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 key things to do in Darwin Australia when you are just here for a day include a boat tour to see jumping crocodiles, a discovery of the untamed countryside of Litchfield Park, an interactive eco-adventure harbour cruise tour, or the Darwin Explorer hop-on-hop-off bus.
We opted for the Explorer bus, as we couldn’t decide what to do in Darwin, and this would give us a good sample and enough time to explore a few options in more detail. The Big Bus, as it’s also called, stops just outside the cruise ship terminal (stop 11), 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.
Darwin city centre – stop one on the Darwin Explorer Bus
We could have easily walked to this spot from the ship, rather than waiting in a queue with other cruise passengers at stop 11.
Once in the city centre (stop 1), we found plenty of things to do in Darwin. Our first stop was for some people-watching as we enjoyed a coffee in the mall (a modern outdoor shopping area). Next, followed a self-guided Darwin city heritage walk that we picked up at the Parliament House, and finally, we enjoyed the music of a talented street performer.
One of our highlights was the Christ Church Cathedral. Built in 1902, it was devastated by Cyclone Tracy. Now it is a mix of the old and modern. Cyclone Tracey destroyed more than 70% of Darwin’s buildings on Christmas day, 1974.
Crocosaurus Cove is at Stop 2 and has an additional fee for entry. We opted to skip this venue as we have seen crocodiles many times. Had we not seen them before, I am pretty sure this would have done so today. Reserve your tickets for Crocosaurus Cove here, or you can get a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus that includes entry to Crocosaurus Cove and RFDS here.
If you really want Darwin adventures, consider a Darwin crocodile tour. It typically takes about 90 minutes to drive from Darwin to Litchfield Park.
George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens
Some of the interesting trees we saw at the Botanic Gardens. It was a charming place founded in 1886. We also stopped in at Eva’s Botanic Garden Cafe for a refreshing organic smoothie.
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
East Point reserve
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
The Darwin Explorer Hop-On Hop-Off bus
The Darwin Explorer makes a 90-minute loop stopping at:
- City Centre and Darwin Tourist Information Centre
- Crocosaurus Cove
- Doctor’s Gully Aquascene Fish Feeding
- Cullen Bay Jetty
- Cullen Bay Apts
- Casino and Botanic Gardens
- Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory and then on to East Point Reserve
- Parap Parap Markets (open only on Saturday)
- Stokes Hill Wharf and Military Museum
- Waterfront Precinct
- Fort Hill Wharf (Cruise Terminal)
We opted to board and then completed one loop so we could hear all of the history and options. We then did a second lap and got off at the various stops. I think a better option would be to get off at each location of interest, therefore completing only one lap of the bus route.
Interesting facts about Darwin Australia
- During much of the year, swimming from Darwin Australia beaches is not recommended due to crocodiles, box jellies, and Irukandji.
- Cullen Bay is a registered cyclone haven for small to medium sized ships.
- 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.
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Which are your favourite things to do in Darwin Austarlia? Will you take the Darwin Explorer Bus when you visit?
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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.