Exploring the North Coast: Backpacking in Darwin, Australia

Darwin is not the first place backpackers think of when booking an Australian tour. For a start it’s right at the very northern part of Australia, in an area known as the ‘Northern Territory’. It can be extremely humid and has a tropical climate (air conditioning is essential here).

As a city, Darwin is difficult to get to by road if you’re on the Western, Southern or Eastern coasts as it is so remote. Most likely you’ll need to fly, internal flights are easy to get and should be fairly reasonable in price.

The city itself is multicultural for Australia, the original Aboriginal inhabitants of Darwin were the Larraka people, and over the decades the small outpost has grown significantly into a medium sized city with a population of around 127,000 people. It was only a few generations ago, that Darwin consisted of mainly tin roofed buildings. The city was devastated by Japanese bombers during World War II, and then again the city was partially destroyed during a terrible Cyclone in 1974. What you will see today is a mixture of architecture, much of the city centre is fairly modern.


Darwin has a number of bars and clubs which are mostly policed by door staff along Mitchell Street, it can be a little rough at night and these are there to protect backpackers mainly. Some venues operate an ID system where you are photographed before entry.

Most of the bars and clubs are commercial with the occasional acoustic musician or band. There are one or two live music venues hidden away but these will need some research if you want something slightly out of the ordinary and it’s advisable to take extra care when venturing off the beaten track (you may notice a high police presence in places).

If you fancy something a but quirky then watching the sunset at the Sailing Club overlooking the Timor Sea can be a stunning occasion. There is a bar and sometimes live music, from rock to reggae, it is strongly recommended on a sunny evening.


If you’re looking for something to do in Darwin during the day then a visit to The Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery is a must (near to the Sailing Club). East Point Military Museum is also an interesting find, as is Darwin Aviation Heritage Centre.

Mindil Beach is great for the markets and other events which take place and the hippy vibe is really worth experiencing. There are several beaches around Darwin which are also beautiful, if not a little wild. Darwin has its share of saltwater crocs and deadly box jellyfish so swimming is not recommended.

There are plenty of parks and gardens around Darwin, although not quite so fancy as Melbourne or Sydney. Cullen Bay is worth checking out for some of the harbour restaurants and you can find information on the many types of cruises which depart from Darwin.

Many people use Darwin as a stepping stone before continuing to wild and fascinating places such as Kakadu National Park (a must see), Litchfield National Park and Katherine Gorge. In reality, Darwin really is worth an extra few days to experience this northern tip of Australia, it make be a long time before you get chance to return, if at all, so make the most of it (you need to experience just one thunder storm).

5 Things Not to Miss in Darwin

  • Sunset Market at Mindil Beach
  • Experience the outdoor cinema at the end of the Esplanade
  • Hit the crocodile farm
  • A trip to The Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery
  • An evening at Cullen Bay