With its year-round tropical climate, waterfront location and surrounding national parks, Darwin’s abundant natural beauty makes it an inviting destination for a long weekend or a much longer holiday. Garramilla to its traditional owners the Larrakia people, the city lies on a peninsula at the far north of the Northern Territory and is cooled by breezes off the waters that surround it.
More than any southern Australian capital, Darwin has two distinct seasons: the wet, from November to April, and the dry, from May to October. While the dry is peak season for visitors, the wet season has its own charms, including fewer crowds and excellent fishing.
During the dry, average daily temperatures reach highs of 32 degrees celsius and lows of 21 degrees (yes, that’s the low!). Clear skies and sea breezes make for pleasant days and cooler nights. As the name suggests, rain is uncommon and humidity sits at between 20 and 35 per cent. Dry season is also high season in the Top End, when Darwin comes alive with markets, festivals and outdoor dining.
In wet season, temperatures are similar to those in the dry season, between 25 and 33 degrees celsius, however monsoonal downpours and high humidity – up to 80 per cent – can make the heat feel oppressive. Though many of the city’s attractions are closed during the wet (such as the Deckchair Cinema and Mindil Beach Sunset Market) the surrounding landscape and national parks are verdant and flush with wildlife. The average rainfall during the wet season is 1570mm and the chance of tropical cyclones, monsoonal rains and lightning storms increases – conditions that result in beautiful sunsets.
What’s on in summer
Sometimes jokingly referred to as the southernmost city of Southeast Asia, Darwin takes laksa very seriously. While you can try a laksa schnitzel and more oddities at Darwin International Laksa Festival (1 to 28 November), do your own research to decide which bowl of the spicy noodle soup should be crowned the best.
It may be the wet season but there are still markets to explore. Head to the perennial Rapid Creek Markets on a weekend, 20 minutes from the city centre and Darwin’s oldest market, for tropical fruits and fresh juice, handmade craft, bakery treats and more; or check out Parap Village Market, closer to town and open on Saturdays all year, to try one of the award-winning soups served up at Mary’s Laksa.
The rain may affect a land-based adventure to Kakadu National Park but the summer wet season is the best time to see its thundering waterfalls. Book a scenic flight over the Jim Jim and Twin Falls to take in the World Heritage listed national park without getting mud on your shoes.
What’s on in autumn
Held every Thursday and Sunday evening from April until October, Mindil Beach Sunset Market is one of Darwin’s most popular attractions. Grab dinner from one of the stalls – a dozen fresh oysters, Sri Lankan fare or Indonesian food – then head to the sand to watch the sun set.
Bass in the Grass will take place on 21 May 2022 and if past headliners of the music festival are anything to go by – Illy, Ocean Alley and Missy Higgins – it’s bound to be big.
What’s on in winter
In August, when the southern capitals are shivering, Darwin Festival revels in the Top End heat. Past performers at the two-week arts celebration include Hannah Gadsby, Yothu Yindi and Archie Roach, so keep an eye on the website for the 2022 program announcement.
Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair brings together artists and artworks from Aboriginal arts centres from remote and regional Australia. As well as selling aboriginal art to the public, the fair (held in early August) also includes workshops and the National Indigenous Fashion Awards.
What’s on in spring
From a massive crocodile covering the side of one building to an almost life-sized waterfall etched on another, the large-scale murals of the Darwin Street Art Festival colour the city in distracting style. In 2021 the festival expanded from the CBD to brighten up suburbs such as Nightcliff, Casuarina and Parap. Check the website for 2022 dates and maps.
If you don’t find angling exciting, Million Dollar Fish might change your mind. Reeling in a specially tagged Barramundi between the specified dates (usually October to March) wins you a cash prize in the thousands but netting the big one before anyone else (last season there were eight swimming out there somewhere) will net you one million dollars. The competition takes place in the state’s five best fishing regions, Darwin, Kakadu, Arnhem Land, Katherine and Tiwi Islands.