The lastminute lovelies in Darwin

Like many Australians, I’ve always planned to visit the Northern Territory on a big road trip around Australia when I retire, caravan in tow and grey hair blowing in the dusty breeze. NT just seemed so exotic, so distant…

I assumed it was the kind of place that you would need weeks to see.Now, however, I realise that a weekend in Darwin is not only accessible and affordable, it’s BRILLIANT!

Landing in the wee hours of the morning after a four hour flight from Sydney, the lastminute Lovelies stumble out into the Darwin night, and the heat hits us like a blast of steam from the oven door. It’s the middle of the night, it’s August, and it’s balmy – woo hoo!

The facade of Darwin's Crowne Plaza

Darwin’s Crowne Plaza

We hail a cab, head for the Crowne Plaza Hotel and crash, before waking up the next morning relaxed, refreshed, and ready to explore. First stop: mingling with the locals over a spot of brekkie at Parap Markets. An essential Saturday morning experience, here you’ll find dozens of stalls selling fruit and vegies, Asian food, arts and crafts, clothing and our personal favourite, fresh tropical fruit juices and smoothies. My mango smoothie is hands down the most delicious I’ve ever had, and I can’t stop exclaiming about how good it is. If this is Darwin, I’m sold.

Fruit & vegies at Parap Markets

Darwin’s Parap Markets

While we’re in the ‘hood, we stop in to browse at some of the Parap Village art galleries. There are quite a few in the area, and we wander happily from one to another, ogling the gorgeous Indigenous art and coveting pieces for our own walls.

It’s heating up, so we make our way to Darwin’s Waterfront Precinct to cool down with a dip. You have the choice of a lagoon or a wave pool, and we opt for the latter – who needs Dubai when you’ve got Darwin! It’s lots of fun, and we happily splash around for a lovely, leisurely few hours, before making our way back to the Crowne Plaza and freshening up for drinks before dinner.

There’s no better way to soak in the famed Darwin sunset than with a beer on the lawn at Darwin Ski Club in Fannie Bay. A true institution, this is THE place to shoot the breeze with locals and tourists alike, with everyone from businessmen to backpackers pulling up stumps on the lawn. We have such a great time that we’re reluctant to leave – but Hanuman and its amazing Asian food awaits.

Regarded as the best restaurant in Darwin, Hanuman doesn’t disappoint. We start with the signature dish, oysters with lemongrass, sweet basil, ginger, chilli and fresh coriander, and immediately know that we’re in for a treat. From the naan and pakoras to the toew chiu style pork belly and prawns tossed in a delicate coconut, wild ginger and curry sauce, everything is absolutely divine.

Wangi Falls at Litchfield National Park

Wangi Falls at Litchfield National Park

Next morning, we’re up early to meet our AAT Kings guide for a tour of Litchfield National Park. We stop to discover giant termite mounds of unfathomable heights, have lunch at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, discover gorgeous waterfalls and the undisputed highlight of the day, a swim in the lush waterhole at the base of Wangi Falls. It’s just like the ads.

Back in Darwin, we get dropped off for dinner and a wander around the famous Mindil Beach Markets. Stall after stall offer cuisines from across the Asia Pacific region, from Thai, Indonesian and Indian to good old fish and chips, and we grab a plate, take a seat and settle in for another glorious sunset. Perfection.

We’re up and at ‘em again early the next morning, this time for a walking tour of Darwin city. Our guide, Steve, has us enthralled with tales of Darwin’s history and culture, including the bombings of World War II and devastation of Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day in 1974. It’s a fantastic introduction to this fantastic city, and very highly recommended.

After all that walking we’re ready for a swim, so we hit the lounges back at the Crowne Plaza. We still can’t believe that we’re in bikinis and it’s August, and while away a few hours before it’s time to make our way to the airport.

Darwin has been wonderful – interesting, exotic, and full of life. We can’t believe it’s taken us this long to discover the Northern Territory, and vow to return. Vibrant Darwin indeed!

The lastminute lovelies xox

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