Darwin Family Holiday
Darwin Family Holiday
On our third attempt in as many years, we were finally able to touch down, for our Darwin family holiday. Travelling in this current world climate comes with risks, challenges and an inability to really get excited until you arrive at your destination. After having this trip cancelled twice on us during the pandemic period, we were very pleased to set foot on Darwin soil.
Day One in Darwin
Car Hire Darwin
Although our flights had changed several times, we were fortunately able to change our car hire to fit in with our arrival time. We booked our car through Rental Cars late last year and paid upfront which enabled us to get an absolute bargain deal. I knew from last time we had booked to go to Darwin and you do not leave booking car hire until the last minute – we did that in Twenty-Twenty One and we missed out, which meant we had to scramble to make some last minute changes to the entire trip. This time I was not going to make the same mistake. Check in was relatively smooth, apart from the fact that they thought we had only paid a deposit because we’d paid a fraction of what you’d expect to pay for car hire in Darwin.
Family Accommodation Darwin
We took off to our accommodation, Alatai Holiday Apartments on McMinn St, to drop luggage, pack the togs into a day bag and then head off for lunch and a swim. Alatai Holiday Apartments are centrally located with easy access to Mindil Beach, the city centre and Darwin’s popular waterfront. There is also ample parking onsite which is free, as well as parking available on the street. The apartments are basic and clean. We have two bedrooms, couches, a kitchen, dining table, a balcony, washing machine (which is always handy when travelling with kids and for a long trip) and of course, there is a pool right outside our door – it suits us.
Lunch in Darwin
The Darwin Waterfront Precinct is a great first stop in Darwin. There are loads of options to keep the whole family happy. We ate at Snapper Rocks and oh my, it was so good. The kids devoured their kids spaghetti bolognaise and we ate salt and pepper crocodile bao and reef fish croquettes. Naturally, we also took advantage of the Happy Hour (3-5pm) and enjoyed a refreshing first holiday beverage.
Darwin Wave Pool
Following lunch we donned the swimmers and hit the wave pool. Well that was absolutely hilarious! The boys had never experienced this before and were a mix of excited and terrified initially. We endured three bouts of waves and we got to experience it in different parts of the pool. Although the boys were nervous about being in the deep water, they later learned it was the best (easiest) place to be when the waves hit. Around the middle where the waves crash is not! That said, the middle was definitely the funniest place to be when the waves hit. We got absolutely slammed and laughed so much. It was a great way to start our holiday!
Darwin Kindness Festival
Lucky for us, the Kindness Festival was in its second day, so after our waving bashing experience we were able to unwind further on the grassed area of the Waterfront. The Kindness Shake celebrate the diversity of the Northern Territory and the festival is to promote diversity and inclusion, inviting anyone to come and celebrate together at this free event. From kids activities, cultural activities and performances and food stalls, it was a great event for the whole family.
After a long day of travel and fun, we were happy to have our heads hit the pillow, gearing up for another fun day in Darwin.
Day Two in Darwin
Darwin Holiday Day Two features how we went about booking this trip, the best breakfast in Darwin (as recommended by locals), a visit to Leanyer Water Park (free water park with free water slides), one-stop-shop at Casuarina for all of your essentials and a great food court, our first visit to Mindil Beach Market.
Booking our Darwin Holiday
To be completely honest, we did very little organisation for this trip. In September 2021, we booked our flights using Qantas credit from our cancelled flights (from earlier that year) and the Darwin accommodation at Alatai Holiday Apartments in September last year. We then booked our car hire in November. Around the same time, we finalised the rest of our accommodation for our stay, in Mataranka and nearby to Litchfield National Park (more on those later in the trip). I did also recently book a tour with Spectacular Jumping Crocs on the Adelaide River, as I know they book out quickly. Other than this, I had done little research, this time round.
I spent the first hour of Sunday morning scrolling through the many original (from 2020) and new recommendations I’d been sent for things to do in Darwin, places to eat in Darwin and of course where to get the best coffee in Darwin. The list was long but on this particular Sunday morning, there was one that stood out most – Breakfast by the Bay at Darwin Trailer Boat Club, in Fannie Bay.
