Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating reportedly once said, “The best way to see Darwin is at 35,000 feet on the way to Paris.” These days he might want to take a closer look.
Prise away any preconceptions about Mick Dundee types drinking themselves senseless in a wild town; Darwin is a metropolis with new bars and restaurants, a modern waterfront development, a vibrant arts scene and a diverse population.
It’s a small city, with only 100,000 or so people, and few places are more than 15 minutes’ drive away. Businesses – particularly government offices that employ thousands of people and are central to the Northern Territory economy – are concentrated in the CBD but there’s increasing activity in areas like Berrimah, the satellite city of Palmerston and around Darwin Airport.
Strategically, as the nation’s only tropical capital city, Darwin is well placed to benefit from the development of Northern Australia and the huge growth of markets beyond as the world’s economic centre of gravity moves inexorably towards Asia.
There’s a growing confidence about Darwin’s place in the world – by the Arafura Sea, on the edge of Australia, with Asia just over the horizon. As local Larrakia musician Ali Mills sings of her home town in Arafura Pearl, “She’s a multiracial beauty… she’s the jewel of Australia, she’s the Arafura pearl.”
Perhaps you’ll call in next time you’re off to Paris, Mr Keating?
Luxury: Skycity Darwin
Located on Mindil Beach, which is renowned for its glorious sunsets and markets, and only
a short drive to the CBD, Skycity has 152 guestrooms and palm-
filled gardens. But the drawcard is the resort section with 32 Lagoon Rooms fronting a vast pool with a swim-up bar. Book an elegant first-floor room with
a balcony or opt for a ground-floor room with direct access
to the pool from your deck.
Business facilities Skycity has meeting rooms, conference facilities and event spaces for up to 5000 people, including the lawns and pavilion on the seafront. There’s a basic office space off the lobby.
Wi-fi Complimentary throughout.
Food and drink Dragon Court serves high-end Chinese dishes in its main dining room (or private room with separate entrance). Eat steak poolside at Cove, modern Italian at Il Piatto and casual bistro and buffet fare at The Vue. Choose The Sportsbar if you’re a sports fan or Sandbar for cool cocktails.
Fitness and wellbeing Although there’s a functional 24-hour gym, Skycity’s environs offer prettier ways to break a sweat. There are bikes for hire and tennis courts next door. Recharge afterwards at the heavenly Lagoon Day Spa.
Run route Turn left onto Gilruth Avenue, head to the sailing club and, tide permitting, return along the beach for a five-kilometre jog.
Coffee nearby With baristas at all Skycity venues, there’s no real need to go off site but Eva’s Café, in the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens, serves great coffee in a charming setting about a kilometre away.
Mindil Beach, Gilruth Avenue, Darwin
Business: Hilton Darwin
Hilton Darwin gives business guests all they need to stay focused, including a well-equipped executive lounge for Hilton Honors members and Executive Room guests. The hotel, which is located in central Darwin, features local artworks throughout. Rooms utilise a pleasing palette of neutrals and offer 250-thread-count sheets, blackout curtains and, in some cases, ocean views.
Business facilities The executive lounge includes a small workspace. There’s also a private boardroom and three larger meeting and event spaces, one of which overlooks the lobby and is filled with natural light.
Wi-fi Complimentary for Hilton Honors members and Executive Room guests.
Food and drink Mitchell’s Bar and Grill offers modern Australian food. The executive lounge serves complimentary breakfast and happy-hour snacks and drinks.
Fitness and wellbeing The spacious 24-hour gym has a free-weights area. There’s also an outdoor pool.
Run route Go to the Parliament House end of the Esplanade then north-west through Bicentennial Park. Take a different path back through the park, notching up about three kilometres.
Coffee nearby One of Darwin’s best-loved baristas, Jag Sekhon, makes a strong coffee at Café Del’ Art (24 Mitchell Street; 08 8981 6250).
32 Mitchell Street, Darwin
Apartment-style: Quest Parap
All 84 apartments have small kitchens and some have balconies overlooking the pool and gardens, making Quest Parap ideal for longer stays. It’s four kilometres from the CBD but close to Parap Shopping Village, a lively precinct where markets are held every Saturday.
Business facilities There’s a good workspace in each apartment and the Aviator Room holds up to 30 people for meetings and events.
Wi-fi Complimentary throughout.
Fitness and wellbeing The gym at sister property Quest Berrimah, about 10 minutes’ drive away, is free to guests from 7am to 10pm.
Run route Head for East Point Reserve, which has a running and cycle path edged by bushland alongside the sea. It’s about a five- kilometre loop.
Coffee nearby Cyclone Cafe (2 Parap Place, Parap; 08 8941 1992) offers a good caffeine kick.
49 Parap Road, Parap