Ultimate guide to things to do in Darwin with kids
Make Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, your launch pad to the terrific Top End. Expect plenty of tropical sunshine, the best of Australia’s national parks, fascinating Indigenous culture, and a wealth of history. And the odd croc, of course!
In fact, where better to start your Darwin adventure than face to face with one of these prehistoric beasts? Enjoy a close encounter with the crocodiles at Crocosaurus Cove, or in the wild on a jaw dropping Jumping Crocodile Cruise on the Adelaide River.
Head to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory to see stunning works of Indigenous art. Learn about Darwin’s WWII history and the bombing of Darwin at the Darwin Military Museum. Visit the Darwin Waterfront Precinct to peruse shops, cafes and restaurants and to watch the extraordinary sunsets over Darwin Harbour.
For a rich immersion in unparalleled landscapes, explore the Litchfield National Park, the Tiwi Islands and, of course, UNESCO’s World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park. The latter is Australia’s largest land-based National Park. It is packed with stunning rocky ridges, lush flood plains, tranquil billabongs and croc-filled estuaries, as well as some of the best-preserved examples of ancient Indigenous rock art in the country.
Kakadu is indeed home to some of the world’s oldest traces of culture and community, with Aboriginal rock paintings dating back to up to 20,000 years.
Top 10 things to do in Darwin
There’s history, food, and loads of fun to be had in this region packed with so many family attractions. Here are ten to add to your list.
Things to do in Darwin with…
Start by cooling off with a leisurely dip in the freshwater waterholes of Berry Springs Nature Park, around 40 minutes from the Darwin city centre. Then, head to the Territory Wildlife Park. Set within 400 hectares of natural bushland, the park showcases native wildlife up close in natural habitat displays. Kids will even come face to prehistoric face with a fearsome 4-metre saltwater crocodile at the Aquarium. You can also surround yourselves with barramundi in the walk-through tunnel.
Get even more hands-on than that on a fishy encounter at Darwin City’s Aquascene. Here, littlies can wade in the water as well as feed a variety of wild fish.
hen, take your tots to Crazy Acres Mango Farm & Café to run around and slurp up some mango-flavoured treats. Situated on a family run mango farm, The Café is famous for its homemade ice cream.
Primary schoolers can discover the history of what was once a north coast outpost. Did you know that no fewer than 64 Japanese raids unfolded in Darwin during WWII? The Darwin Military Museum offers a fascinating snapshot of wartime Darwin via the highly interactive Defence of Darwin Experience. The Australian Aviation Heritage Centre houses an incredible collection of aircraft as well, including a massive B52 bomber.
Keep with the museum theme, but shift gears to all things arty at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. The set-up is super kid-friendly, with a regular exhibition changeover and activity programs for children. Learn about the stories behind Indigenous art and view an amazing collection of cultural artefacts.
Lizard-loving kids will love Crocosaurus Cove and its display of Australian reptiles, the largest in the world. Doesn’t satisfy your craving for crocs? The doubly brave can meet the 12,000 crocodiles that call Crocodylus Park home, from 30-centimentre hatchlings to the half-tonne beasts. Here, you can even hold a baby crocodile and visit a croc-themed museum. There’s also other wildlife (big cats, primates, birds and other reptiles), as well as opportunities for the kids to get up close with meerkats and small monkeys.
For 9-12 year olds in Darwin, it is all about getting active and making a splash.
The Darwin Waterfront has two enormous swimming lagoons. The Wave Lagoon and the Recreation Lagoon are both popular with families. At the Wave Lagoon, 20-minute bursts of simulated waves (followed by 10 minutes of calm conditions) spell hours of fun. At the Recreation Lagoon, it’s also all about cooling down and relaxing in the shade. You can swim in the lagoon year-round, as there are mesh screens and nets providing protection from marine stingers.
At Leanyer Recreation Park you’ll find plenty of thrills and spills, with its three huge water slides, pool and skate park. Another great place to cool down is Palmerston Water Slides, with 100-metre water slides and a big tipping bucket. Instead, for water fun in a natural environment, head to Berry Springs Nature Park to dive into swimming holes filled with small native fish.
Head to Kingpin Family Entertainment Centre for the 22-lane bowling alley, laser skirmish arena, rope-climbing course and arcade games. Climb inside up the walls of a World War II oil tank at a recreational climbing centre, The Rock. Or put the pedal to the metal to race around the Hidden Valley Raceway with Darwin Kart Hire. Hire a bike from a Spinway Bike Station to cycle around the streets and waterfront districts.
With teens, you can afford to stray a little further afield with day trips or overnight adventures departing Darwin.
Teens in search of thrills and spills should head straight to Crocosaurus Cove. Those aged 15 and over can then get face to snout with the prehistoric beasts in a heart-bursting fifteen-minute Cage of Death dive. If you prefer your animal experiences in the wild, take a Jumping Crocodile Cruise along the Adelaide River. The river is in fact home to about 1,600 saltwater crocodiles in total! Some of the hungry ones will launch themselves out of the water at the boat for the guide’s proffered snacks.
