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

With an abundance of tourists flocking to Darwin each year, this city is well-equipped with plenty of attractions for visitors to see and do while they are there.

Now, I do understand that for many people, Darwin might just be a stop-off point before or after you head to explore Kakadu National Park or any of the other natural wonders that this part of Australia has to offer.

But I would strongly recommend that while planning your trip to Darwin that make sure you give yourself a few days to explore the city and discover everything else it has to offer as well.

Having visited Darwin regularly over the last 10 years (or so) are my personal recommedations of the best things to see and do.

Big Bus Tour

If your time in Darwin is limited, be it you are heading out to Kakadu or just trying to see a lot of Australia in a short amount of time, Darwin’s Big Bus tour is a great way to get a broad overview of what the city has to offer in a short amount of time.

Personally, I’m a big fan of these open-top hop-on/hop-off bus tours to help me get my bearings in the new city. It’s a great way to see as much as possible if you are short of time, and Darwin’s is no different. The insights from the onboard commentary is also a great way to learn some of the history of the city.

Another benefit of the Big Bus Tour is that while Darwin is a great city to walk around within the CBD, several of Dariwn’s key attractions are a short drive outside the city. The Hop On/Hop Off tour is a very good alternative to renting a car for a day or two, especially if you taking an organised tour to explore the rest of the Northern Territory.

Crocosaurus Cove

Crocosaurus Cove - Darwin

No trip to Darwin would be complete without a saltwater crocodile experience. And to be fair, there are a number of Croc experiences in and around the city to choose from.

However, what makes Crocosaurus Cove stand out is the ability to “safely” get in the water with these amazing creatures. The ironically named “Cage of Death” experience is the only way to get into the water and right up close and in the water with these 5-meter+ salties (that’s the local slang for saltwater crocodiles) without the risk of turning into its lunch.

Trust me, the bone-crunching crack when a croc slams its jaws shut will send a shiver down your spine, whether you are in the water with it or not.

This is a one-of-a-kind experience that you can’t do anywhere else, something I’d highly recommend if you are feeling adventurous enough.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the saltwater crocodile is the largest living reptile? It’s also the most aggressive of all crocodile species.

Crocosaurus Cove is conveniently located being located right in the heart of the city, in the mix of Mitchell Street’s tourist/backpacker/pub area.

Beyond the big crocs, Crocosaurus Cove also has a large collection of freshies (freshwater crocodiles, the smaller of the two species in Australia) with a couple of interactive experiences. As well as an overview of crocodile/alligator/caiman species found globally in the World of Crocs exhibit.

It’s also home to a number of other local Australian animals, particularly snakes and other reptiles, that are probably best discovered with some perspex between you and them.

Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility including the Bombing of Darwin Experience

Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility including the Bombing of Darwin Experience

Effectively two attractions for the price of one, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility on Stokes Hill Wharf is well worth visiting, but it is probably best known for its Bombing of Darwin Experience.

One-half of the building is entirely dedicated to the history of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which has played an important role in providing and supporting important medical services around Australia for the last 80(ish) years.

While this part of the facility may not initially encourage you to pay the admission fee, I found it the most interesting. Detailed and interactive, the Royal Flying Doctor Experience showcases a unique part of Australian history that is often overlooked.

That’s not to say the other side, which features the Bombing of Darwin Experience, is any less impressive.

Featuring a number of interactive experiences, including the use of virtual reality, the Bombing of Darwin Experience recounts when the city was laid siege by the Japanese during World War Two.

Both of these could stand on their own, but the fact that they are together makes the Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility well worth a visit.

Darwin Aviation Heritage Centre

Darwin Aviation Heritage Centre

Aviation has been a key factor in Darwin’s growth as a city, given its remote and rugged location in the Top End of Australia.

This was especially the case during World War Two, when the conflict in the Pacific shaped much of the city, including much of the city that we see today.

One of the attractions that really pays tribute to aviation’s role in the development of the city is the Darwin Aviation Museum, formerly known as the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre.

Showcasing both military and civil aviation, the Darwin Aviation Museum is particularly special because it is home to one of just two Boeing B-52s on public display outside of America. This unique aircraft is on permanent loan from the United States Air Force as a tribute to the city’s important role in the US military.

Fun Fact: The B-52 is so large that they had to park it at the site of the museum and construct the building around it!

That’s not to say that the B-52 is the only reason to visit; the museum holds an impressive and diverse collection of military and civilian aircraft, from the Spitfire of World War Two to the more recently retired F/A-18 Hornet and F-111.

