The Best Darwin Tours: See the Top End of Australia
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There isn’t anywhere in the world quite like Darwin. Completely isolated from any other city in Australia, Darwin is synonymous with dramatic weather, crocodiles (they don’t run around the centre, don’t worry!), modern and ancient Aboriginal history, unique surrounding nature and… a lot of drunk backpackers.
Even if you don’t want to join in with the drunk backpackers, it’s well worth spending some time to experience Darwin city centre. There’s some intriguing war history to explore at the Darwin Military Museum, you can learn all about the harsh climate, the unique flora and fauna and Aboriginal history at the AGMNT, you can cool off in the lagoon (don’t swim in the open water – there are crocs out there!) and you can enjoy some of the restaurants or cafes.
But the real beauty of Darwin is in the surroundings. Kakadu, Litchfield, the Tiwi Islands and Katherine should all be on your Australia bucket list. These Darwin tours will show you some of the highlights of the city, as well as the stunning national parks of the state. Darwin is a great base to explore the best of the NT.
Note: I don’t partake in, write about or have anything to do with animal tourism. Even though I’m
wary petrified of crocodiles, they still are beautiful creatures that deserve to be treated with respect. So I won’t mention anything that involves crocodile tourism here, and would advise people against avoiding them as well.
The Best Darwin Tours
Inner city Darwin tours
I give Darwin a bit of slack, mainly due to the OTT party atmosphere of Mitchell Street. But if you stay off this drag, there’s quite a bit that’s worth exploring. Taking part on one of the tours of Darwin will help you see the best of the city.
The hop on hop off bus will take you around the highlights of the city, so it’s great to use as transportation. You’ll swing by the Botanical Gardens, the Military Museum, the Mindl Beach Markets and more. You can get off wherever you want and you’ll learn a little about the city on the way.
If you’ve got limited time in Darwin half day tours might be your answer. A walking tour will help you get to grips with the tropical city, deatailing the way it has become the city it is today, including the devastations like bombings and cyclones. Highlights include:
- Mitchell Street
- Darwin’s Chinese Temple and Museum
- The Waterfront
- The Esplanade
- Mindil Beach
You’ll learn all about the history on the way.
If you’re wanting a cheaper tour, you could take an audio guided tour which takes you through the city. You can go at your own pace, learning all Darwin’s tales on the way.
Darwin Harbour Sightseeing Cruise
See Darwin from a different perspective! The harbor sightseeing cruise will help you see the view of the city from the water and enjoy the live commentary detailing the city. Drinks and snacks are available to purchase on board.
The Tiwi Islands are a really unique place to visit in Darwin. They are known for their friendly locals and Aboriginal art. The Wurrumiyanga people have called the islands home for thousands of years, and they kindly welcome tourists who are keen to learn about their culture. There’s plenty of history to engage with on the Tiwi Islands, and it’s the number one place to buy artwork near Darwin.
You can catch a ferry from Cullen Bay Ferry Terminal – it takes around 2.5 hours to sail there. Click here to purchase tickets.
Alternatively, it is possible to do an entire guided tour which includes the ferry. You’ll get a deeper understanding of the Tiwi Islands as your guide talks you through a walking tour of the community, the Tiwi Museum and a screen printing session with a local artist. Because the Tiwi Islands is all about cultural immersion, the guided tour option is definitely better if your budget can reach it. The guides are all local and the money goes directly into the community, which is great for us sustainable travellers!
Kakadu National Park
Kakadu is one of my favourite places in Australia. The landscape is like nothing else I’ve ever seen – think outback meets savannah – and there are waterfalls, 4WD tracks and hiking trails galore.
If you don’t have your own vehicle, it’s possible to visit Kakadu as part of a tour. None of them are cheap, but honestly, I’d think about remortgaging your house to visit Kakadu. It’s something worth splurging on.