Breakfast in Darwin, Fannie Bay
Off we went Fannie Bay and fortunately got ourselves a table front and centre, nearest the water and able to enjoy the remarkable views of the bay. The kids menu was great, there were several options and reasonably priced too. The boys ordered two each – pancakes for both, a bowl of fruit and a bacon and egg sandwich. Neither of us grown ups could get past the words ‘house smoked trout’ so I couldn’t even tell you what else was on the menu, but there were plenty of choices and everything that came out from the kitchen looked fantastic. There was a bit of a wait for the food, so I would recommend getting there early to get your choice table and get your order in quickly.
After breakfast, if you are brave enough you can wander onto the sand and walk along the beach. There are crocodile and jellyfish warning signs at the entry to the beach but there are many people that walk up and down with their dogs. Walk at your own risk! The boys stayed on the stairs and demanded we didn’t go any further than to grab a quick selfie on the beach.
Free Water Park in Darwin – Leanyer Recreation Park
Next on the agenda was Leanyer Recreation Park where they have a FREE water park with FREE waterslides. You cannot go wrong with this place for a free and safe water based activity. There is a big lagoon pool which is great for all ages and three slides. There weren’t many people when we were there so it was great fun, more often no wait at the top to come down the next slide. We would highly recommend visiting this free waterpark in Darwin.
As great as our breakfast was, we didn’t want to be eating out every morning so we stopped in at Casuarina Square on our way back to Alatai. We planned to run into the supermarket to grab some food to take home for lunch and other meals, but when we went there we discovered the Food Court – it was amazing!! So many international cuisines to choose from; we had lunch there.
Apart from the amazing food court, Casuarina is a great one stop shop for all your essentials, luxuries (multiple massage parlours and beauticians) and to pick up bits and pieces that you may have forgotten to bring on your family holiday (Kmart and Big W)! We eventually got to Woolworths and did a quick shop to stock us up for breakfasts, a couple of meals and snacks.
Mindil Beach Sunset Market
Visiting Mindil Beach Sunset Market is one thing that we did plan to do, multiple times. As it is open on Thursday’s and Sunday’s, we were going to get two in during our stay. Friday is also Territory Day (July 1st), so we will be back there again for the Territory Day celebrations.
Our first visit to the Market didn’t exactly go as we’d imagined in our mind, but that’s ok, because we have back up visits! Car parking was not as difficult as we’d imagined it was going to be, but we won’t be fooled later in the week, it will no doubt be somewhat impossible on Territory Day.
We arrived at around 6pm which was our first mistake. It wasn’t really a mistake per se, however, we were a little peckish (kids more so staaarrrving), desperate to have a look around and wanting to go to the beach to watch the sunset. We zoomed around the arts and crafts stalls, a few things peaked our interest but we kept going knowing that we would be back on Thursday (and Friday). We made our way to the beach where the crowds flock and pulled out our picnic sheet (we take this everywhere, it is small, lightweight and easy to throw in a bag to take when we go out) to sit and take it all in. Unfortunately the sun went down and didn’t really put on a show due to the cloud coverage; however, we still enjoyed the moment.
By this point, the boys were well and truly ready for food! We wandered through all the food stalls, again, so many options! Once we had our dinner, we sat down and watched the fire throwing performers. This was a highlight for the boys, although they were incredibly tired (the stairs at Leanyer earlier in the day did them in!).
We had a great couple of hours at Mindil Beach Sunset Market, but we’re looking forward to doing it a little bit differently next time:
- Earlier arrival.
- Buy dinner and eat it while we watch the sunset.
- Don’t go to Leanyer on the same day we go to the Market so walking legs are not so tired!
Day Three in Darwin
The plan was to have a quiet day and spend a bit of time at Alatai Holiday Apartments, chilling out. We were well prepared to do that, however, the morning swim in the pool ended up not being as long as we’d all thought it would be, it was a little chilly.
Darwin Botanic Gardens
We jumped in the car and went to grab a coffee at Eva’s Cafe at the Gardens and hoped we might be able to squeeze in an exploration of the Darwin Botanic Gardens while we were there. The coffee was excellent, thank you Eva’s!
After getting some maps and activity sheets from the Visitors Centre, we headed off on an adventure! Bird spotting, map reading and discovering the dinosaur trail – there was fun for the whole family.
To us Victorians, seeing all the big vibrant coloured leaves, the enormous palms and the boab trees was a real treat. The gardens had a number of different areas which were interesting to walk through. We all enjoyed the shady area and the waterfall; the boys particularly liked looking for the dragon and dinosaurs. We managed to tick off a number of the birds on the bird spotting activity, which was a lot of fun.
