When most people think of Darwin they probably think of cyclones, crocs and the funny headlines of the NT News. But the capital of the Northern Territory is a town with depth – rich in history, culture and fascinating wildlife – and there are plenty of things to do in Darwin with children. There is something to do and see for everyone in the family when travelling to Darwin with kids! This post will outline everything you need to know about a Darwin family holiday including things to do in Darwin with toddlers.
While living in Darwin with kids for almost six years, I discovered that there is a lot of family things to do in Darwin – including camping, fishing, parks and playgrounds, wildlife, culture and history.
There are always new fun things to do in Darwin with kids. Council recently added a playground to the Esplanade and we recently discovered a Big Buoy inflatable water park at the Waterfront. We can guarantee you won’t run out of things to do in Darwin with kids – we certainly didn’t!
Why Visit Darwin with Kids?
Darwin is a great base from which to explore the Top End Region. The traditional landowners of Darwin are the Larrakia people and Aboriginal people are the original custodians across the Top End. This is a fantastic place to meet and learn more about our first Australians.
Unforgettable, once in a lifetime destinations in this region include Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks, the Tiwi Islands and Gunbalanya. Take a tour run by local Indigenous guides to experience first hand their amazing spiritual connection to the land, see ancient rock art, and hear about their Dreamtime stories.
The city of Darwin itself is very multicultural, with strong Greek and Chinese communities and a prominent influence from its close Asian neighbours. The eclectic mix of cultures creates an atmosphere that is completely unique to Darwin.
The city is a virtual smorgasbord of authentic international cuisine. If you take the time to explore the many local markets and surprisingly diverse restaurants of Darwin you will be sure to find something you’ve never tried before.
Overall it is the distinct atmosphere of Darwin that makes it a bucket list destination. Wandering through the Mindil Beach markets on a warm evening, watching the sunset, smelling the array of exotic dishes and listening to the sounds of the didgeridoo gives the impression you’re in a completely different country – and right in the heart of Australia – all at once!
Best Darwin Attractions for Kids
We have provided a comprehensive list of all the attractions and activities of the region that are ideal for family holidays categorised by nature and wildlife; history and culture; and parks, playgrounds and swimming.
It’s hard to choose the best things to do in Darwin with children because there are so many, but we will start with our absolute favourite must-do experiences.
Territory Wildlife Park
The Territory Wildlife Park is filled with fascinating animals – and can take a whole day to explore! There is train to transport you around the large park, and if you feel like cooling off afterwards you can head to Berry Springs just up the road for a swim.
Discover Crocs in Darwin
Discover the incredible crocs at Crocosaurus Cove in the heart of the CBD on Mitchell Street, or Crocodylus Park in Berrimah (about a 15 minute drive from the city).
See the Jumping Crocs at Adelaide River and visit the Humpty Doo Tavern for lunch on the way back.
Fish Feeding at Aquascene Darwin
Feed the fish at Aquascene – where hundreds of fish come to be fed each day. This is one of the best things to do in Darwin with toddlers, but is fun for all ages. It is located a short drive from the CBD at Doctor’s Gully. Check the tide times before you go – as this determines when you can feed the fish.
Darwin Military Museum
Learn all about the role that the region played in WWII and the devastating bombing of Darwin which killed over 240 Australians and allies. Visit the local historical sites and attractions in the city, including the Darwin Military Museum at East Point.
Day Trip from Darwin to Litchfield National Park
Set aside a day to explore Litchfield National Park and take in the stunning scenery. Enjoy a dip in the refreshing Buley Rockholes and walk the stairs to Florence Falls (if your calves are up to it).
Take in Some Culture
Catch a performance and enjoy the festive atmosphere and sure-to-impress local talent at Browns Mart Theatre.
Purchase an authentic Aboriginal painting from one of the local art galleries. It will serve as a memento of your experience in the Top End and create a talking piece for visitors to your home for years to come.
Enjoy the best of Darwin’s Events and Festivals
If you can time your trip for one of the iconic NT events of the dry season you won’t be disappointed. Our picks for the best Darwin events for kids would be the Darwin Festival which features many performances, shows and activities suitable for kids or the Beer Can Regatta which is a great one-day beach event.
Deals on Darwin Attractions for Families
Many tourist attractions offer combined pricing specials with other local attractions or tours – these are detailed on their websites, so make sure you check them out before you book.
