We did not perform to much planning upfront when we decided that we will enter Australia in Darwin, it was simply the shortest destination from Southeast Asia and we knew that after October the weather in Australia’s Northern Territory will get wet along the coasts. The plan was to stay a few days in the city and then visit some of the National Parks in the proximity.
More of a Town than a City
Upon arrival at Darwin Airport, we realized quickly that the town must be rather small. There was not even a direct public bus or train to the city center, but only a quite overpriced airport shuttle which set us back by around USD 12 each. And also inside the city, public transport was not really useful as the line that we needed for reaching our Airbnb host only ran once per hour.
Darwin only has 137’000 inhabitants, making it even smaller than a few Swiss cities. There is a city center with a few shops and restaurants, but with even more restricted opening hours than in Switzerland. Most shops close around 17:00 during the week, only the two supermarkets are open until 22:00. But Darwin is still worth visiting. It is very relaxed in town and to me the beauty of Darwin was its location in the tropics with beaches, bays, and lots of green areas.
Our Accommodation in Darwin
For the first time on our trip we used Couchsurfing. For those who don’t know it, Couchsurfing is an Internet platform where people can offer free space in the apartment to travelers, or ‘Couchsurfers’. Accommodation is usually free, the idea is more that travelers and locals can meet each other. We stayed at Nathan’s apartment in the center of Darwin for in total three nights, and we even had a separate bedroom, so no couch to sleep on. And on one evening we all went out together which was also fun. For me it was a very positive experience, let’s see if we find more hosts along our trip
The Mindil Beach Sunset Market
Twice a week in the dry season, there is a sunset market at Mindil Beach. Dozens if not hundreds of vendors try to sell food, souvenirs, massages, or allow you to take pictures with snakes and lizards. For tourists a must, but also lots of local people visit this market regularly. The food options are very diverse, there was everything from Mexican to Southeast Asian and local food available, some French guys were even selling Raclette, a cheese-based French and Swiss dish. It showed how international Australia is. While Ilinca ate a Baked Potato and some mini-Pancakes for dessert, I followed my Mango addiction and ate 2-3 freshly cut Mangoes, a true feast to me, and a Greek wrap called Gyros.
After watching the beautiful sunset, there was a short didgeridoo concert accompanied with drums. It is hard to describe how this sounds, the short video should give you an impression however. It was a really interesting combination of the two instruments and I was deeply impressed what types of sounds one can get out of a wooden tube.
Other Things to Do in Darwin
While some things like the Crocosaurus Cove, an animal park inside one single building in the middle of the city, are ridiculously overpriced (USD 28), there is the excellent Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory with free admission. There are basically three topics inside: Aboriginal history and arts, animals of the region, and Cyclone Tracy which devastated Darwin in 1974. I was especially interested in the animals section as there were exhibits of basically all venomous creatures that exist in Australia: Snakes, spiders, fish, jellyfish, octopuses, insects, and so on. It was amazing to see how many dangerous creatures exist in Australia. Let’s hope the museum was the only place we encountered them on our trip.
Problems with Aborigines in Darwin
Even though Darwin is nice and mostly peaceful, it is impossible to ignore that for quite a few of the indigenous people (Aborigines) here, it is hard to adapt to the modern life in Darwin. They hang around in groups on the streets, begging for money, and especially when drunk, also yelling around and bothering other people in the streets. It is hard for me to tell if they really are that disadvantaged in society despite all the programs for helping Aborigines to be employed, or if their unemployment and alcohol problems are self-made. But Darwin would be much prettier if this problem could be addressed more effectively.