How to See the Highlights of Darwin Australia in a Day

As the Radiance of the Seas pulled into the port of Darwin, I really didn’t know what to expect from this tropical capital of the Northern Territories. The ship offered options like a boat tour to see jumping crocodiles, a discovery of the untamed countryside of Litchfield Park, an interactive eco-adventure tour, as well as other bus, walking, or harbour cruise tours. We opted to visit Darwin on our own with the Darwin Explorer hop on hop off bus.

We disembarked and hopped on the bus at stop 11 conveniently located outside the cruise ship terminal, making it an ideal option for anyone not wanting to take a ship’s excursion. The bus makes 11 stops around the city and offers fascinating commentary as we travel. With one bus every 20-25 minutes, we can hop off at any stop, stay as long as we want, and then board another bus to continue the loop.

Here are some of our highlights:

We spent a large amount of time at the city centre (stop 1) having a coffee in the mall (a modern outdoor shopping area), walking a self-guided Darwin city heritage walk, and listening to a street performer. (We could have easily walked to this spot from the ship.)

Christ Church Cathedral in Darwin Australia

Built in 1902, Christ Church Cathedral was devastated by Cyclone Tracy. Now it is a mix of the old and modern.

The Old Town Hall are pre Cyclone Tracey ruins.

The Old Town Hall are pre-Cyclone Tracey ruins.

Radiance of the Seas as seen from the Bicentennial Park in Darwin Australia

Radiance of the Seas as seen from the Bicentennial Park.

Pineapple at George Brown Botanic Gardens in Darwin Australia

Pineapple at George Brown Botanic Gardens.

George Brown Botanic Gardens in Darwin Australia

Some of the interesting trees we saw at the Botanic Gardens. We also stopped in at Eva’s Botanic Garden Cafe for a refreshing organic smoothy. It was a charming place founded in 1886.

Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory in Darwin Australia

Aboriginal art in the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory.

Lorikeet near Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory

Lorikeet eating berries that hubby spotted in a tree near the museum.

On Darwin Explorer Bus on way to East Point Milatary Museum, Darwin Australia

Looking out the front window from the upper deck of the Darwin Explorer Bus on way to East Point Military Museum.

Lake Alexander is a safe to swim in manmade lake in Darwin Australia

Lake Alexander is a man-made lake that is safe for swimming. It is located in the East Point reserve, which is home to 600 wallabies, plus bandicoots, brushtail possums, and 35 species of butterflies.  (Seen from the bus between stops 7 and 8.)

Frances Bay mooring basin in Darwin Australia

Frances Bay mooring basin, a marina mostly used for commercial fishing, is accessed through a lock.

Explorer bus on Stokes Hill Wharf in Darwin Australia

Explorer bus on Stokes Hill Wharf in Darwin Australia. This is the stop #9, home to the Royal Flying Doctors Military museum.

View from pedestrian bridge to Darwin Waterfront.

View from a pedestrian bridge to Darwin Waterfront Precinct.

Wave Lagoon and recreation lagoon. in Darwin Australia

Wave Lagoon in the Waterfront Precinct.

Sunset in Darwin Australia

A perfect end to our day in Darwin.

The Darwin Explorer makes a 90-minute loop stopping at:

  1. City Center and Tourist Information
  2. Crocosaurus Cove
  3. Doctor’s Gully Aquascene Fish Feeding
  4. Cullen Bay Jetty
  5. Cullen Bay Apts
  6. Casino and Botanic Gardens
  7. Museum and Art Gallery of Nothern Territory and then on to East Point Reserve
  8. Parap Parap Markets (open only on Saturday)
  9. Stokes Hill Wharf and Military Museum
  10. Waterfront Precinct
  11. Fort Hill Wharf (Cruise Terminal)

We opted to board and then completed one loop so we could hear all of the history and options of where to stop. I think a better option would be to get off at each location of interest, therefore completing only one lap of the bus route.

More About Darwin:

  • During much of the year, swimming in the ocean is not recommended due to crocodiles, box jellies, and Irukandji.
  • Cullen Bay is a registered cyclone haven for small to medium sized ships.
  • Cyclone Tracey devastated Darwin destroying more than 70% of its buildings on Christmas day 1974.
  • Darwin was bombed in WWII on 19 February 1942 by the same planes that bombed Pearl Harbor.
  • Darwin’s population of only 142, 300 is half of the population of the Northern Territory.
  • The Northern Territory is equivalent to the size of France, Spain, and Italy combined.
  • Darwin is situated on the Timor Sea in the Indian Ocean. It has two seasons, dry season (May 1 to October 1) and the wet season.
  • Darwin is a former frontier outpost and the gateway to Kakadu National Park.

