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The city of Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory, presides loftily over the top end of Australia. Set on a rocky peninsula that stretches into one of the most beautiful natural harbours on the north Australian coast, the city is surrounded by water on three sides, which allows it to be fanned by cool breezes that temper the tropical heat and humidity of its climate.
Darwin has survived destruction three times: the city was hit by a cyclone in 1893; it was then bombed by the Japanese in 1942 during World War II; and more recently, in 1974, Cyclone Tracy levelled the city on Christmas Eve. It is a tribute to the pioneering spirit of its cosmopolitan population of 87,000 that it has not only overcome these calamities, but gone on to thrive.
The city is compact, and the areas of most interest to tourists are easy to explore on foot. The tropical climate encourages outdoor living and simply strolling through the leafy streets, browsing art galleries and enjoying refreshments at sidewalk cafes, is a pleasure for visitors. Shady parks can be found behind busy shopping streets and are a delight with exotic flowering trees like frangipani, banyan and tamarind.
Darwin is a youthful, tropical city, small enough to feel friendly and relaxed, and a great travel hub for exploring the incredible natural wonders on the city's doorstep.
This stunning park, covering almost 12,500 square miles (32,375 sq km) was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage areas in 1984 and is regarded as one of the natural marvels of Australia. The land itself is believed to be more than two billion years old, and is a jigsaw of wetlands, gorges, waterfalls, floodplains, rainforest pockets and escarpments. It offers the visitor an impressive variety of superb landscapes teeming with wildlife, and features some of Australia's most magnificent examples of Aboriginal rock art. About 5,000 Aboriginal sites have been identified in the park area, making it arguably the best destination in Australia for those wanting to experience the oldest living culture on earth. The park can be visited on a day-trip from Darwin and contains more than 1,600 species of plants and 500 different kinds of birds and animals.
Housing over three decades of research on Australian crocodiles and a comprehensive crocodile museum, not to mention more than a thousand resident crocodiles, the Crocodylus Park and Zoo is designed to educate people about this lesser known predator. While the focus at the park is on crocodiles, there are plenty of other animals to keep visitors interested. At this, the largest attraction in Darwin, visitors can learn about these reptiles as well as view a collection of other animals such as big cats, monkeys, birds, snakes and turtles, to name a few. Regular daily tours, including crocodile feeding sessions, will captivate visitors. There are well-trained guides who are willing to answer any questions about the dinosaur-like creatures, both the species in general and the particular crocodiles housed at the park. Visitors are allowed to get as close as is safe to get the best pictures possible.
Operated by the Darwin Film Society and completely independent, the Deckchair Cinema is unique in more than one way. Screening mainly films that would otherwise be unavailable to local audiences, the Deckchair Cinema is set outdoors on the edge of Darwin Harbour and is the perfect location for a sunset picnic followed by a movie. The cinema usually operates seven nights a week during the dry season (April to November) and screens a range of movies from family friendlies to foreign films. With 250 deckchairs and about 100 straight-backed seats, the cloudless skies above the Deckchair Cinema and harbour lights make a breath-taking backdrop for the screen. An evening at the Deckchair Cinema makes for a unique way to experience Darwin and its beautiful outdoors.
Darwin has a tropical savannah climate and experiences distinct wet and dry seasons but fairly consistent temperatures year-round. The dry season is almost always rain free and extends from May to October, with hot, sunny days becoming cooler in the evenings. The weather during these months is pleasant and consistent. The wet season, from November to April, brings high humidity and slightly higher temperatures, resulting in electric storms in the afternoon that leave the countryside lush and green. The average temperatures range between 68°F (20°C) and 91°F (33°C) all year.
The Darwin bus network covers most of the attractions in the city and many of the routes run seven days a week, although there are reduced operating hours on Sundays and public holidays. Fares are on a zone system. Darwin also has a number of bicycle trails and from the city there are easy rides to picturesque destinations such as Fannie Bay or the Botanical Gardens. Taxis are available and are metered. However, central Darwin is small enough to get around on foot.
The Tour Tub, an open-air bus, is a good way to tour Darwin and view its major attractions, which include the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, the Overland Telegraph Museum, Fannie Bay Gaol, the Botanic Gardens, the Australian Pearling Exhibition, and East Point Military Museum. The Deckchair Cinema is a delight for night-time entertainment, and animal-lovers will be fascinated by the enormous Crocodylus Park and Zoo, which is home to more than a thousand crocs and numerous other animals.
The city is a good base from which to explore the surrounding national parks, and although Darwin is a charming place, most visitors spend more time exploring the celebrated landscapes just beyond the city. The most famous of these is the Kakadu National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other very popular daytrips from Darwin include visits to Katherine Gorge, Litchfield National Park, and the Corroboree Billabong.
Note that sea swimming, particularly between October and May, is generally unsafe around Darwin because the sea abounds with deadly box jellyfish. Visitors should take note of signposts and warnings on the beaches, and listen to the directives of lifeguards.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination
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