Darwin has come a long way from a laid-back frontier town to a modern city. She is arguably Australia’s most cosmopolitan city, boasting a population made up of people from more than 60 nationalities and 70 different ethnic backgrounds. Darwin’s multicultural mix is evident by its many exciting ethnic cultural festivals and weekly food and craft markets. Interestingly, Darwin has a youthful population with an average age of 33 years!
Darwin city living is characterised by wide streets, shady parks, a pedestrian mall, authentic ethnic restaurants, contemporary and outback-style pubs, clubs, galleries and museums. Its facilities and amenities are at least equal to, and often better than, what you’ll find in Australia’s southern cities.
At its heart is the Smith Street, a pedestrian-only shopping mall between Knuckey Street and Bennett Street. There are more than 200 specialty shops lining this Mall where you can find Aboriginal art and crafts, jewellery, tropical clothing and souvenirs. Two large supermarkets can also be found here – Coles and Woolworths.
The main entertainment district is Mitchell Street, with its cinemas, sidewalk cafes, open air bars, specialty restaurants, fast food joints, 5-star hotels and quaint Irish, English and Aussie pubs. A good number of budget accommodation catered towards backpackers are also found here. Overall, Mitchell Street has something to offer for groups, families or singles.
A short stroll from the Darwin CBD is the Darwin Waterfront Precinct. It’s family-style entertainment area with its seaside promenades, parklands, landscaped gardens, retail outlets, hotels and alfresco dining is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Darwin Waterfront’s unique appeal has something for everyone. There’s boardwalk dining overlooking the harbour where multicultural menus include Australian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, French, Greek, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Mexican and Indian influenced cuisine. It is reachable from the central business district via the Esplanade or an elevated walkway.
The Darwin Waterfront Precinct is home to Northern Territory’s only Wave Lagoon. Offering safe year-round swimming for the entire family, the Wave Lagoon is open daily and is a great spot to cool off, relax or ride a wave. The size of the Wave Lagoon is over 4000 square metres with depths varying from 2m at the deepest point. The lagoon creates ten different wave patterns with the highest wave reaching 1.7 metres. Admission charges are AUD$7.00 for an adult and AUD18.000 for a family 2 adults and 3 children.
At the opposite end of Darwin’s Business District and a stone’s throw away from Mindil Beach is the George Brown Botanic Gardens. Built in 1886, the Botanic Gardens offers a wide range of environments in the form of monsoon forests, coastal dunes, mangroves and open woodlands. It showcases a host of Top End flora, including 450 species of palms and plantings from Tiwi Island and Arnhem Land. This historic place is one of the world’s few botanic gardens with marine and estuarine plants occurring naturally in its grounds. This is the place for plants and flowers enthusiasts!
I spent about 1.5 hours in the Botanic Gardens until it was time for me to make my way to Mindil Beach. At the entrance before crossing the little bridge, I looked up at the trees for any last-minute shots and couldn’t believe my eyes. Just above my head, resting in the shadows of a tree branch was a python! Was I thrilled! As no one else was around, I had the snake all to myself, clicking away with my camera and cursing the lack of sufficient light.
And then, when I was drafting this post, Google Search results showed up about a fake snake in George Brown Botanic Gardens. Oh no! This couldn’t be my snake!
I compared my photo with the snake in the article. As you can see, there is no similarity whatsoever! Made my day!
I made my way to Mindil Beach Sunset Markets which was crowded with people. The weekend’s festivities had already started much earlier with the 42nd Darwin Beer Can Regatta in full swing by the time I got there.
The Darwin Beer Can Regatta is a festival held annually since 1974 at Darwin’s Mindil Beach. Participants show off their creativity by building boats using empty beer cans, soda cans, soft drink bottles and milk cartons. The can boats are not tested prior to water events, and those that fall apart in the water become part of the fun and entertainment.
Mindil Beach’s Sunset Markets have up to 60 food stalls offering cuisine from all over the world – Turkey, Greece, Sri Lanka, South America, North Africa, India and all over South East Asia. In addition, the stalls sell Aboriginal arts and crafts and jewellery. There is a host of other activities like buskers, masseurs, tarot readers, leather tailors, jewellers, artists and magicians to add to the hustle, bustle and fun-filled atmosphere.
With its easy and relaxed charm, stress-free environment, little traffic and a small population, everyday is a holiday in Darwin – even if a lifelike python is thrown in front of the visitor to add to the excitement. It’s a good thing that I didn’t have to pay any entrance fees to get into the Botanic Gardens. Otherwise, I would have felt cheated that the snake wasn’t real!