10 family activities in Darwin
Continuing the tropical theme, because it’s still very cold where I am, today it’s the turn of that other great tropical Australian city, Darwin. They’re in the middle of the of the dry season now and with an average year round temperature of 32°C, it’s another place that attracts those of us in search of warmer days.
It’s Festival Season in the Northern Territory at the moment, so there’s a million and one things to do in addition to all the magnificent natural wonders to be seen.
1. Darwin Beercan Regatta
On Sunday, August 8 the waters off Mindil Beach come alive with craft of a different kind. Teams build boats out of cans (beer or otherwise), designing them in the hope that they’ll float long enough to complete a race. There is a full day of family activities planned, including boat judging, races (boat and foot), tug of war and novelty events. The Beercan Regatta has been running for 36 years and is
“…very much a family day out for locals and is rapidly becoming a spectacular for the tourists to Darwin who line Mindil Beach cheering as the home made boats of cans wallow, flounder and sink. The fleet includes all kinds of boats; sometimes with fire hoses and top secret weaponry.” http://www.beercanregatta.org.au
2. Darwin Festival
Running from August 12 – 29, the Darwin Festival includes a selection of family events. A few that caught my eye are:
- The opening concert, featuring indigenous performers from Australia and around the world
- Teddy Bear’s picnic in the Botanic Gardens
- Under the Banyan Tree Storytelling with myths, legends and fairytales from around the globe.
3. Take a walk
There are heaps of walking and bike paths around Darwin. Many take in the coastal area where you can experience mangrove forests and, if you’re lucky, some of their inhabitants. Playgrounds and picnic areas are also situated along some paths for a well earned break.
4. Lake Alexander
For our kids, if it’s warm enough to go without thermals it’s warm enough for a swim. Darwin’s weather pretty much guarantees they’d be in the water the majority of the day. Lake Alexander has a lovely sandy beach, kid safe and safe for year round swimming. The surrounds are nice and shady, for the non-swimmers to relax in and there’s a playground for when the wrinkly kids finally drag themselves from the water.
5. Visit the Botanic Gardens
Darwin’s Botanic Gardens are a tropical wonderland. They were mostly destroyed by Cyclone Tracey, but have come back better than before. I can imagine spending an entire day in the gardens just enjoying the greenness and the waterfalls. The kids aren’t forgotten. There’s a treehouse for them and plenty of pools and “secret” pathways to explore.
6. Take the Tour Tub
Darwin’s Tourist Bus ferries visitors around the most popular tourist attractions of the city, while passing by much of the accommodation making pick up and drop off easy. Stops include the Darwin Museum, Aquascene (with fish feeding), the Botanic Gardens and Fanny Bay Gaol. Cost is $30/adult and $15/child (4-12) for a full day’s touring, including entry to the WWII tunnels.
7. Crocodylus Park
Want to get up close and personal with a crocodile? Me either. But from a safe distance I am quite interested in these fascinating beasts. At the Crocodylus Park and Zoo you can watch crocodiles being fed, learn about them in the museum, even feel their skin (put those shoe thoughts out of your mind!). The zoo is also home to turtles, iguanas and tigers to name a few. A great day out. Cost is $30/adult, $15/child (3-15) and $80 family (2 adults & 2 children).
8. Lie back and watch a movie
Darwin’s famous Deckchair Cinema runs from April to November. Every night from 7:30 movies are shown on the shores of the beautiful Darwin Habour. That would have to be the best cinema in Australia. Cost $13/adult and $6/child or $20/adult and $9/child for double features (on weekends).
9. Ride a wave
If the waters of Lake Alexander don’t provide enough action, try the Wave Lagoon on Darwin’s waterfront. Waves of up to 1.7 metres are generated in this manmade lagoon, plenty big enough for a boogie board. There is also a toddlers area so kids of all ages (even Dad) can enjoy themselves. Cost for a family ticket is $12 for a half day and $16 for a full day.
10. Mindil Beach Markets
Every Thursday and Sunday evening during the Dry Season, Mindil Beach comes alive with the Mindil Beach Markets. There’s arts and crafts of every description for sale and plenty of food stalls to keep the rumbling tummies at bay. Even if you’re not buying, the markets are a fascinating place to wander around and experience the melting pot of cultures that Darwin has attracted. The markets run from 5-10pm on Thursdays and 4-9pm on Sundays.
Getting & staying there
There’s three options for getting to Darwin:
- Plane – QANTAS flys into Darwin from all the mainland capitals. The budget airlines also all fly in, but not all provide the service from all capital cities. You can check on Expedia* to find the best way to fly in
- Rail – The famous Ghan travels between Adelaide and Darwin. This probably isn’t an option for most families due to cost and the practicalities of keeping kids from going feral on a three day train journey. We have it on our retirement bucket list.
- Road – Are you ready for The Great Aussie Roadtrip? Darwin is accessible from the south (approximately 3,000km from Adelaide), east (approximately 3,500km from Brisbane) and west (approximately 4,000km from Perth) by road.
Being a major tourist destination, there’s a stack of accommodation to choose from. Again, Expedia* can help you sort through the many choices on offer.
*Referral link (I’ll earn a commission if you book via this link. That doesn’t affect your price, but it does support Australia: Family Style – so thank you!)