segunda-feira, 7 de dezembro de 2015

25 Things to do in Darwin and Region

Darwin is known as “Top End” of Australia, being the most northern capital city The top things to witness or go to there include the temperature (between 30 and 33◦C), the sunset (the name “top end” makes sense at that time because the colourful sun set over the ocean and the markets. The worst part is that despite it being so hot you cannot swim at the beaches because of 2 reasons: salty croc and jellyfish also love the area, but they have created an artificial beach to give it a go and also a park with waves near the harbour.

Darwin suffered some cyclones and was attacked by Japanese during WW2, so, many buildings you can see the destruction. The last cyclone was in a Christmas day in 1974 and they have the sound recorded in the museum.

My first suggestion when you arrive in the city is to ask about the local market. It will be the first place where you can see a little bit of everything. The famous is in Mindil Beach but there are also other options depending on the day of the week.  

1. The Mindil Beach Market
To start, OMG! The view of the sunset from the beach is stunning! The market in front of the beach is held every Thursday and Sunday and I was lucky to have an opportunity to visit this enchanting place – sunset, music, art, food…  There are plenty of different options to eat, crafts to see, live bands, street performers, didgeridoo show, jewellery, fashion & artistic creations and many products made by croc and cane toads leather. There is a huge local commerce there.

2. Deckchair cinema
An open-air waterfront cinema that screens Australian, foreign and classic films during the Dry. Looks really cool and also has a good selections of movies.

3. Darwin’s Wave Lagoon
The lagoon is like a beach with no sand, where man-made waves of up to 1.7 metres are generated regularly. You pay to get into and you can use boogie boards and water tubes.

4. Waterfront Swimming Lagoon
This is a free saltwater recreation lagoon with a man-made beach and shady lawn beyond. This beach reminds me Airlie Beach in Whitsundays also man-made. The best part is to sunbake the grass but the water is not my favourite taste. I really prefer ocean current.

5. George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens
This garden established 130 years ago has survived numerous cyclones and the direct effects of WW2. It is one of a few botanic gardens in the world, which has a marine and estuarine plants grown naturally in its grounds (the site extends inland from the sea to a plateau providing a range of planting environments). If you don’t expect to see a garden of roses, you will be fine there J 

6. Other things to do in Darwin
Because I only spend 1 day free, I couldn’t get to know the city properly, but you can visit the new Defence of Darwin Experience, the WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels, Crocosauros Cove called “cage of death” crocodile dive, Crocodylus Park to see crocodile feeding, Jenny’s Orchid Garden (my father loves orchids and it makes me like orchid a little bit by osmosis. It’s a shame I didn’t see the largest variety of tropical tree orchids in the Northern Territory. In Darwin Harbour you can also take a ferry at Cullen Bay Marina and take a trip to Mandorah (20min) or Tiwi Islands (2h), join a tour to turtle nesting sites on bare Sand Island.

What to do near Darwin

In Darwin you can buy packages to visit all region or a guide tour from Darwin to Alice Springs stopping in some of the best parks and touristic tours.

7. Mary River Wetlands
The Mary River Wetlands remind me of the Pantanal River in Brazil. It is possible to do a cruise searching for Crocodiles all along Mary as it has the highest concentration of saltwater crocs, but I did a tour with Mary River Wetlands. On this cruise you can see crocs in their own habitat going about life as normal and you don’t feed them different from a crocodile show. Consequently you also can’t see crocs jumping from one side to the other waiting for the food that someone is going to feed them. Just to take note that saltwater crocs are very dangerous and totally different from fresh water crocodiles. One week before I went there, one crocodile grab a man from the boat and ate him. There are a lot of signs all over the territory to advise people where it is possible or not to swim.
This region is also home to over 250 bird species. So, you will see birds, parrots with different colours in along the river.

8. Kakadu National Park
World Heritage-listed Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park filled with waterfalls, rugged gorges, wetlands and massive crocs. It also has one of the highest concentrations areas of ancient Aboriginal rock art sites.
My wish when I visited Kakadu was to stay for longer and see more. There’s  so much to uncover. Bowali Kakadu Visitor Centre is one stop to know a little more what all park have to offer and to dream to come back next time.

9. Twin Falls
To see Twin Falls you need to take a ferry to cross the river. Unfortunately you cannot swim there which is a pity as it is a spectacular view but not enjoyable as a whole.  Before it was possible but due to too many accidents and it being a remote area which is only reachable via helicopter (there aren't any streets there) they don’t allow anyone to swim in this pure water. L Thank God that after Twin Falls we could go for a dip at Jim Jim Falls J.

10. Jim Jim Falls
Jim Jim Falls is considered the most beautiful waterfall in Australia. It’s really amazing and there is also “a fresh water beach” near the waterfall. My suggestion is not to stay only at the beach but try to reach the waterfall, which is really awesome. Many people from my trip didn’t go there because they were a little bit exhausted. It is literally just a few more steps and you will see an spectacular view where you can cool off. There is also a trip where you can take a helicopter to see Jim Jim Falls over the sky, which seems to be really nice as well.