If you’re short of money and time when you’re in Darwin Kakadu day tours do exist – however be aware that just the entrance of Kakadu is 3 hours away from Darwin by car so you will be spending a lot of time on the bus! This trip includes ancient Aboriginal rock art, the Kakadu wetlands, a yellow water billabong cruise and the Warradjan Cultural Centre which details the life of the Bininj people.
A much more relaxed option is a 3-day tour. This will take you to the highlights of the national park, including the plunge pools, the Mary River Wetlands, Cahill’s Crossing for a spot of crocodile watching and you’ll learn all about the local Aboriginal Dreaming stories.
Your guide will tell you this, but make sure you are crocwise and don’t go swimming where it’s not safe. Croc danger is real.
Kakadu can be twinned with a visit to Arnhem Land. This part of the Northern Territory that you cannot visit independently – you need a permit or a tour. You’ll be able to see some really untouched landscapes and learn all about the Aboriginal history from a Bininj Guluyambi guide.
A 3 day tour will show you the highlights, including the billabongs and watering holes of Kakadu and the indigenous Mawurndaddja Rock Art in Arnhem Land. You’ll learn all about the significance of this land to the Binninj people through your friendly and knowledgeable tour guides, and see the stunning landscape in an off-road adventure that few travellers to Australia, and even the Top End, get to see.
If you have 5 days, another tour will take you to Kakadu, Arnhem Land and Cobourg. You’ll see the highlights of Kakadu and then head to Arnhem Land and the Gunbalanya Aboriginal Community. Here you’ll get to see the Injalak Arts and Crafts Centre and enjoy some remote Aboriginal rock art.
Cobourg is on the coast and you’ll be taken there in a 4WD. It’s a really off the beaten path place to visit, and you’ll camp out there. The tour also includes the RAMSAR wetlands and the beautiful northern beaches. The tour takes you back to Kakadu and sees some more of the highlights on the last day.
Litchfield National Park
Litchfield isn’t quite as mesmerising as Kakadu, but it’s still a great spot to visit and to cool off from the Northern Territory’s immense heat.
The national park is one of the most popular day tours from Darwin, which will take you to all of the highlights – including Wangi Falls, Florence Falls and the spectacular Termite Mounds. The tour prices start at just $99, making it one of the best budget-friendly tours in Darwin.
You can also twin visiting Litchfield with Kakadu in a 3 day/ 2 night tour. Two days are spent exploring Kakadu’s highlights (including Jim Jim falls which must be accessed by 4WD) and then you’ll be off to Litchfield to explore the park there.
Nitmiluk National Park
Located near the country town of Katherine, Nitmiluk National Park shouldn’t be overlooked while you’re in the top end.Also known as Katherine Gorge, tours here will show you the beauty of the gorge-land and detail some of the history. When you’re searching for Darwin day tours Katherine Gorge is a less frequented, but still stunning and very unique spot.
The tours include a cruise through the gorge on which lunch is served, enabling you to see it from a unique perspective. Some stop at Edith Falls, a stunning part of the National Park, and others include a hike through Katherine Gorge itself.
Scenic flight over the Mary River
This is an unmissable bucket-list experience; a flight over the fascinating Mary River Wetlands. The wetlands have the highest concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the Southern Hemisphere – so you’ll be glad you’re in an enclosed space!
You also might be able to spot wallabies, jabirus, sea eagles, buffaloes and jacanas. Proper Aussie animals!
The tour includes 45 minutes on an airboat, a 90 minute safari cruise and scenic helicopter flights. It’s one of those adventures that you’ll never stop telling people about once you’re back at home!
The best tours in Darwin
These Darwin tours will really help you get to grips with this fascinating tropical city. They’ll help you see why Darwin is so unique and renowned, and you’ll experience a side of Australia that many people miss. So what are you waiting for? Grab your mozzie spray, find your sense of adventure (sorry, that was really corny), and work out how you’re heading to the top end – my recommendation would be a road trip from Broome or Adelaide!
I’ll C U in the NT! (If you’re wondering how on earth a British person managed to make that up, I didn’t. It’s actually the Northern Territory tourism campaign. Oh Aussie humour…)
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