It’s one of my personal highlights nearly every time I visit Darwin.

Adelaide River Jumping Crocs

Adelaide River Jumping Crocs

Seeing crocodiles in an enclosure is one thing… Seeing them in their natural habitat is something else entirely.

The Adelaide River (about 50 minutes outside of Darwin along the Arnhem Hwy) is home to several croc cruises that will take you out onto the river and let you experience these modern dinosaurs in their natural habitat.

From sunning themselves on the banks of the river to hiding just below the surface and launching almost their entire bodies out of the water to catch their prey. It really is an experience best witnessed in person.

While there are a few different cruise operators to choose from, my personal pick is The Original Adelaide River Queen Jumping Crocodile Cruises. It’s a little more rustic than some of the other options, but I found their cruise far more genuine and informative.

Pro Tip: Try to be on one of the first cruises of the day. The crocs are far more active, especially jumping out of the water for food in the morning. But late afternoon, once different cruises have been up and down the river a couple of times, the crocs are often well-fed and less active.

I really recommend doing this as a day trip (or at least a half day) out of Darwin, especially if you rent a car. If you do, make sure you stop at the famous Humpty Doo Hotel along the way for lunch.

That said, if you aren’t planning on renting a car, the cruise operators do offer tours that include transport to Darwin and the Adelaide River.

Defence of Darwin Experience

Defence of Darwin Experience

You may have worked out by this point that World War Two is a fairly significant part of Darwin‘s history.

Not quite so, Fun Fact: During World War Two, the Japanese bombed Darwin several times over a two-year period. In fact, Darwin was attacked by the same Japanese fleet that famously inflicted so much damage on Pearl Harbour, bringing the United States into the war.

A great way to learn a whole lot more about this moment in Darwin’s history is to visit The Defence of Darwin Experience and the Darwin Military Museum (all in the same complex).

Nestled within the relics of massive artillery instillments built to protect Darwin from naval assault, the museum gives a really good insight into what life was like in Darwin during the war and the Australian and American military association that was forged during that time. Something you can still see active in the city to this day.

The Defence of Darwin Experience is also home to many artifacts, interactive exhibitions and displays from this turbulent time in history, which many people don’t realise how it impacted Australia.

I found it a great place to learn a very different and probably lesser-known perspective of what life was like during World War Two, particularly in the South Pacific.

While you are in the area, take the opportunity to explore the rest of East Point. The reserve has plenty more artefacts from the military base that used to occupy the area outside of the museum, which can be discovered through a number of scenic walking trails.

Crocodylus Park

Crocodylus Park - Darwin

Look, I know I’ve already recommended a lot of crocodile-related activities to you… But Crocodylus Park is a little bit different.

Crocodylus Park is on a completely different scale from everything else I’ve mentioned so far.

Home to 12,000 crocodiles (not all of which are on display), the park started out as a crocodile research and conservation centre and continued to grow from there. Turning into a fully-fledged zoo with a wide variety of animals. In fact, it’s the only zoo in Darwin.

Many of the attractions at Crocodylus Park are focused on crocodiles, mixing some of their natural environment within the confines (and safety) of the park, including its own river cruise-style experience. It’s also home to several other Australian native animals you might not spot in the wild, as well as a few animal species from around the world, most notably a pair of Lions.

While personally, I would prioritise Crocosaurus Cove and an Adelaide River Cruise to see and experience crocs, while you are in Darwin, if you have an extended stay in Darwin and can’t get enough of these style animal experiences, Crocodylus Park is a worthy inclusion is a worthy inclusion of things to see and do while you are in the city.

Airboat Tour

To this point, I’ve given you a lot of suggestions for things you can see and do, but this one is something you will feel!

Airboat tours are somewhat of a unique experience to Darwin, at least in Australia.

You’ll have a choice of Airboat tours and tour operators, but you will want to take the trip across Darwin Harbour and through the scenic mangroves and mudflats, inaccessible by any other mode of transport.

It’s a great way to get up close and personal with some of the local flora and fauna and see parts of Darwin that you wouldn’t normally be able to explore otherwise.

Pro Tip: This fast, loud and adrenalin-filled adventure, but don’t make any plans directly after your tour because you will want to clean up after. But it’s well worth it!

Save Money On Northern Territory Attractions

With so much to see and do in Darwin and right across Australia, the admission to all these attractions can really add up. A great way to save money is to make sure you 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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