11. Ubirr/Nadab Lookout
This place also reminds me “Pai Inácio” from Chapada Diamantina (BA – Brazil). There is a panoramic view over the floodplain and beyond into Arnhem Land. To see it, you need to climb to the top of Ubirr (it’s a stunning spot for a sunset). There you can also see many Aboriginal rock art teaching the abundant food to be found in the area.

12. Other spots in Kakadu
I didn’t go to the Gunlom Falls in Kakadu National Park (this option is given in the tour when it is not possible to go to Jim Jim and Twin Falls). The pictures of this waterfall looks also amazing. It’s a large plunge pool with a postcard backdrop of the Arnhem Land escarpment. It looks like you are swimming in the precipice.

13. Litchfield National Park
90 minutes drive from Darwin is Litchfield Park featuring a myriad of diverse environments including rugged sandstone escarpments, monsoon rainforest, magnetic termite mounds and stunning waterfalls. There was the centre of tin and copper mine until it was designated as a national park.   

14. Florence Falls                                                               
It’s a waterfall set amidst monsoon rainforest (approximately 120 steps to get to the bottom). It was the place where I was introduced to the green ant and gave it a go eating it for my first time (it’s not too bad. If you want a citric juice, maybe you can use just one ant and mix with a cup of water and you will be fine. 100% of citric guaranteed!).

15. Wangi Falls
Very easy to reach this falls and an enjoyable swim with a big pool and a picturesque natural playground to be reached – the waterfall J.

16. Magnetic Termite Mounds
A major attraction seen on driving into the park are the many Magnetic Termite Mounds found on the floodplains, standing up to two metres in height in a north-south orientation and also the huge termite castle mounds (more than 5 metres). It was so incredible that I wrote another post just about termites. I went bananas after saw the mounds!

17. Adelaide River Inn
An accommodation and also an iconic pub which is home to “Charlie the Buffalo” from Crocodile Dundee is a good spot to get to know local culture.

18. Other spots in Litchfield
As every park, there are plenty of attractions to be seen (The Lost City, Surprise Creek Falls, Tandy Creek Falls, etc) and also 39 kilometre circuit bushwalking. To see all spots it will take at least 4 days with a four-wheel drive only.

19. Nitmiluk/Katherine Gorge National Park
Katherine and Nitmiluk National Park is where the tropics meets the outback. The gorge is full of freshwater crocs (not as dangerous as salt water). It is a deep and picturesque gorge where you can take a boat cruise or paddle a canoe through the peaceful water. The Katherine River flows through 13 separate gorges that carve their way through the Arnhem Land Plateau. Waterfalls and rock pools are found along over 100 kilometres of walking tracks, beginning at the park’s visitor centre.

20. Edith Falls
Edith falls is another spot to be seen.  Cool off, do a picknick and have a break in Nitmiluk. Edith Falls is the finishing point of the 66km Jatbula Trail walking track.

21. Mataranka Camp
A camp where you have a structure to sleep, eat and take a shower.  But don’t stay more than 5 meters near the water as there are plenty of crocodiles in this river. We here slept in the swag surrounded by wallabies. Easily you can see crocs at night if you go near the river (no worries, they are too lazy to jump from the river up to 5 meters. But less than 5 you will be killed).

22. Mataranka Thermal Pool
Soaking in the Mataranka Thermal Pools is something unforgettable. It is a lush oasis fringed by paperbark trees. The best ever gift after days of walking, and the perfect way to soothe away those aches and pains after a hard day are travelling. I wish I could stay there longer. Crystal clear turquoise water reminds me Piratuba (SC) and Bonito (MS) from Brazil.

23. Daly Waters Pub
The quintessential outback watering hole famous for its bush hospitality and a great spot for a bit of history and a fair dinkum outback experience. It is famous for the memorabilia adorning the walls. It’s difficult to find “human live” in the desert, so, in this place is a chance to connect with the locals, aborigines, fuel the car, buy something to eat and relax.

24. Tennant Creek
It is biggest town with 3000 people builded when the telegraph line was opened in the region linking Australia to the rest of the world. People started to go there more after finding gold.  

25. Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles
An outstanding geological feature, which is a collection of gigantic granite boulders magically balanced on top of one another. You can spend hours taking pictures playing around with your creativity. I felt like a child climbing in every stone I could, it’s a huge nature playground to be explored and have fun. Also the sunset is incredible there.

After looking all the main parks and famous local spots, I was in direction of the Red Centre, Alice Springs, Uluru, Kings Canyon, etc. So, if you want to continue reading more tips from the Red Centre, I divided in another post (Alice Springs). 

And please, if you know another amazing spot to be seen, let me know maybe to give it a go in the future.

Ps: If you want to know 15 things to do in Alice Springs, see in this post.

And experiences in outback, click here.