If you have one weekend in Darwin you want to make the most of it. We asked the locals how they would spend 48 hours in Darwin with kids. This itinerary has waterplay, ice cream and crocodiles.
DAY 1: Swimming, history and crocodiles
Morning: Take a refreshing dip
Days that begin with swims are always the best. And the best place to swim in Darwin is the Wave Lagoon.
This safe, stinger and crocodile-free swimming lagoon at Darwin’s Waterfront Precinct has plenty of shade and grass to lay down your towels while you take a refreshing dip. The concrete man-made lagoon slopes from a gentle beach area to a depth of 2m. The water is chlorinated salt and the waves run on a cycle with a ten-minute break in between.
Little kids will love splashing in the shallows while teenagers can actually try body-boarding the waves. A range of different waves are pumped out on the cycle. Some waves can reach up to 1.2m in height. A limited amount of body boards and tubes are available for hire each day.
If you prefer your water natural, head to the Recreation Lagoon. This natural lagoon is enclosed by a sea wall. Mesh screens protect swimmers from marine stingers and crocodiles and a stinger net provides extra protection on the beach side.
Fish can still enter the lagoon – and the kids will love to chase them. A natural ecosystem exists including fish, algae, and Cassiopeia jellyfish. Large fish live in the lagoon and can often brush up against swimmers. Darwin Waterfront Corporation’s management checks the water quality regularly. Fresh water is pumped from the sea to ensure a healthy balance.
Where: Kitchener Dr, Darwin City NT 0800
Price: Wave Lagoon entry is $7 for ages 15 and above. Children aged 3-15 are $5. Children under 3 are free. A family pass (max two adults and three children) is $18. Entry to the Recreation Lagoon is free.
Hours: Darwin Wave pool is open from 10am to 6pm.
Morning: Royal Flying Doctor Service
If you have time, or if the weather is wet, head over to the Darwin Royal Flying Doctor Service at Stokes Hill (RFDS) for a history lesson.
Reverend John Flynn founded the RFDS in the NT in 1939. At the RFDS museum families can learn about the history of the RFDS pilots, engineers, doctors and nurses. Interactive exhibits include two storytelling ghosts, Alf Traeger and Nurse Kathy who answer questions selected from a touchscreen. The museum also has a decommissioned RFDS Pilatus PC 12 aircraft. Kids (and big kids) can climb inside and experience what it would be like to fly into remote areas full-equipped with the medical kit.
The RFDS facility also has a section dedicated to the bombing of Darwin. Kids can see a suspended full replica Mitsubishi Zero Japanese warplane, a replica bomb and incredible holograms that bring the war to life.
Where: 45 Stokes Hill Rd, Darwin City. Stokes Hill Wharf is Darwin’s main wharf and is conveniently located near many local restaurants, cafes and retail shops.
Price: Children’s tickets are $16. Adults cost $28. Family tickets are $70. If you plan to go to Darwin’s Crocosaurus Cove – you can get a combined ticket. Adults cost $59 and children cost $37.
Hours: 9.30am to 6pm daily. 10am to 3pm public holidays
Lunch: Stokes Hill Wharf
For lunch with a view, Territorians say you can’t go past Stokes Hill Wharf. Luckily it’s right next to the RFDS.
Stokes Hill isn’t really a hill. It’s the main wharf at Darwin. You could grab a table at one of the restaurants or cafes. But we’ve been told it’s more fun to grab a snack or fish and chips from the food market and find a spot as close to the water as you can. The kids will love watching the fish swim underneath the wharf as they full their hungry tummies.
Where: Stokes Hill Wharf Darwin
Hours: 24 hours. Check with individual restaurants for opening hours if you plan to dine in.
Afternoon: Meet the crocodiles
You can’t do Darwin without doing the Crocosaurus.
At the Crocosaurus, visitors can get up close an personal with the crocodiles. It also has the world’s largest display of reptiles and Australia’s only crocodile dive.
Thrill-seeking kids will need to be at least 15 if they want to enter the cage of death. If not, it’s great fun to watch the adults do it. In this freaky experience, guests will spend 15 minutes in the crocodile enclosure with a 5m long Saltwater crocodile. If this doesn’t get your heart racing, nothing will.
Kids can still swim with the crocs – in the Crocosaurus’s unique swimming pool. The pool has a solid glass wall, beyond which is the croc enclosure. It makes for great photos.
At 2.30pm head to the Big Croc Feeding show. Keepers will demonstrate the crocodile’s bite force. Watch as they make a meal out of a solid block of ice. Keep a lookout for Chopper. This croc has a reputation as one of the most feared Salties in the NT.
Want to feed a croc yourself? Head to the Fishing for Crocs display at 11.30am, 2.30pm or 4.30pm. From the safety of a glass fenced platform, you can feed up to 100 juvenile saltwater crocodiles with a fishing line. This is a great way to show the kids how crocodiles feed in the wild. Watch as they bring their whole body out of the water to reach for the snack.
In between activities be sure to check out the reptile house which has more than 70 species on display. Most are from the Top End, Kimberley and NT desert regions. Make sure you find the time for the Meet the Reptils show. Kids can get up close to the incredible creatures and learn what they like to eat for lunch. Show times are at 10am, 12.30pm and 4pm.
