Australians love to eat out, and Darwin has more delicious and varied dining options than many other cites due to its multicultural heritage. Whatever the travel budget, gourmets can source everything from street food through local eateries and the regular markets to special occasion haute cuisine at haute prices. The hot dining district, Cullen bay Marina, is a 25 minute stroll from the city centre and packed out with cafes, eateries and upscale haunts.
Fashionable dining districts vary by day, with locals heading in droves to the Mindil Beach Sunset Market every Thursday for Indian, Greek, Southeast Asian, Italian, Mexican, African and even Aussie food stalls, set alongside a fascinating arts and crafts market, masseurs, tarot-readers and garnished with street entertainers. On Saturdays, it’s the turn of the suburban Parap markets, a corner of Asia offering foods, arts and crafts and freshly-squeezed fruit juices to the crowds.
For more or less formal dining, there’s a good choice of restaurants both in Darwin hotels and the city centre itself, ranging from sushi chains through Irish pubs, steakhouses and even food courts in the shopping malls. On the waterfront are eateries with stunning views of the glorious Darwin sunsets, serving the ever-popular local seafood and shellfish in many guises. The huge barramundi fish, a native of Australia, is used in many delicious local recipes. Pacific Rim and Indo-Malay flavours add spice to traditional beef and lamb dishes.
For a fun night out, there’s no shortage here of the famous Aussie pubs, all serving the equally famous Aussie beers. Whether it’s beer garden-style, Irish, Brit or basic Aussie, these friendly hostelries give visitors a great chance to get to know the locals. Music pubs and clubs with live music are scattered around, with Friday night sounds in Irish pubs a firm favourite. Party Central is Mitchell Street, with lots of venues staying open till the wee small hours, and another popular haunt is the selection of bars along the waterfront.
The absolute best buys and long-lasting souvenirs of a visit to Darwin are Aboriginal art and crafts, diamonds, luscious great South Sea pearls and Australian opals. The world’s highest quality South Sea pearls are farmed off the coasts of the Northern territories, with coloured diamond ‘fancies’ as well as white diamonds and shimmering opals mined in the outback. Darwin jewellers will make up a setting for your chosen stone or pearl in a time which matches your travel schedule.
Aboriginal arts and craft traditions go back 40,000 years, with a number of today’s artists already famous world-wide for their intricate modern adaptations of ancient designs. Internationally sought-after artists command stratospheric prices, but many shops and galleries here offer reasonably priced works by emerging artists and unknowns. The designs are unique and the painstaking techniques used, whether for a painting or textile, take many years to master. Authentic Aboriginal artefacts are the quintessential souvenir of a holiday here.
Another typically Australian souvenir may, unfortunately, land you in trouble at your home airport’s customs desk, as most world countries have banned the importation of crocodile skin items under the CITES regulations. All the crocodile skin goodies here have been made from farmed saltwater reptiles, a species not under threat in Australia, especially in the north where they are becoming disturbingly common. However, in the rest of the world they are considered endangered and are protected by CITES.
For fashion shopping in Darwin, the hot places are Casaurina Shopping Centre and Smith Street Mall, packed with fashion outlets as well as the usual fast food joints, coffee shops, cinemas and IT sections. More souvenirs, crafts, jewellery, artworks and suchlike are found at great prices in Mindil Market, with sarongs and beads a popular choice with visitors.
Lek Boonlert is an editor and content reviewer at DirectRooms and is responsible for all Darwin Hotels content.