Aquascene Fish Feeding in Darwin
Aquascene Fish Feeding was great fun! We weren’t quite sure what to expect, so we sat back initially and watched what went on. Soon the waters were flooded with small pieces of bread and the fish began to come in. The water was fairly murky the day we were there but we still had a great time.
We moved around to different parts of the fish feeding to get a good look around and see what fish we could see. There were loads of catfish and mullet (diamond scale mullet and green backed mullet) and also saw milkfish and batfish. There was a barramundi swimming around but he was hard to see in the water. We enjoyed feeding the birds and I even learnt to ‘toe-feed’, apparently that is a thing! Put the bread between your toes and let the fish come and eat it from your feet. It was strange but fun. At the time I was doing this, there was a batfish swimming around and it scared me every time it came to the surface as it looked like a stingray with its big flat surface area.
Crustaceans Restaurant, Darwin and Stokes Hill Wharf
Crustaceans Steak and Seafood Restaurant as a recommendation for the best place to go for seafood in Darwin and it was amazing! We sat by the water at the end of the Stokes Hill Wharf, it was the perfect spot to watch the sun go down. We lashed out and ordered the grilled seafood platter for two which included lobster, scallops, prawns, Moreton Bay bug, squid, fish and oysters kilpatrick.
There was the added bonus that kids eat free at Crustaceans – one free kids meal with every main adult meal purchased. Some of the kids’ meals were not particularly big though (nuggets and chips in particular), so we ended up getting them two each – they rated the lasagne as the best!
Skyline Ferris Wheel
Stokes Hill Wharf is lined with restaurants which offer casual dining, is the home to Darwin’s Royal Flying Doctors Service Centre and it also houses the Skyline Ferris Wheel. We had seen the Wheel from the Waterfront Precinct on the first night and the boys decided we needed to go on it at night when it was all lit up. This is one of those things I couldn’t have done without doing (not a fan of heights), but up we all went and it was great to see Darwin Waterfront all lit up.
Day Four in Darwin
We were all looking forward to this today. The long awaited tour to see the jumping crocodiles on the Adelaide River, lunch at Humpty Doo for the ‘Territorian’ experience, finished off with a plunge at Berry Springs Nature Park.
Spectacular Jumping Crocs, Adelaide River
We arrived early to our Spectacular Jumping Crocs tour and checked in. We pre-booked a few months ago, which was essentially to guarantee our place, it is super busy and super popular. While we were waiting, two families were turned away as they were at capacity. We had a look at the gift shop and admired the enormity of the Adelaide River.
Once we boarded the boat, we were off. The guides were fantastic, they were entertaining and informative. We saw a number of crocodiles on our tour, in and out of the water on the bank. Boy they are big creatures when they are out of the water!! A few of them took the bait but only one smaller female really came out of the water. Regardless, they were great to see move around, so stealthy and so patient, waiting for just the right moment to pounce – scary really!!
The bird life was almost equally as impressive. The guides fed the kites – brown and whistling – from the edge of the boat which was very cool. They were so big and so fast! We were also fortunate enough to see a white bellied sea eagle which is the second largest bird in Australia; these birds can have a wingspan that can reach a whopping 2.2m.
We were so happy to be able to book Spectacular Jumping Croc tours who are 100% Indigenous owned and registered not-for-profit where all funds go towards community projects and support for the Anindilyakwa people of Groote Eylandt.
We would highly recommend this tour, it was a lot of fun.
If you want to do it and haven’t hired a car, you can find more information and buy tickets via these links on different tour options: Half Day Jumping Crocs tour with AAT Kings, or with an independent tour group via Get Your Guide. Another option is to combine the Jumping Crocs Tour with a visit to Litchfield National Park.
Humpty Doo Hotel
We planned to have lunch after our jumping crocs tour at the Humpty Doo Hotel, for the true “Territorian experience”. Unfortunately, the hotel was full and we didn’t get to eat there. There were tables in the bar, but children are strictly not allowed in the bar area at this hotel. I would recommend going early or phoning ahead to book in.
Instead, we kept driving a little further (stopping at the boxing crocodile for a photo opportunity) and had lunch in Humpty Doo itself. We can recommend the bakery, pies and vegemite scrolls got the thumbs up in our car!
Berry Springs Nature Park
The pools were fantastic, fresh, warm, clear and clean and loads of fun! We hired a couple of pool noodles from the kiosk for an hour, they cost $6 (at the time of writing) each and were worth every penny. They gave the kids the confidence to swim in the deep waters of the main pool.