Hire a kayak or a canoe and spend some time exploring Darwin’s inland waterways including Lake Alexander, Manton Dam and Lake Bennett Resort. These are on the doorstep to Litchfield National Park, which is only an hour or so from the city of Darwin.
In Litchfield National Park itself you can swim in the freshwater pools and take a dip at beautiful Florence Falls. On your way back up the steep track from Florence Falls, you can cool down again at Buley Rock Pools, conveniently at the top of the walking trail. The scenic Wangi Falls are also swimmable, and only a short drive from Buley.
Take your binoculars to Mary River National Park where you’re bound to see plenty of wildlife and explore ancient Aboriginal shell middens and WWII bunkers in Charles Darwin National Park.
Then, after all that adventure, kick back at the open-air Deckchair Cinema for a movie under the stars.
Best time to visit Darwin
In Darwin and Kakadu, there are six different seasons, based on Aboriginal knowledge of changes in the weather, which plants are flowering and what food is abundant. It is hot during the daytime all year around with a daily average of 32 degrees Celsius in December, the hottest month.
The dry season from April to October is the best time for travel to Darwin. The weather is beautiful and the skies are blue. The tropical summer (or wet season) runs from November to March, bringing regular downpours, high humidity, spectacular flooding and electrifying afternoon storms. On the plus side, the wet season brings the landscape and waterfalls to spectacular, lush green life. It is also the cheapest time to visit Darwin. Hotels can be half the price at this time of year and there are hardly any crowds, so it’s an ideal time to visit if you’re are on a tighter budget.
Darwin’s family-friendly places to eat
The food scene in Darwin is thriving. With incredible fresh produce and influences from a variety of cuisines, there’s no shortage of excellent restaurants, al fresco cafes, markets and food festivals.
From fresh Italian pasta and authentic Thai to fresh seafood and native delights including kangaroo, buffalo and crocodile, you’ll be spoiled for choice. There’s a great selection of eateries at Stokes Hill Wharf and the Darwin Waterfront Precinct – which is a great place to enjoy a bite to eat as you watch one of Darwin’s epic sunsets.
Darwin’s open-air food markets are a dining must for foodie families. At Mindil Beach markets, dine on a selection of tasty treats from a large selection of food trucks and stalls along with street performers to entertain the kids. Try chomping on sme crocodile if you’re game! And be sure to head to Parap Village Market on Saturday mornings for a bowl of its legendry laksa. The selection of yummy treats and cool crafts available rivals that of Mindil, but the setting is completely different.
Located metres from the water, The Precinct is one of Darwin’s hottest places to eat. The wide-ranging menu features plenty of seafood, meats and vegetarian options, with small and big plates available – so there’s something to suit everyone and every appetite. The menu changes seasonally, so whatever you order, you can be sure it’s fresh and usually sourced from a local provider. For parents who are into craft beers, The Precinct has 46 taps to choose from. The all-weather outdoor deck is The Precinct’s newest addition, offering diners a lovely al-fresco space to enjoy their food along with Wave Lagoon views.
Free fun in Darwin for families
- Active families can enjoy a host of free activities in and around Darwin. There are plenty of safe walking and bike paths lined with playgrounds and picnic areas. The George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens is a tropical paradise where you can explore or picnic under a canopy of tall palms. There’s also a fantastic playground with a plant maze, sand castle fort and a bamboo ambush trail for games of hide and seek.
- Take a dip in the pristine waters at Berry Springs Nature Park, around a 40 minute drive from the city. Meander the Mindil Markets to enjoy free street performances including circus acts and musicians that are sure to entertain the kids. And it doesn’t cost a cent to enjoy one of Darwin’s epic sunsets; Mindil Beach, Cullen Bay and East Point Reserve are the top spots for the best views. Cullen Bay is only 10 or 15 minutes’ walk from the centre of town, with plenty of space to set up a picnic. And don’t forget that entry to the NT Museum and Art Gallery is totally free!
The best Darwin annual events for families
April – Territory Taste Festival
Enjoy two days of cooking demonstrations and master classes combined with family-focused entertainment and activities on the Darwin Waterfront.
June – Darwin Triple Crown V8 Supercars
Rev up and for the Darwin round of the V8 Supercar Championship.
July – Darwin Lions Beer Can Regatta
Watch on as inventive Territorians build and race boats from recycled cans and milk cartons.
August – The Darwin Festival
An 18-day celebration of music, theatre, visual art, dance, cabaret and more.
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Janeece Keller is the founder and editor of Family Travel. She mostly travels with her husband and two young kids. She has a large blended family that lives in Australia and Europe. She has visited 52 countries and lived on 3 continents. From camping to luxury resorts Janeece tries to make sure her family has diverse holiday experiences each year. She is an avid hiker and ocean swimmer who loves good food, margaritas and heading off the beaten path.