touch screens. Don’t miss this one.
Char –located in the Old Admiralty House, Char has a large outdoor seating area as well as indoors overlooking the Esplanade. Food was very good but service could have been better.
Darwin Trailer Boat Club – hugely popular club, open to visitors and right on the beach at Fannie Bay. Around 300 people dining when we visited on a Sunday afternoon. Food was good and happy hour cocktails with a two for one offer went down very well.
Fiddlers Green – Irish pub at the Waterfront – good pub grub and friendly service.
Green Chillies – Thai/Indian restaurant at our hotel (Argus) – tasty food at very reasonable prices although service was slow.
Hot Tamale – Mid range Mexican at the Waterfront. Excellent guacamole.
Moorish Cafe– Tapas restaurant in the heart of the city. Again good food at reasonable prices
Pee Wees on the Point – hands down the best restaurant in Darwin. Outdoor dining, gorgeous views, great service and delicious food.
Shenanigans – Irish pub. Food was ‘grand’ but the venue is more suited to the denizens of the next door backpackers than seniors.
Smith Street Social – good outside tables for drinks and people watching. Normal pub grub with an emphasis on pizza.
Snapper Rocks – Upmarket Darwin Waterfront restaurant with nice food
There are a few small dedicated shopping areas in the CBD as well as the Smith Street pedestrian mall, which houses lots of smaller shops and interesting laneways. There is a huge mall at Casuarina – a forty-minute public bus trip on Route 4 and 10.
We found the prices for groceries, coffee etc on par with Perth but were pleasantly surprised with the bill at Pee Wees on the Point. We had several bottles of wine and all ten of us had three courses and it worked out around $130 per person. Not bad for Darwin’s best.
Our group was on different return flights. Four on Qantas and six on Virgin. Both flights were very busy. Unlike Qantas, Virgin do not provide free food but passengers may buy food such as cheese and crackers ($5), Kettle chips ($5) and Noodles ($7.50). Payment is by card only. Water, tea and coffee are complimentary but wine will set you back $12.
After arriving back into WA we had a twenty minute queue to have our G2G passes scrutinised. A few people had obviously not filled out their forms properly and were taken to the side of the room. Police on duty were professional and serious.
Darwin is a great place to visit, we found plenty to do and are already planning another trip. Next time we will find a hotel with a bigger swimming pool, hire a couple of cars, visit Katherine and spend a few nights in Kakadu National Park.
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