We swam from the main pool up to the waterfall and then splashed around in the shallows for a good couple of hours. The boys used their goggles to look underwater, stuck their heads under the waterfall through to the other side where there was no water rushing and climbed to the top and swam, at the top of the waterfall. They thought doing these things was the best ever!
Travelling with kids in Darwin
We had an awesome afternoon at Berry Springs Nature Park. Honestly, it is afternoons like this that makes us LOVE travelling with our kids. The day wasn’t all smooth sailing, they never are; but the positive experiences always outweigh the challenges, every single time.
This morning when we woke up, one of the boys was so anxious about the day ahead that he withdrew and was saying he was too tired to go anywhere. We got him out the door reassuring him that he would not be forced to do anything he wasn’t comfortable doing. His resilience and ability to psych himself into things, even when he’s scared, is remarkable. It is a fine line and we have to know when and how much to push and encourage; when we got to Berry Springs, he got in without hesitation and loved it!
The other cherub was fine all day, until we got there and he realised that we’d be swimming with fish. He sat on the side of the main pool with a quivering bottom lip saying he wasn’t going to come in; he was even able to tell me that he wanted to come in, but he was too scared of the fish – bless him. There was a lot of calm coaching, coercion and even bribery; he got brave and he allowed me to take him into the deep area where I’d told him there weren’t any fish. After a while, he saw some fish and we talked him through his fears. Brave, courageous and determined, he went on and is now a lover of natural pools!!The resilience and bravery both the boys demonstrated today, taking on a new experience, was so great to see and be there for. They are both cautious little creatures, who love adventures and having fun experiences.
We are so grateful that we can do life with the boys and that we will have these amazing memories with them forever.
More great adventures to come….
Day Five in Darwin
With no set plans and the weather being a little cooler, we set off on our own self guided walking tour. Our first stop was at Kopi Stop for morning ‘coffee’ (I still like to call it ‘fika’, a term I learned while travelling in Sweden in my mid twenties). For the record, Kopi Stop does great coffee!
Crocosaurus Cove Darwin
Our next stop was onto Crocosaurus Cove Darwin which the boys absolutely loved. They ran from one enclosure to the next, pointing and willing us to come quicker. We watched the crocodile feeding time, reptile feeding time (where a snake was fed a warmed up, dead rat – yuck!) and the (brave) people in the cage of death. They love animals, so any animal related activity is always a hit with them.
You can pre-purchase your Crocosaurus Cove and cage of death tickets here.
Watching them enjoy the experiences we offer them really does make everything more than worthwhile. By ‘everything’, I mean the meltdowns, complaints about walking and the normal ‘having kids exhaustion’; and, if I’m honest, visiting attractions that I would otherwise prefer not to go to – there are some of those on every trip!
Darwin Street Art
We wandered the streets looking at the Street Art, making our way down Austin Lane, where many of the paintings in this post are found. There is so much Street Art in Darwin, it’s so colourful and really brightens up the city. It was a fun activity for all of us, we made it like a scavenger hunt, to see who could find the next painting.
This Darwin Street Art and Foodie Tour looks amazing – one I would have loved to do without the kids!!
World War II Tunnels, Darwin
We walked through the WWII tunnels and although we didn’t spend a lot of time in there, they enjoyed the experience and developed a greater appreciation for what went on during the war.
Finally, we headed home along the water through Bicentennial Park. A great day out, lots of walking and observing Darwin life.
Day Six in Darwin
Royal Flying Doctors Service Darwin Tourist Centre
Thanks to a recommendation of a local artist, today we visited the Royal Flying Doctors Service Darwin Tourist Centre at Stokes Hill Wharf and it was fabulous!
It’s so great to see history becoming more accessible, more realistic and appealing to youth. The RFDS Darwin is an interactive centre which focuses on both the Royal Flying Doctors and the bombing of Darwin in WWII.
There were holographic films of John Flynn; VR goggles which took us through experiences of the Darwin bombing, a pilot in an RFD aircraft and a patient. The boys loved climbing into an aircraft and taking over the cockpit.
An air raid siren went off every 20 minutes which alerted us to move to a central point and on the big screens we watched the planes fly towards us and they started to drop bombs, sending airwaves towards our legs.
You can pre-purchase tickets here.
A visit to Stokes Hill Wharf should not be without stopping in for a look.
We finished our visit to the Wharf with an ‘NT Barra Burger’; after all, you can’t come to the NT and not have one.
