10 things you didn't know about Darwin

It’s known for roving crocs, giant stubbies and a steamy climate but there's more to the fascinating NT capital city than meets the eye.

A little girl plays in the water at Wave lagoon.
  • Peta Murray
  • October 2019

Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia, has a fascinating history and has become a vibrant cultural centre worth exploring for its arts, gorgeous scenery and luxury accommodation. Here are 10 amazing facts that you need to know before visiting.

There are plenty of safe places to swim

While saltwater crocodiles and dangerous stingers like box jellyfish and Irukandji pose a threat in the ocean, there are plenty of swimming holes around Darwin where it is perfectly safe to take a dip in the dry season (June to September). Alternatively, two man-made beaches in the Waterfront Precinct –the Wave Lagoon and Recreation Lagoon – offer family friendly swimming all year round.

Darwin is blessed with a tropical climate

If you want heat, you got it! Darwin holds the title of sweatiest city among its state capital counterparts, however it is far from the hottest place in the country. Based on maximum average temperatures, Darwin hovers around 32°C, while Wyndham in Western Australia scores highest with the mercury slam-dunking a scorching maximum average temperature of 35.6°C.

You can surf the city beaches

It may not resemble a scene from The Endless Summer but a dedicated band of diehard Darwin surfers paddle out whenever the monsoonal swells kick in – generally around 12 times in a “good year”. The best breaks are at northern beaches Nightcliff and Casuarina and around the exposed reef at the mouth of Rapid Creek.

People sit on a beach in Darwin, Northern Territory.
Darwin's beaches are popular with locals and tourists alike.

Cyclone Tracy was not the biggest to hit this city

Although it was responsible for the loss of 71 lives and decimated more than 70 per cent of Darwin when it struck on Christmas Eve 1974, Tracy is actually the “most compact” tropical cyclone on national record, with gale-force winds extending only 48 kilometres from its centre. Tracy’s terrifying power can be experienced in the cyclone simulator at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

Darwin has a thriving culture scene

With more than 20 museums and art galleries, as well as independent exhibitions, a booming theatre scene, the outdoor Deckchair Cinema and a throng of colourful markets (including the must-do Mindil Beach Sunset Markets), Darwin offers enough to keep even the most ardent culture lovers and history buffs happy.

Two women look at soaps at a market stall in Darwin.
Head to the Mindel Beach Sunset Markets for great food and gifts.

The Japanese did not invade during World War II

Blame Baz Luhrmann’s 2008 blockbuster Australia for perpetuating this myth. Claiming historical basis, the movie shows Japanese troops storming the shores of a fictitious Mission Island (intended to represent the Tiwi Islands, 80 kilometres north of Darwin). While the Japanese did conduct two air raids on Darwin Harbour on 19 February 1942 – which killed 250 people – Japanese troops never landed in the Top End.

You have a choice of luxurious five star hotels

Not everyone wants to do Darwin like Mick Dundee. Five-star options include Hilton Darwin, offering harbour views in the heart of the city, and the Mindil Beach Casino Resort, which boasts four restaurants and a private beach set among tropical gardens. Further afield, glamping doesn’t get any grander than Bamurru Plains safari lodge on the edge of Kakadu National Park or the Wildman Wilderness Lodge in the Mary River wetlands.
32 Mitchell St, Darwin City, (08) 8982 0000, hilton.com opens in new window

The Darwin stubby lives on

Created in 1958, the iconic “Darwin stubby” held the equivalent of six regular stubbies of NT Draught and quickly became part of territory folklore. It was later downsized slightly to a two-litre bottle and while production ceased in 2015, the Darwin stubby remains a symbol of the Top End.

Crocodiles are kept at a safe distance from people

A protected species since 1971, saltwater crocodiles have increased in numbers and it’s estimated that there are currently up to 200,000 “salties” in the Top End. But while crocs can sometimes be found in unusual places, Northern Territory rangers are vigilant in trapping the reptiles before they pose any threat to people.

A saltwater crocodile.
Contrary to popular belief, crocodiles rarely threaten humans in Darwin.

The city was named after British evolutionist Charles Darwin

While Charles himself never set foot in the city, it was christened in honour of the famous naturalist. The moniker was bestowed by his former shipmate Lieutenant John Stokes, the first European to observe Port Darwin in 1839.