The Best Free Things To See And Do In Darwin, Northern Territory

As a travel destination, Darwin offers so much to see and do in and around the city. But some of the best things you don’t even need to pay for. In fact, some of the top attractions, especially for escaping the heat in the Top End, are free.

Having travelled to Darwin several times over the last ten years (or so), here are my picks for the best free things to see and do in the city.

Waterfront Precinct

Darwin Waterfront Precinct

Did I mention that Darwin is hot year-round? This is part of the city’s appeal as a travel destination. And while swimming is a great way to cool off, crocs and stingers (saltwater crocodiles and poisonous jellyfish) make the many beaches around the city less appealling. Luckily, the Waterfront Precinct offers one of the best safe and free places to jump in the water.

Popular with both tourists and locals and just a short walk from Darwin’s CBD, the Waterfront Precinct has been created around a free public park and protected beach/lagoon, where you can relax and swim worry-free.

Surrounding the park, there is a boardwalk with several popular cafes, bars and restaurants, creating a casual resort-style feel to this free public area. Additionally, there is also a wave pool (which does have a small entry fee) with lifeguards if you are looking for something a little bit different.

Depending on when you visit Darwin, the Waterfront Precinct also hosts a number of free and cheap activities and events, particularly in peak tourist season. Every time I visit the city, I make sure to wander down to the precinct and see what might be happening.

Just keep in mind that the Waterfront Precinct can get quite busy in the afternoons. If you are looking for a peaceful relaxing time, it’ll be better to visit in the morning.

Stokes Hill Wharf

Stokes Hill Wharf - Darwin

The historic Stokes Hill Wharf, down by the Waterfront Precinct, is another great free (kinda) introduction to Darwin.

Fun Fact: The wharf that you see today is actually the third iteration of the Stokes Hill Wharf and was built back in 1956. It was also the primary wharf servicing the harbour of Darwin until the Darwin Port was completed in 2000.

Stokes Hill Wharf is a great place to walk and check out the views of the harbour. There are often cruise ships, naval vessels and cargo ships coming and going from the harbour. You’ll also often find fisherman reeling in their catches directly onto the wharf. It’s also a good spot to sit back and watch the spectacular sunrises and sunsets that Darwin is famous for.

That said, whilst visiting Stokes Hill Wharf is free, it is also where you will find the Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility featuring the Bombing of Darwin Experience, which does have an admission fee but is well worth a visit while you are there.

However, my favourite things to do is have a meal and some drinks from one of the casual restaurants on the wharf relax and take in the sunset. It’s a cheaper option than some of the fancier restaurants and bars set up around the Waterfront Precinct.

The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

If you’d like to get a very good overview of Darwin and the Northern Territory, then my top suggestion is to visit the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Best of all, general admission to the museum is free!

Located just north of the city (near the Mindil Beach Markets), the museum covers a very broad history of Darwin, from the local Aboriginal culture and the early settlement of the region to the devastating effects of Cyclone Tracey. Very interesting and very informative, particularly the interactive displays.

Even if you just want to escape Darwin’s heat for a couple of hours, I really recommend a visit to MAGNT. You’ll learn a lot about what helped create the unique outpost in Australia’s rugged top end.

Mindil Markets

Sunset Markets Darwin

Good food, exceptional views… What else could you want? Best of all, it doesn’t really need to cost you anything to visit.

Mindil Beach Sunset Markets (or just Mindil Markets) is held every Thursday and Sunday night during the dry season along Mindil Beach. Right next to the Mindil Beach Casino (formally known as Skycity).

Set up in the late afternoon, the markets are chock full of food vendors and other market-type stalls. It’s also home to a handful of live performances. making Mindil Markets extremely popular with tourists and locals alike.

Each time I’m in Darwin, I make sure I visit the Mindil Beach markets, take in the atmosphere, and enjoy the sunset. All of which is free.

That said, the food truck vendors who set up for Mindil Markets are very good and very reasonably priced. Making for an enjoyable and very cheap night out.

Having a bite to eat (or enjoying a fruit smoothie) while sitting on the beach behind the markets and watching the sunset is one of the most iconic things you can do in Darwin. It really is just a fantastic way to spend an evening (particularly Thursday nights) in Darwin.

Darwin Street Art

Darwin Street Art

Something that keeps evolving each time I visit Darwin is the Street Art. Every year, creative artworks get added to a few more buildings around the city.

I really enjoy wandering around the city and checking out these stunning additions to the city skyline. It’s a very good reason to walk around the city.

Darwin does host an official street art festival each year, and there is an official map listing all the artworks, but my best suggestion is just to keep an eye out as you explore the city. It’s really amazing to see these unique pieces pop up as you round the corner.

Berry Springs Waterhole/Nature Park

To this point, I’ve directed you to things within the heart of Darwin. While Berry Springs Waterhole/Nature Park is free to visit, you will definitely need to rent a car to visit this attraction.

When it comes to the Northern Territory, just down the road could be anything from 30 minutes to a couple of hours… It’s just that sort of place. So, with that in mind, you’ll find Berry Springs just down the road from Darwin (40 minutes, give or take down the Stuart Hwy).

Even though it is a little bit out of the way, it’s a very popular spot to escape the heat during the peak of the dry season in the Northern Territory, with public picnic and barbecue areas in the shaded parkland.

If you are looking for that authentic swimming in natural springs experience while you are in Darwin, Berry Springs Waterhole, with its crystal clear pools, is the place to go.

The water is so clear that you can see everything, so you don’t need to worry about crocodiles… Well, most of the time. But warnings will be posted if swimming isn’t recommended.

Berry Springs Nature Park is also a great place to get out and stretch your legs with a walk around the Monsoon Rainforest and Woodlands trail, a short loop track that will take you through two very different Top End habitats. Keep an eye out; you will definitely spot some local wildlife as well as some relics from the region’s World War Two history.

Charles Darwin National Park

Charles Darwin National Park

Another fantastic free place to explore, just outside of the city, is Charles Darwin National Park.

Darwin isn’t a hustle-and-bustle city. Still, if you want to get out into nature without straying too far from the city and just make the most of the Northern Territory’s fantastic weather, Charles Darwin National Park is the place to visit.

The park has an interesting history. Prior to its national park status, it was used as an ammunition storage site during World War Two. Relics, including the bunkers, can be discovered as you drive into the park and explore it further through several walking and biking trails.

If you are looking for a little more relaxed experience, the barbeque/picnic area next to the car park for Charles Darwin National Park features a lookout with an amazing view of Darwin’s city skyline.

I really recommend a visit to Charles Darwin National Park for these unique experiences. It is very different from the natural wonders the other national parks in the Northern Territory, like Litchfield and Kakadu, are famous for.

Save Money On Northern Territory Attractions

Free experiences are a great way to save money, but with so much to see and do in Darwin and across Australia, another great way to save money is to take advantage of the bundle ticket offers. 

Personally, I use the Australia Klook Pass to save money by bundling a handful of big-ticket attractions and tours. That said, you can also find specials on many of Darwin’s other attractions on Klook as well.

Alternatively, you can also check out Get Your Guide and Viator to see if you can get a better deal on individual attractions and tours.

Need more help planning your trip to Darwin? Make sure you read my ultimate guide, covering everything else you need to know.

Also, make sure you check out the travel tools I use most to help you save money when booking your next trip.

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About the author

Rhys Vandersyde

Traveller, Photographer, Content Creator - I've spent the last 20 years actively seeking out new destinations and new adventures. Find out more about me here: vandersyde.com.au

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