The afternoon was spent by the three men of the family at Leanyer Water Park for free sliding and I went to the supermarket in preparation for the next part of our trip, where we go to Mataranka and Rum Jungle.
Mindil Beach Sunset Market
The plan was to go to the Market to see the sunset, we’re dying to see a good sunset; unfortunately the weather has not been conducive to the sunsets that Mindil Beach is famous for. Nevertheless, we went along and loved it anyway – it has such a great vibe!
It was busier than the last time we visited but we still managed to get a carpark in the public parking attached to the market; the key is to be calm and be patient! We made a beeline for the food trucks, got dinner (decided on an easy option, pizza – very handy to be able to buy whole pizzas, easy for sharing) and found a spot to eat on the beach. There was a real buzz in the air, everyone getting geared up and excited for Territory Day celebrations. I’m glad we went so we could show the kids, explain and prepare them for the July 1st events – hopefully it will ease their overwhelm when they get there on Territory Day.
There were more arts and crafts stalls open and although we didn’t have a close look because we knew we’d be back again on Territory Day. We did, however, stop at Zebra Rock and Crocodile Darwin – the boys were very keen to spend their holiday money at these stalls to get themselves a unique souvenir from the NT.
We had a great conversation with the couple at Zebra Rock and really enjoyed hearing their story and sharing mine from when I travelled through the Kimberley (as a ten year old with my family) and found our own zebra rock. They’re based in Humpty Doo and have a workshop there; Zebra Rock are at the Mindil Beach Market throughout the season. They gave the boys a small piece of sanded zebra rock as a souvenir and we bought Finn a special piece on a necklace.
While still scouting the options at Crocodile Darwin, there are lots of unique products and great souvenirs available. From men’s and women’s wallets and belts, accessories, novelty items and taxidermy, there is something for everyone! Although I don’t really need the head of a crocodile on my shelf at home, they are very impressive and well done.
Darwin Holiday – Day Seven
Our final full day in Darwin was Territory Day, July 1st. A day actively celebrated across the Territory in celebration and recognition of it becoming a stand alone Territory in Australia.
We spent most of the day just chilling out at the apartment. I snuck out to Siam Thai Massage in the morning (Geoff went yesterday) for a deep tissue massage. The walk to and from was just as good as the massage itself. We packed up our belongings, prepared lunch for the next day to have in the car and got ourselves ready for the Territory Day celebrations at Mindil Beach.
We arrived early as was suggested to us and got ourselves a great carpark, reversed in, ready to drive straight out. We wandered through the market stalls that were there, only to find that there really weren’t too many open for this event. Fortunately, Crocodile Darwin was open and Taj was able to buy himself some genuine crocodile leather. He had been thinking about what to buy himself, all week.
Once we’d finished at the stalls, we went to the beach and set ourselves up for the evening. We were close enough to the music to be able to hear but not too close that we were going to be deafened or that our little people may want to leave early! The boys played in the sand while we had a cold beer (the event was BYO alcohol) and enjoyed listening to the live music by local artists.
We ate dinner at the beach, watched the sun go down and loved the non-stop fireworks that went on from about 5:30pm. Although we couldn’t see the early fireworks, it was a good introduction for the kids to see what was to come in relation to the noise they made. They hadn’t seen too many fireworks before and were feeling a little bit nervous about the fact that fireworks were able to sold and bought by the public all day, on July 1st.
Mindil Beach was partitioned off part way down the beach. There was a section where no fireworks on the beach were allowed, this was the area where we were. Immediately following that fence line, the public were letting fireworks go in all directions, with no organisation or process. It was insane but really awesome to watch from where we were. As it got darker, the boys got more and more excited by it all.
At about 8:15pm the official Territory Day fireworks from the water began. They were spectacular!
At the conclusion, we joined the crowds and headed off. Our great carpark turned out to be not so great, in that it took us a very (very) long time to get out. In fact, it took us about an hour and a half to get back to the apartments which were 2km away.
We absolutely could have walked and had planned to, until it was recommended for safety reasons that we drive. It was suggested that the walk home may have been a little scary for the kids as there were likely to be fireworks going off anywhere and everywhere. This was true, so from a safety perspective, we definitely made the right choice. From a “we’re tired and want to go to bed” perspective, we didn’t! You can’t have it all! We did, however, get some very close views of fireworks the entire way home and we got to listen to them go off until about 3:30pm in the morning. What a night!