72 Hours in Darwin (for families)

WORDS Ben Groundwater

The Top End is made for family adventure. And its beating heart, Darwin, is the ideal location for everyone in your crew to have the time of their life.

Picture adrenalin-fuelled brushes with giant crocs, afternoons in big outdoor pools, cruises on the beautiful waters of Darwin Harbour, waterhole swims, museum visits and so much more. There’s something for every member of the family, young and old, in the Northern Territory’s capital. When, it’s time to start planning a visit to the Top End with the kids in tow, here’s your ideal timetable.


Begin your adventure at a gentle pace, with a perfect window into NT history and culture at this excellent spot. The Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, at Bullocky Point in Darwin, features a host of Indigenous artworks and other collections. It also houses the Discovery Centre, a fun, interactive family space where kids can get creative with guided arts and crafts activities. You’ll probably want to grab brunch at Saltwater@Bundilla, the museum’s charming cafe, which offers views over the ocean from its veranda.

Kids love crocodiles. There’s just no denying it. There’s something about these scaly, scary half-dinosaurs that captures kids’ attention, and the chance to see a few of these beasts up close and personal is definitely not to be missed. Fortunately, Darwin has you covered, with multiple opportunities for reptilian fun. Probably the most famous attraction is Crocosaurus Cove, right in the middle of Darwin city, where kids can see huge saltwater crocodiles, swim in a pool right next to the crocs, feed juvenile crocs, hold a baby croc, visit the Reptile House, and if they’re really game (and 15 years and over), they can go for a swim in the “Cage of Death”.

To feed into any Top Gun aspirations and fuel a budding interest in aircraft, make a visit to The Darwin Aviation Museum. Located near the airport in Winnellie, this has everything a plane-obsessed kid – and parent – could ever want. Here you’ll find 19 civil and military aircraft, including a whopping B-25 Mitchell Bomber, a replica Spitfire, an F-111C fighter jet, a B52 bomber, and more. There’s also a great exhibit on Amy Johnston, the first female pilot to fly solo from the UK to Australia.


Remember those crocs? You’re not going to go swimming in Darwin Harbour. Fortunately, those desperate for a dip are well catered for at the sprawling Darwin Waterfront Precinct. Today begins with a fun splash in the Wave Lagoon, a 4,000-square-metre pool that rolls out 10 different wave patterns, perfect for catching a few breaks on a boogie board. There’s also a shallow play area for younger kids. Those after something a little more sedate can head to the Recreation Lagoon, a saltwater enclosure – free of stingers and crocs – that’s patrolled by lifeguards. There’s also the Aqua Park and an extensive playground.

If your kids fancy throwing a line in and attempting to catch their own dinner, look no further than Darwin Harbour Fishing Charters’ “Family Fun Day” tours. On one of these adventures, two adults and up to four children can head out on the harbour with the professionals and see what’s biting. Whatever your crew catches can then be taken back to Stokes Hill Wharf to be cooked up just the way you like it, grilled or fried with chips or salad.

It’s been a busy day, so now it’s time to relax. Darwin Harbour Cruises’ sunset cruise is the perfect way to end the day; a 2.5-hour experience where the whole family is catered for. Take in the views of the harbour at its most spectacular as your family takes a seat on the Sun Deck, tucks into a platter of food, shares a few drinks and enjoys the ride. This is the best way to experience a tropical Darwin sunset and indeed Darwin itself, aboard the Charles Darwin, a 25-metre tri-level catamaran. There’s no better location for a family snap with a spectacular sunset sky as the backdrop.

You may not catch anything on your fishing expedition, in which case you will want to head to a Darwin institution, the Trailer Boat Club in Fannie Bay. It’s another great spot for a view of the sunset, perhaps with a cold brew in hand, before ordering a counter meal from the bistro. There’s also a pool for the kids to swim in, a playground area, and a big screen.


No need to stay in the city for your whole Darwin experience. Head about half an hour south to Berry Springs Nature Park, a gorgeous reserve that the whole family will love. There are several waterholes here for a cool dip, plus picnic and barbecue areas close by, and myriad forest tracks for budding hikers and birdwatchers to stretch their legs.


After lunch at Berry Springs, make a stop on your way back to Darwin at Crocodylus Park, another must-do for small fans of the Top End’s most famous predator. It’s a little wilder than Crocosaurus Cove: here you can head out on a “Jumping Crocodile Cruise”, a boat trip on a man-made river system that is home to more than 40 saltwater crocs.

“There are several waterholes here for a cool dip, plus picnic and barbecue areas close by, and myriad forest tracks.”

Your stay in Darwin is almost over, so it’s time to wind down tonight with a classic experience, a trip to Deckchair Cinema. Every evening at 7pm, films are screened at this outdoor cinema on the edge of Darwin Harbour, with plenty of family favourites on rotation. There’s a kiosk on site to pick up food and drink – or you can bring your own picnic – plus 250 deckchairs and 150 straight-backed chairs from which to enjoy the action.
Darwin Harbour Cruises runs multiple cruises daily, departing from Stokes Hill Wharf. The 2.5-hour Charles Darwin. Sunset Cruise includes onboard commentary, with food and drink available to purchase.

For more, check out our cruising tours here.