The Northern Territory’s capital Darwin might be the smallest capital city in Australia but it is rich in Aboriginal culture, steeped with history and offers plenty of things to see and do. Once a small port and former frontier outpost, today Darwin is a thriving modern multicultural city with iconic natural sights like Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks and Katherine Gorge right on its doorstep, Darwin is the best place to explore and experience the Top End of Australia.
History of Darwin
The land was initially owned and inhabited by the indigenous Larrakai people, until British settlement which renamed the region Port Darwin after English Naturalist Charles Darwin. With the Larrakai still active members of the community, Darwin has the highest proportional indigenous population in Australia. Today, the city’s make up is multicultural due to its proximity to south-east Asia and is evident through the numerous cultural markets and festivals. While in Darwin you may like to try some fresh BBQ seafood or authentic Indian, Chinese, Greek or Japanese cuisine.
The city’s dramatic history encompasses the tragic bombing of Darwin by Japanese air raids during WWII and the devastation of Cyclone Tracy which destroyed over 70% of the town in 1974. Its unique and tragic past and present, comprising of reconstruction and rejuvenation of the city has led Darwin to being one of Australia’s most modern and multicultural cities.
Darwin’s year-round warm weather creates a relaxed atmosphere and is perfect for those who enjoy an outdoor lifestyle as the city is also easily accessible by foot. Much of Darwin’s action happens along its waterfront situated on the edge of a harbour bigger than Sydney’s, thriving with restaurants, shops and parklands. On our Darwin City Sights tour, we will take you to see all the must see sights of the city. Stop by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory to take in the events based on the region's interesting displays of art, history and culture. Wander the Botanic Gardens and see displays of plants from the Top End and around the world and also discover self-guiding Aboriginal plant-use trails. A must do in Darwin is exploring the arts, crafts & atmosphere of the colourful Mindil Beach Sunset Market to experience a spectacular sunset under the coconut palms. For another short day trip, consider the Jumping Crocs & Nature Adventure which takes you on the Adelaide River to learn about and spot Crocodiles after which you will visit the Wetlands Visitor Centre and learn about wildlife and Aboriginal history with views across the Fogg Dam Conservation reserve.
Kakadu National Park
Travel east of Darwin and you’ll find yourself in the in the heart of the Top End at the World Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park. Travel deep into the National Park and discover spectacular escarpment, serene waterholes and teeming wildlife. You can cruise the fabled Yellow Water Billabong, famed for its birdlife and estuarine crocodiles and delve into Aboriginal rock art and wander through, under and around ancient art sites at Ubirr and Nourlangie. On our Outback Safari trip, you can visit the fascinating sites and then climb to the top of the rocky outcrop for majestic views over the floodplains and escarpment country. Kakadu has one of the highest concentrations of rock art anywhere in the world and will give you an insight into life in this region 20,000 years ago.
Kakadu is also home to the Aboriginal Reserve, Arnhem Land and is the perfect place to be immersed in Aboriginal culture. It is home to one of the largest indigenous groups in Australia and is where the didgeridoo, the famed instrument of indigenous Australians originally came from. On our Kakadu & Arnhem Land itinerary you will be able to travel by 4 Wheel Drive into Arnhem Land and the Mikinj Valley and take in the amazing scenery and culture with opportunity to learn about traditional land ownership, bush skills and ‘bush tucker’.
Along the banks of the Katherine River, is a town named Katherine, a thriving town originally established as an outpost on the Australian Overland Telegraph Line. The highlight of the region is undoubtedly Katherine Gorge, made up of thirteen towering gorges carved through ancient rock. There are many Aboriginal paintings on the sandstone walls throughout the system, some of which are thousands of years old. This natural haven is guaranteed to take your breath away. Also connected by the Katherine River is (Leilyn) Edith Falls, a series of cascading waterfalls and crystal clear rock pools on the western side of Nitmiluk National Park which you can also swim in on some of our trips during the dry season, including the Katherine Gorge Cruise & Edith Falls day trip from Darwin. While in Katherine on our Top End Highlights trip you will meet Manuel Pamkal, a local artist who will share with you his passion for the rich traditional culture into which he was born.
Litchfield National Park
Two hours south of Darwin is Litchfield National Park, a jewel of the Top End. This amazing natural paradise is home to three spectacular waterfalls; Florence, Tolmer and Wangi Falls. On our Outback Adventure trip you can even go for a swim in the large waterhole at Wangi Falls surrounded by spectacular monsoon rainforest. These sparkling cascades offer an opportunity to cool off from the tropical heat.
A short scenic flight or cruise north of Darwin will take you to the wonderful Tiwi Islands. A trip to the Tiwi Islands will allow you to experience life in a modern-day Aboriginal community. Voted as one of the top 100 things to do before you die by Australian Traveller in 2011, this is a must do. A trip from Darwin on our Tiwi Islands Aboriginal Cultural Tour will allow you to experience life in a modern day Aboriginal Community. The welcoming locals will take you on an unforgettable journey through their rich history and culture by showcasing traditional bush tucker, bush medicine, local history and world class Aboriginal art.
AAT Kings offers a variety of tours in Darwin and its surroundings including Kakadu, Tiwi Islands, Litchfield National Park and many more amazing destinations. View our range of day tours below or explore The Top End on an extended Short Break or Guided Holiday.