Best places to Eat with Kids in Darwin
Try an authentic paw-paw salad from one of the many local markets. Our favourite is from Mary at the Parap Markets on a Saturday morning.
Watch the sunset from the Ski Club, Trailer Boat Club or Sailing Club while you enjoy a cold drink on the lawn. The kids will love running around on the grass and exploring the playgrounds. The Trailer Boat Club even has a pool.
Take a Sunset Cruise on the Darwin Harbour – there are several tour operators to suit various budgets including full dinner and drinks packages, or pre-dinner nibbles and the opportunity to BYO drinks.
One of the best typcially Darwin things to with kids is head to Stokes Hill Wharf for dinner with a view (try the Tom Kah Soup). Before you eat, stop in at the Royal Flying Doctor Service tourist facility to learn about two local iconic historical stories and the Indo Pacific Marine attraction for a lesson in the coral ecosystems of the region.
Where to Stay in Darwin with Kids
There are so many places to stay in Darwin with kids – your options are varied. First you should consider where to stay in Darwin as there are benefits to each location.
A good point to note is that accommodation in Darwin will always be cheaper during the build up and wet season when the town is quieter.
Darwin city is central and close to a number of top Darwin attractions, such as Crocosaurus Cove and the Esplanade. The Waterfront is a short walk (approximately 5 – 15 minutes depending which end of the city you are staying) and Midil Beach and Cullen Bay are a five minute drive. There is a large range of cafes, restaurants and pubs to choose from.
You have a range of accommodation options in the city including hotels, self-contained apartments, AirBnB and even a holiday park. Accommodation is slightly more expensive here, but if you’re after convenience it is a popular choice. You can still find affordable accommodation if you look on the outskirts of the CBD or are willing to forgo luxury.
A popular choice for families, the Waterfront features the wave pool, swimming lagoon and a number of restaurants, cafes and pubs. It is a short walk across to the Wharf and only a five minute walk to the CBD.
You will pay a bit more for the convenience – and accommodation options include hotels, self-contained apartments through sites such as Stayz and AirBnB.
Located a five minute drive from the city (or a very reasonable walk), and close to Mindil Beach and the Darwin Casino – Cullen Bay offers lovely views of the yachts and is close to a number of waterfront restaurants. There are a number of self-contained apartments available here and you can get a little more for your money than the Waterfront or city.
Palmerston is Darwin’s satellite city, located a 30 minute drive from town. It is a great place to base yourself for travel to the northern suburbs (only 15 minutes drive), and places like Litchfield, Berry Springs and Adelaide River. You can find more affordable accommodation options here – including a hotel, AirBnB’s in apartments and houses with pools. And there are enough restaurants, cafes and pubs to keep you well fed.
Darwin Family Holiday Parks
You can find a number of family friendly holiday parks in the greater region of Darwin, Palmerston and further out at Howard Springs (perfect if you’re wanting to explore places like Litchfield, Berry Springs, and Adelaide River).
Darwin Best Time to Visit
The ‘dry season’ is the most comfortable time of year. It generally runs from May to October (although from September the ‘build up’ begins with increasing humidity and no rain). June – August is most pleasant and this is when most of the popular events are held. However, it is also a more expensive time to visit- as it is peak tourist season.
The wet season is still a worthwhile time to visit. This is when you can catch some of the most awe-inspiring storms you will ever see. They rarely last long and usually pass through just once a day which still gives you plenty of time to get out and about. You can get some amazing deals on accommodation and flights – and the attractions will be less busy. It is extremely humid though, so pack and prepare accordingly. If you absolutely hate the heat – especially muggy heat – then you may be best to avoid this time of year.
Transport Options in Darwin with Kids
Hiring a Car is recommended – many attractions are a decent drive from the CBD, and although buses are available, the public transport system is not extensive compared to other capital cities. We hired a sedan on our recent trip – only a few places require 4WD for access. We recommend you check if there is somewhere in particular you want to visit before you book your car but more likely than not you will get around fine in a two-wheel drive.
Safe Swimming in Darwin
There are plenty of places to swim in the Top End, but there are also many places that are off-limits due to saltwater crocodiles and stingers. Unless you see a sign that says it’s safe to swim please don’t risk it. But don’t worry – Darwin is not short of places to swim, with many safe man-made and natural picturesque swimming locations to choose from.
Find More Here
As mentioned, there is so much to do in and around Darwin that I have written three more posts – check them out here!