Despite the heat and monsoonal weather, Darwin boasts an outdoor lifestyle. With so many parks, playgrounds and swimming locations to explore it’s easy to see why. You won’t run out of options to get those kids up and outside on your family holiday.
I’ve already detailed many great ways to explore the outdoors in Darwin in this blog post about all things related to nature and wildlife. In this post, I’ve listed even more places to enjoy as a family – this time focusing on the ten best parks, playgrounds and places to swim in Darwin. The best part is that most of these attractions are completely free!
1. Howard Springs Nature Park
Located only 30 minutes from the Darwin CBD, Howard Springs Nature Park has undergone a makeover in recent years. It’s great for children of all ages as it features a toddlers pool, man-made rockpools and waterfall as well as a large playground with an epic flying-fox. Catch a glimpse of the huge barramundi, cute turtles and other freshwater fish in the waterhole or take a bushwalk to spot other wildlife. The picnic area includes barbeques, seating and public toilets.
Cost: Free Open: 7.30 am - 7.00 pm daily Located Near: Palmerston Water Park More information: Howard Springs Nature Park
2. The Esplanade Playground
This was a lovely new addition to Darwin that we stumbled across during our recent holiday. Located at the Daly Street end of the Esplanade, it’s difficult to coax the kids away from this playground. Well shaded the park includes an unbelievably tall space net and slide, flying fox, smaller slides, swings, and an interactive water pump. It caters to children of all ages and for the parents, there is a large exercise station just nearby. Incorporate this playground into an early morning walk along the Esplanade and finish at the Aboriginal Bush Traders Art Gallery for a coffee and some bush tucker!
Cost: Free Open: Daily all year Located Near: Crocosaurus Cove, Aquascene Fish Feeding, the Waterfront, Smith Street Mall.
3. Leanyer Recreation Park
The Leanyer Recreation Park is located a fifteen-minute drive from the CBD and is a great place to cool off with the kids. Park entry is completely free and it includes a large swimming lagoon, wading pools, three water slides, playground, skate park and cycling paths. Barbeques and picnic areas are available as well as a small canteen.
Cost: Free Open: Hours for the slides and pool vary depending on the school holidays - check the website. Located Near: Casuarina Square, Crocodylus Park More Information: Leanyer Recreation Park
4. Darwin Waterfront
The Darwin Waterfront is located near Stokes Hill Wharf and is the perfect place for a fun day with the kids. Surrounded by restaurants, the park includes a wave pool and recreational lagoon with an inflatable fun park. Gardens, picnic areas and pathways provide a relaxing green space for visitors. Eat at one of the restaurants, pack a picnic or stroll over to Stokes Hills Wharf for a meal when you’re finished swimming and playing!
Cost: The wave pool is $5 for a child $7 for adult; the recreational lagoon is free and Big Buoy Water Park starts from $16.50 for one hour Open: 10.00 am - 6.00 pm daily (closed Christmas Day) Located Near: Stokes Hill Wharf, Crocosaurus Cove, the Esplanade, Smith Street Mall Learn More: Darwin Waterfront
5. Palmerston Water Park
Palmerston is a satellite city to Darwin and is located approximately a twenty-minute drive from town. Here you will find another free water park – featuring a 14-metre high six-lane racer slide! It also includes a shallow wading pool and wet play area for the little ones. Enjoy a picnic or barbecue lunch, or head over to one of the local cafes for lunch.
Cost: Free Open: Hours for the slides and pool vary depending on the school holidays - check the website. Located Near: Palmerston CBD, Gateway Shopping Centre Learn More: Palmerston Water Park
6. Lake Alexander, East Point
East Point Reserve provides walking trails from which you can enjoy stunning views of the beach and spot relics from World War II. It also features large playgrounds and Lake Alexander – a safe place to swim and enjoy recreational activities such as paddle boarding year round. Make a day of it by visiting the Darwin Military Museum before you head over to the lake for a swim and play on the playground.
Cost: Free Open: Daily all year Located Near: Darwin Military Museum, Fannie Bay Gaol, Parap Market (Saturday mornings). Learn More: Lake Alexander
7. Lola’s Pergola
This Cullen Bay bar is one for the parents as much as the kids. Lola’s Pergola was named after the owners’ daughter, and they obviously had her in mind when they designed the decor. Fun, bright and carnival-themed it sports a merry-go-round, other fun rides and arcade games to play on. Enjoy a champagne and the marina views while the kids have a play in the afternoon. The kitchen is open all day and the menu has something for everyone including a very generous cheese platter and sweet treats for the kids.
Cost: Free entry and play (coins only needed for the arcade games) Open: 11.00 am until late daily Located Near: Mindil Beach, Aquascene Fish Feeding. Learn More: Lola's Pergola
8. Casuarina Square
The main shopping centre in Darwin has recently undergone an upgrade and now features a great outdoor play space for the kids. With the addition of The Quarter dining precinct came a place for children to run amok. The playground features slides, climbing nets and water play. Bring a change of clothes so after you have browsed the stores or caught a movie at the cinema you can grab a bite to eat and watch them have fun. Another play area is located in the centre’s food court inside.
Cost: Free Open: 9.00 am until late daily Located Near: Crocodylus Park, Leanyer Recreation Park. Learn More: Casuarina Square
9. George Brown Botanic Gardens
The botanic gardens are located only 2 km from the CBD and are a great place to bring the kids for a walk and play. The gardens provide an educational experience where children can learn about plants and where food comes from in the fruit garden. There are several play areas for them to burn off some energy – including a plant maze, sand castle fort, palm jungle gym and a climbing frame set up amongst the trees. Eva’s Botanic Gardens Cafe offers refreshments and more play equipment for the kid’s to enjoy while you relax with some cake.
Cost: Free Open: 7.00 am - 7.00 pm daily (plant display house 8.30 am - 3.30 pm daily). Located Near: Mindil Beach, Cullen Bay Learn More: George Brown Botanic Gardens
10. Smith Street Mall
The Smith Street Mall is yet another Darwin space to have been recently re-vamped with families in mind. The play areas along this strip have been designed to be cooler, safer and more fun for children. A giant fan and chilled water tap help to keep everyone cool while they play. The mall includes climbing frames, slides and water bubbles shooting from the ground which little man particularly enjoyed. With plenty of cafes to grab refreshments from – you can relax and watch the kids play for a while before you hit up the shops.
Cost: Free Open: Daily Located Near: Crocosaurus Cove, the Waterfront, Aquascene, art galleries.