Off the Beaten Track: Discovering Darwin at Night

July 22, 2014 at 1:00 pm

If you’re freezing cold with this winter weather and can’t escape to a warmer climate, don’t read ahead. You’ll just make yourself upset at the life people in the north lead. If you’re looking to get away, though, or happen to find yourself in Darwin in the next few months, this is for you. Darwin may seem like a world away from anything and too full of crocodiles to even think about visiting, but what they’ve got going on up there to celebrate the milder temperatures (read: 30 degrees maximum during the day) is well worth checking out. The night time is the best time, so here are five nights out which are guaranteed winners.

Sunset at the Sailing Club

Considering Darwin itself is less ‘major city’ and more ‘large rural centre’ which happens to be on the water, the amount of sea-related clubs and pubs is not surprising. This one is special though, and not just because it’s the perfect half-way point along the ocean walking trail between the city and East Point (and if you’re working out up here you definitely need some refreshment). The Darwin Sailing Club has a beautiful vantage point. The club’s outdoor bar is reminiscent of a tropical tiki house, with warm hospitality letting anyone come in and pull up a chair. The massive grass space opens onto the beach and water, which is the absolute bees knees. Come for the sunset, stay for a few beers (because what else are you going to drink in the Territory?) It’s during the south’s ‘winter’ that it’s mild enough to actually bathe in the afternoon sun as it goes down over the water. Ahhh, isn’t that just the greatest image in the entire world? Yes. Yes it is. In Darwin, you’ll find there’s no competition for tables or restaurants pushing you out the door sooner than you can order that chai latte to finish your meal. It’s a nice change to know you’ll never be bothered by annoyed waiters running around your table or bartenders eyeballing you from the bar. Stay as long as you want. Stay forever.

Mindil Beach Markets

Ask any local what their number one must see destination is for the dry season, they will inevitably give the Sunset Markets as their answer. Running from April to October every year, hundreds of people flock to Mindil Beach as the sun goes down to enjoy the surprising variety of stalls and entertainment. Given its relative distance to Asian countries, Darwin is one big melting pot of Asian delicacies,  and the markets have every kind imaginable here. There’s also crocodile, which as you would expect – is at restaurants everywhere, so you’re pretty much obliged to try some. There are the regular market staples like handcrafted goods, souvenirs and artwork on offer, but the nighttime markets are really made unique with entertainment from fire shows and a group of live music acts. The locals are right, there’s something magical about this famous market.

Dinner and Ice Cream at the Waterfront

Ahh, the Waterfront. A.K.A the modern area of Darwin. By day you’ll find sunbathers on the grass and children in the wave-pool, but at night this uber cool restaurant hub is the perfect place to go to a nice restaurant and enjoy the buzz. Along the water there are great Mexican, Greek, Asian and Irish establishments, bringing together the two best elements of Darwin – a variety of food and a great view. After an evening of wining and dining, take a stroll around Stokes’ Hill Wharf or the Convention Centre, as long as you end up at Trampoline Ice Cream. The fact that the weather is ice cream friendly in the middle of July is the biggest incentive, but it’s also a fabulous way to end a night of culinary delights. It’s a big call but this little store may even rival the mighty Messina with stronger fruit inspired flavours reminding you that yes, you’re in the tropics. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Fish and Chips at Cullen Bay

One thing Darwin excels at is seafood. And the best place in Darwin for seafood is beautiful beachy Cullen Bay, where they specialise in seafood on any budget, from fancy all-you-can-eat at the Seafood on Cullen, to trusty fish and chips. Leading to the beach is a cute, manicured grass area.  Take some drinks and eat off the butcher’s paper, perfect for that night-time picnic. If you do venture down to the sand, make sure not to go too far into the water as there’s no swimming allowed (due to jellyfish and, surprise surprise, crocodiles). This area of Darwin isn’t as busy as the Waterfront as it is a residential area, so if you’re after a low-key night, this is the place for you.

Deckchair Cinema

Looking to catch a movie? The Deckchair Cinema is a great outdoor cinema complete with deck chairs which also happen to have the perfect recline angle for the big screen. The year-round mild temperature allows comfortable seating. The cinema is surrounded by trees which provide a nice sound barrier and is located along the water behind the Waterfront, providing a movie experience with a great view. Mosquito repellent is highly recommended, because nature does have its drawbacks. Get there at 6:30 and with an empty stomach because one of the most popular and tastiest restaurants in town- Hanuman, cater on Wednesday and Friday nights. All nights have a catered, hot meal available to buy, and a bar at the back of the cinema provide all the booze required for a fantastic night under the stars. Movies on the schedule for the rest of the dry season include recent popular releases such as The Grand Budapest Hotel (12th July) and Dallas Buyers Club (31st July), as well as many niche and independent films such as The Double (14th, 23rd and 26th July) and 52 Tuesdays (18th July). You may even be able to catch a couple of classics, which are always fun to share with others.