A typical Darwin sunset, Northern Territory
Darwin rocks for a family holiday!
In Darwin, Australia's tropical capital city, the sunsets rock, the lifestyle is laid back and the locals are friendly. There are heaps of fabulous places to eat out with the family in Darwin. And, you'll meet people from all corners of the globe that call Darwin home. Being closer to Asia than the rest of Australia gives Darwin a unique multicultural vibe. And on Darwin's doorstep are world famous cultural landscapes to explore with the kids like Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land.
As a local mum with two little Darwin locals, these are my family friendly favourite things to see and do with kids around my beautiful city. Enjoy!
By Libby Larsen x
PS - You might be interested in my article The Best Places to Eat in Darwin with Kids - An Insiders Guide
One of the unique things about a family holiday to the Northern Territory is the amazing opportunities kids get to experience and learn Aboriginal culture. There are some amazing Aboriginal cultural tours for families. About 45 minutes down the track from Darwin you'll find Lynette, Graham and their lovely family from Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours. Kids will get to see and experience basket weaving, the yidaki, spear throwing and learn about bush food and medicine. You can also take the family for a trip to Litchfield National Park with Tess from Northern Territory Indigenous Tours. She'll take you to special places that are off limits to the general public and share her stories, insights and culture with your family. These tours are Aboriginal owned and operated - something to look out for when you are looking at other tours in the Territory. Further afield in Kakadu worth checking out is the Guluyambi Aboriginal Boat Cruise and the Injalak Aboriginal Rock Art Tour.
2. Crocosaurus Cove
Cuddle, feed and swim with a croc! Crocosaurus Cove is located smack on the main street in town, so it's an easy outing with kids and perfect for families. They have some seriously HUGE crocs in their two-storey aquarium. It's famous for the "Cage of Death" - a swimming experience with one of their monster crocs. Your family can get some professional pics with fluffy, a cute baby croc (whose jaw is tightly taped shut). For some hands on reptile holding don't miss the reptile talks. Good luck getting the kids out of the merchandise shop when you leave without buying some piece of croc paraphernalia!
3. Swim, splash and slide
There are lots of fun options for getting wet and cooling off for families in and around Darwin.
The Wave Pool at the Darwin Waterfront is my kids favourite place to swim these days and perfect for the whole family. If you think the waves may be daunting for your little ones, there's also a shallow area for toddlers. There are shaded grassy areas at the Waterfront, a kids playground, cafes and restaurants.
A family day trip to Litchfield National Park, 1.5 hours from Darwin for a dip at Buley Rock Hole, Florence Falls or Wangi Falls is an absolute must for families.
Berry Springs Nature Park is about 40 minutes out of town (and just next to the Territory Wildlife Park) and perfect for families seeking a glorious dip in a series of spring-fed swimming holes. Be warned it can be pretty busy on weekends.
4. Get up close to Top End wildlife
The Territory Wildlife Park, about 50 minutes drive from Darwin is a perfect family day out. Opportunities abound to learn about the critters of the Top End. The free flight bird show is amazing, as is the special VIP Tour of the nocturnal house. They have reptile talks, a woodland wallaby walk and heaps more. Its worth sussing out their Facebook page for their Camp Out Nights and Keeper Kids program.
5. Learn about the NT's unique natural history
Our family loves the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory! It's a wonderful space for kids to explore. There's a great natural history section, a Cyclone Tracey exhibition, a pond with turtles to spot, a huge five metre long stuffed salty called ‘Sweetheart’, an amazing collection of wooden Indonesian boats - perfect for pirate obsessed boys, as well as the cafe which has a commanding sea views.
6. Get swept up in market mayhem.
Darwin is CRAZY for markets. A weekly ritual for Darwin kids is a laksa washed down with a mango smoothly at one of the local markets.
Mindil Beach Sunset Markets are a spectacle your kids will love. From market stalls selling all kinds of cheesy trinkets, buskers and fire twirlers, pony rides, jumping castles and masses of stalls with food from all over the world, this place is an assault on your senses. Make sure you get a juice and head to the beach with the throngs of people to watch the sunset display. Very family friendly!
Nightcliff Markets are where you can mingle with local families and are perfect if you have small kids because there is a little playground and a nice local atmosphere (as well as yummy food, music and market stalls).
Malak Marketplace is not on the radar of most tourists. This truly wonderful market is fast becoming one of Darwin locals most loved markets and a hit for families. It has gourmet food trucks, market stalls, kids entertainment, local bands and heaps more.
Parap Markets held every Saturday are vibrant and tropical. It can be hard to get a table, but if you head to near Saffron Restaurant there are usually some free tables and chairs and a tad more space for kids to be kids.
7. Play hide and seek at George Brown Botanical Gardens
There is a truly magical kids playground in the George Brown Botanical Gardens where your kids imaginations can run wild. There are winding paths, lush tropical plants, places to hide, a man made stream to dam, tunnels to navigate and hands down, it has Darwin's best treehouse (but there are only 3 storeys - not 76 like in the book by Andy Griffiths). Have a bite to eat at the delightful old Evas Cafe in the gardens which is totally kid friendly.
8. Hop aboard a Jumping Croc Cruise
The Jumping Croc cruises on the Adelaide River, about 45 minutes from Darwin are fantastic and not to be missed on any Darwin family holiday. Watching huge salties launch themselves out of the water is a sight to behold. Their are various outfits doing these cruises, but we love seeing Brutus the croc with the Adelaide River Cruises.
Darwin folk are crazy for festivals and the "jewel in the crown" is the Darwin Festival. If you can plan your trip to Darwin to coincide with the fabulous Darwin Festival in August which is an 18-day celebration of music, theatre, art, dance, cabaret and more - you won't regret it. Make sure you have a family dinner or two at "Festival Park" - the ideal place to soak up the Darwin Festival atmosphere, dine on food from some of Darwin's well-known restaurants, have a drink from the bar and let the kids run free. One of our favourite festivals for our family is the Barunga Aboriginal Festival - seriously amazing.
11. Eat Out and Catch a Famous Sunset
Opportunities abound for families in Darwin to enjoy some of the best sunsets you'll see anywhere. Any parent knows that the most relaxing dinners are outdoors, and you're spoilt for choice in Darwin. There are heaps of Fabulous Places to Eat out With Kids in Darwin that ooze that tropical Darwin ambience where the kids can play, and parents can watch the sunset and have a refreshing ale. Whether you want to grab family dinner at one of the popular pop up food trucks, BYO picnic at a park or head to one of the chilled beachside cafes or restaurants Darwin has got you covered.
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These are my little gems. But there are so many places to go with kids in and around Darwin. What are your favourites? I'd love to hear about what you love to do with your kids in Darwin.
Libby Larsen - Growing up Troppo
I live in Darwin in the Top End of Australia with my lovely partner and two little boys. I have fallen in love with most things about life here; the sunset picnics, the relaxed outdoor lifestyle, interesting people and amazing landscapes. I'm not sure about you but when I'm heading somewhere a good friend has been to, I always ask, "Where did you stay? What are the best places to eat with kids? I trust their advice and insights. Growing up Troppo is about providing honest and independent travel advice for families.