Where: 58 Mitchell Street Darwin
Price: Entry is $35 for adults, $28 for seniors and $23 for children. Tickets can be bundled with entry to the RFDS for a discount.
Hours: Open 9am to 6pm daily
Evening: Sunset cruise on Darwin Harbour
The best way to experience Darwin Harbour is on a sunset cruise. Darwin has plenty of cruise companies that will take you out on the water. Many include food and drinks in the price. Choose from catamarans, pearl luggers and a traditional ketch. Most cruises last for 2.5 hours. Prices range from $50 to $110 per person.
DAY 2: Wildlife, museums and markets
Morning: Wildlife encounters
Head to the Territory Wildlife Park for an up-close encounter with NT wildlife. The 400-hectare park showcases animals found within the Top End of the NT from Katherine to the Darwin. Keep a lookout for Bowerbirds, Orange Footed Scrub-fowl and the infamous Tata Dragon which is known for arm waving.
The Territory Wildlife Park park has an extensive series of walking tracks to follow. It is divided into different habitat zones including a woodland wallaby walk, the Billabong, the aquarium and the nocturnal house. The exhibits are well signposted and close enough for little legs. But if the kids do get tired you can always jump on the free shuttle train, or hire bikes, scooters and strollers. Kids will love wandering underneath the aquarium. Just watch out for the huge Saltwater croc.
The keepers at Territory Wildlife Park are happy to answer any questions about the species in the park. Ask at reception when you arrive about the animal encounters. Families can join in Pelican feeding, take a VIP tour of the nocturnal den and even pat a River Ray.
Where: Cox Peninsula Road, Berry Springs. You will either need to hire a car to drive here or book a tour of the park with ethical adventures. No public transport to the park exists. It is about 45 minutes from Darwin city centre.
Price: $32 Adult $16 Child 5-16 yrs Free Child 0-4 yrs $22.50 Concession & Student $25.50 Australian Senior Family tickets available.
Hours: 9am to 5pm daily.
Lunch: Picnic at Berry Springs
Berry Springs Nature Park is one of the most beautiful places to cool off and chill out in Darwin. Grab some lunch from the kiosk and have a picnic beside one of the swimming pools. Between March and April, you can see stunning wildflowers in bloom.
But the kids are just going to head straight for the water. Berry Springs has a series of natural pools and waterfalls that are safe to swim in. Bring some goggles so you can see the fish underneath the water.
In World War II, more than 100,000 armed forces personnel were stationed in the area. A number of huts and a weir were built at the time and remnants of this history can be found scattered through the park. Take a walk along the monsoon forest and woodlands walks to explore more of the typical Top End animal habitats.
If you are here at 11am, rangers give a talk on what it means to “be crocwise” and how they manage all the crocodiles in the NT National parks. Meet the rangers at the Amphitheatre next to the Middle Pool.
Where: Cox Peninsula Road Berry Springs
Price: Entry is free
Hours: Picnic areas open 8am to 6.30pm daily. Berry Springs kiosk opens from 11am to 5.30pm daily April to November. The pools and park may close during the Wet Season from October to April due to flooding, crocodile sightings and water quality.
Afternoon: Stop for ice cream
On the drive back to Darwin, Territorians say you should stop at Crazy Acres for a few scoops of mango ice cream.
Crazy Acres farm is a family-run mango farm in Berry Springs just 4km from Berry Springs. The farm is open seven days a week and its Kensington Pride mangos are to die for. Apart from ice cream you can also try mango smoothies, dried mango, local honey, pulled pork rolls, salads and mango cheesecake. The gift shop also sells mango-scented candles.
Where: Cox Peninsula Road Berry Springs
Price: Entry is free
Hours: Crazy Acres is open 7 days from May to September from 9am to 5.30pm.
Afternoon: History and art
Head to Bullocky Point Darwin for a dose of art and history. The Museum and Art Gallery of NT is one of Darwin’s must-sees according to the locals. It contains internationally renowned artistic, cultural and scientific collections.
The Cyclone Tracy exhibit tells the story of the devastating 1974 storm and what it took to rebuild Darwin. Families can learn about the WWII Japanese bombing of Darwin at the Defence of Darwin exhibit. Or simply wander through the collections of more than 1.2 million animal, fossil, rock and mineral specimens from Northern Australia and neighbouring areas.
Where: 19 Conacher St, Bullocky Point Darwin City
Hours: 10am to 5pm daily. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day and Good Friday.
Evening: Dinner at Darwin’s famous markets
Head to Mindil Beach Markets for an experience that is pure Darwin. These sunset markets overlooking Mindil Beach sell just about everything – candles, crocodile leather goods, bush soaps, jewellery, clothing, art and even shoes. Wander through the 300 stalls to find some true NT souvenirs to take home. Kids will love the laughing clowns, jumping castles, face painting and circus workshops.
Families are spoilt for choice for dinner and dessert. Mindl has it all – Asian, Greek, Thai, Chinese, American barbecue, Mexican. Whatever you feel like, grab a plate and find a spot to watch the sunset on the beach. Most of the craft stalls will take EFTPOS. But many of the food stalls are cash-only. ATMs can be found in the Hangout and Community Space.
No alcohol is sold on site, but you can bring down your own bottle of bubbles to enjoy.
Where: Mindil Beach Sunset Market
Hours: Thursday to Sunday 4pm to 9pm from April 26 to October 25.