I never imagined Australia could get THAT cold in winter, next time I move to another country I will definitely research the weather before packing! Something else I never imagined as a European, was that I would have to go NORTH to find the warmth. Well, we are Down Under after all. On the 1st of June I flew to Darwin to get an extra 25 to 30*C, let’s just say that 4 hour flight is definitely worth it. Darwin finally gave me the real image I had of Australia, especially the warm weather, and it felt good. I was so ready to soak up some vitamin D!
The outback is famous for its (scary) wildlife. What would you expect to find in Darwin and its surrounds? Spiders, Crocodiles, Snakes? Let’s see what animals I met during my trip to the Northern Territory…
The best things to do in Darwin…
- Crocosaurus Cove
Getting out of the aeroplane and feeling like I could take off 5 layers of clothes and still be too hot was amazing! I started complaining about being too warm after 15 minutes and then thought of my friends in cold, grey Melbourne and I forbid myself to complain ever again during my whole trip.
I stayed at the YHA-Melaleuca on Mitchell St, and it’s the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in: clean rooms, amazing staff and a bar, kitchen and swimming pool area on the rooftop. It’s located on the main street, where you can find loads of hostels, bars and travel agencies. With the whole afternoon free, we decided to go to the Crocosaurus Cove. James, our guide gave us a fantastic tour, introducing us to William and Kate, two of their huge saltwater crocodiles, we also met a snake and 2 big lizards and even got a private photo shoot with a baby freshwater crocodile. If you have more time, make sure you book the Cage of Death experience and get close with 4 of the biggest crocodiles in the park.
- Mindil Sunset Beach Markets
For dinner make sure you go to Mindil Beach Markets! Sit on the beach while you watch the colours of the sky change as the sun goes down. However, don’t be lured by the calm water and beauty of the moment, swimming or just walking in the ocean is not recommended as salties (salt water crocodiles) are always hanging around!
Take a stroll around the tempting food trucks and enjoy a tasty dinner in a really peaceful atmosphere. I recommend the Raclette Stand if like me you are craving cheese.
At night, you can head out to the buzzing bars on Mitchell St. Sadly, we had to call it a night pretty early as we had to wake up at 6.30 am the next morning to discover more about the Top End. But luckily the hostel was situated on Mitchell St, making it a short walk back (great if you need to head home early).
Best things to do around Darwin
Darwin itself is quite small, so it’s worth checking out the surrounding areas for more activities. But don’t get me wrong, for me, Darwin represents the “real” Australia in comparison to Melbourne, but you really should explore the whole Top End while you are there.
I believe, the best option is to join a multi-day camping trip. I did the 3 days and 2 nights Kakadu & Litchfield National Park in 4WD tour and it was so worth it: we spent 3 days driving on endless dusty red roads, camping under the stars, swimming in waterfalls and hiking in amazing areas… if you decide to join this tour, ask if Adam is available, he was fantastic guide, with so much knowledge behind every place we visited.
Adam’s most valuable advice during the whole trip was probably “the rules are really simple during the tour, do not stand less than 20 metres away from the river unless your guide tells you it’s fine. A crocodile can jump as far as he is long in a second.”
- Wetland Cruises
The first stop was Corroborree Billabong, where we joined a wildlife cruise with Wetland Cruises. It was a relaxing and interesting way to start the day as the main activity on the boat was spotting the crocodiles hiding on the riverbank or taking a bath with only their ears, eyes and nostrils above the water. Better keep your eyes peeled!
Some of us were better at spotting them than others, but in the end we saw about 4 crocodiles in the wild. (Crocodiles: ✓)
These are some fun facts I learnt about crocodiles:
- They have the strongest jaw of all animals, it’s even stronger than a T-rex! Yet, if their mouth is closed, you can keep it closed with your arms.
- They can regrow as many teeth as they lose.
- They can live up to 80 years.
- Their closest relatives are birds and dinosaurs.
Ubirr – Kakadu National Park
The second highlight of the tour was Ubirr full of ancestral history, we discovered ancient Aboriginal paintings of animals (fish and wallabies mainly) and human being, along with a breathtaking, panoramic view of the Top End and strangely it looked like the savanna. Sadly the sun was not out so the colours were not as pretty as we’d hoped for.
We saw Aboriginal paintings dating back thousands of years ago!
We spent the first night at Mardugal Billabong in our luxurious semi-temporary accommodation. We enjoyed dinner around the bonfire and I was lucky enough to have my first encounter with a HUGE spider. I think she was more scared than me, but she was running around everywhere which really creeped me out! I was obviously too busy running, jumping and screaming to get a picture of the creature, but trust me it was real. (Big spider: ✓).
- Maguk and Gunlom Falls – Kakadu National Park
Day 2 was mainly dedicated to hiking and swimming. The first stop was Maguk Falls and wow, what a blessing to be able to cool off after walking 40 mins in 34 degrees!
The second stop was Gunlom Falls, we hiked for 30 minutes up a very steep path, stopping every 10 minutes for a water break, it was incredibly hot but when we reached the top of the fall, the view was so worth it, especially when we saw the infinity pool!
We then walked down to the bottom of the fall (I honestly don’t know if I preferred the way up or down, but this was definitely my work-out of the day!)
Oh and by the way there are 2 freshwater crocodiles at the bottom of the fall! But thankfully, they are more scared of us than we are of them and too small to do anything ;).
We spent the night at Pine Creek, an old gold rush city and for the first time ever I slept in a swag. It’s an interesting experience if at the beginning you feel a little perplexed or scared, you end up having the most memorable night and it’s definitely worth it.
- Florence Falls, Buley Rock Holes and Wangi Falls – Litchfield National Park
Similar to our second day, we spent time swimming and relaxing, but in Litchfield National Park. We swam in Florence Falls, Buley Rockholes and Wangi Falls. My favourite was the last one, Wangi Falls, especially because of the hidden pool in between 2 waterfalls.
At the end of our last day we drove back to YHA hostel, tucked into a delicious dinner and enjoyed Darwin’s nightlife for one last time, before heading back to cold Melbourne the very next day. Without a doubt, Darwin is the ultimate Australian winter getaway!
Big thanks to Northern Tourism Australia and especially Erika for organising this Famil Trip, and thanks to Malaleuca on Mitchell Yha Hostels, Crocosaurus Cove and Territory Expeditions for all the activities. Make sure you follow them on Instagram:
Northern Tourism Australia: @AusOutbackNT and #NTaustralia
Malaleuca on Mitchell YHA Darwin: @momdarwin
Crocosaurus Cove: @crocosauruscove and #cageofdeath and #crocosauruscove
Territory Expeditions: @territoryexpeditions and #territoryexpeditions