**We are currently cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas. She is a lovely ship that is taking us around the top side of Australia from Sydney to Perth, with port stops in Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Bali (Indonesia), Port Hedlands, and Geraldton.

Have you been to Darwin? Will you take the Darwin Explorer Bus when you visit?

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Sunset in Darwin Australia, a perfect end to a busy day.
This post is linked at The Weekly Postcard, Weekend Wanderlust, Travel Photo Thursday, Photo Friday, and Outdoor Wednesday. More link ups here.
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Disclaimer:We were provided with a complimentary Darwin Explorer tour for the purpose of this review. In addition, Royal Caribbean has provided VIP treatment onboard the Radiance of the Seas as well as many complimentary extras. The opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

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Comments

    • says

      There was so much more to this museum than I could fit on the page. Plus, I think you would have liked the museum out on Stokes Hill Wharf as it had a lot of virtual reality.

  1. says

    Hi Rhonda – what a great way to see the city and surroundings … and be able to get out and about too … looks a great city. Thanks for the photos – the wave lagoon must be fun … but seeing the museum and the ruins from the pre cyclone Tracey days … wonderful .. thanks for sharing – cheers Hilary

  2. says

    Darwin looks like it has changed a lot since I was last there, a few years after Cyclone Tracy. I have been trying to get David to add it to our travel wishlist without much success so far. I’ll show him this post and see if it helps. I love your photo of the lorikeet.

  3. says

    That Cycone Tracy must have been huge if it knocked down buildings. It must have been very scary for the people in houses. I love all the greenery in the pictures. But where were the jumping alligators?? Those sound really cool. lol

  4. says

    I’ve always wanted to go to Darwin. I’ve heard it’s super – muggy. Is that true? I also don’t mind taking hop on/off buses…sometimes. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  5. says

    Since the city is so picturesque, it makes sense to explore on an open top bus. I would like to explore the natural nearby attractions. #wkendtravelinspiration

  6. says

    You just gave me a great idea, Rhonda. I thing the best way to visit Australia would be to take a cruise. I could get an idea about this continent and then go back to visit the places I found the most interesting. I’d love to do that.

  7. messymimi says

    Such a fabulous idea, to have a bus tour that takes you to a city’s highlights to make it easier for tourists to become aquainted with the area! Thank you for sharing, i hope i can get to see it myself someday.

  8. says

    I have been to Darwin a few years ago and enjoyed my stay very much. We went out to Adelaide River to see the jumping crocs and also to Litchfield National Park which was awesome. Darwin itself is an interesting city to explore. So much history and so much turmoil.

  9. says

    I would love to read more about your time on the cruise ship too! The budget, what you do on board and so on! With your weekly posts, you are tempting me to hop on one of them aswell! Darwin looks beautiful and as always, your photographs are spot on! Loving the facts you added in the end! Especially the one about the bombing in !942 by the same planes that bombed Pearl Harbor!

  10. says

    you know, it has never occurred to me to cruise around Australia, but there is so much territory to cover that it makes sense. I’d love to see a post on your while itinerary. I’m interested in how long the cruise, all the places it stopped, how long you had in each place and between destinations. The church is really interesting! Here in NY we have added modern fronts to old buildings. Adding a modern building to an old front is different. they both stop you in your tracks but I can appreciate what they are doing and why.

    • says

      The port stops on a cruise ship are typically for five to ten hours. You can see a lot if you research the port a bit and plan out what you want to do. An excursion from the ship does the planning and scheduling for you.

  11. says

    Hi, Rhonda. Darwin is an interesting looking city. Love that blue sky! The hop-on/hop-off bus seems like a good option. I did that in Porto last year and wasn’t that impressed. However, I think it depends on your driver! Thanks for linking up. #TPThursday

  12. says

    Darwin, Australia looks amazing! I’d love to visit Australia someday and looking at your pictures has me desiring it even more! I love the shot of the sunset and Lorikeet! So colorful! And, of course, the image from Bicentennial Park had me clicking through to read this post instead of the one above it. No one can resist beautiful water shots! 🙂

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