The best of Darwin on a budget: top 5 things to do

While prices can be on the higher side due to its remoteness, there are plenty of free and affordable activities – here are our top 5 things to do in Darwin.

View of a sunrise at Nightcliff Jetty in Darwin
  • Jetstar
  • November 2017

Though Darwin is no longer a frontier town, it’s still uncharted holiday territory for many. But once you finally get there, you’ll wonder what took you so long. While prices can be on the higher side due to its remoteness, there are plenty of free and affordable activities – here are our top 5 things to do in Darwin.

Have a splash at the Wave Lagoon

The best visits to the steamy Northern Territory (or Top End) are regularly punctuated by water. But, mindful of the presence of jellyfish and crocodiles, the only waves we recommend you catch are the ones at the Waterfront Wave Lagoon. This artificial wave pool is programmed with different ‘sets’ of waves and is located in one of Darwin’s trendier spots, where the waterfront precinct is chock-a-block with restaurants, cafés and bars. Definitely not just for kids.

There’s a small entry fee, but with added value in the form of sun lounges (get in early to secure your spot), boogie boards and giant floating rings, it’s worth it. Relax in the shade, bob in the shallows or get in amongst the pool for some surprisingly big wave action.

Location: Kitchener Drive, Darwin City

Our favourite link: Weekend Notes: Wave Lagoon opens in new window

Get cultural at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

Even if you’re not usually into museums, you’ll find plenty of interest at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT). Challenge yourself to experience the intensity of a tropical cyclone via the simple, yet scarily effective, use of a blackened room with real-life audio recordings from the 1974 Cyclone Tracy disaster.

With other exhibits focussing on Aboriginal art, military history and native wildlife, you’ll find answers to many of your questions about this part of the world. To top it all off, you can meet Sweetheart—the now-stuffed, giant crocodile who terrorised the area in the 1970s. Entry is free.

Location: 19 Conacher Street, The Gardens

Our favourite link: Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory opens in new window

Stroll the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens

Established over 130 years ago, these extensive tropical gardens are a delight. Wander aimlessly through towering palms or stroll through a coastal mangrove forest. Explore paths lined with plants used by Aboriginal tribes, and chance upon a hidden waterfall. Will your favourite plant end up being a fragrant frangipani, a spiralling pandanus, an ancient cycad or a delicate orchid?

Location: Gilruth Avenue and Gardens Road

Our favourite link: Do the NT: George Brown Gardens opens in new window

Lap up the view at the Nightcliff Pool

Surely a competitor for the world’s most picturesque public pool, Nightcliff is an iconic spot for locals and word is getting out to visitors. With its location on a foreshore cliff, the pool allows bathers stunning views over Darwin Harbour. It’s a typical 50-metre affair, with swimming lanes for those in the mood for some meditative black-line following (or to work off some of the excesses of your holiday), and an open area for those who just want to cool off. An added bonus is the impressive collection of up-to-date magazines, providing the perfect excuse for some serious towel-lounging.

Location: 259 Casuarina Drive, Nightcliff

Our favourite link: Nightcliff Pool opens in new window

Catch a spectacular sunset at Cullen Bay

Darwin is a sensational place for sunsets, and thanks to a long stretch of coastline facing due west, the sun sinks straight into the sea. You can catch an idyllic sunset view from Cullen Bay, a marina area growing in popularity with plenty of restaurants and bars. Amongst all this is a public grassy area between the water and La Beach Fish ‘n’ Chips, the perfect spot to soak up the show. Bring a picnic, lay out a rug, and enjoy the sky’s gorgeous changing colours as the sun makes its slow descent.

Location: 68 Marina Boulevard

Our favourite link: Sunset times at Cullen Bay opens in new window