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Guide to Darwin's Waterfront

Catch one of Darwin's famous sunsets as you dine on fresh seafood and soak up the city's tropical waterfront lifestyle.

By Jennifer Ennion

Asian-infused market stalls, a plethora of waterfront restaurants and a chilled-out vibe make Darwin's waterfront a great spot to spend a day or three. Swim in crystal clear lagoons and cycle through manicured parklands; see an alfresco movie and listen to bush poetry. A holiday in Darwin is an alluring blend of cultures and cuisines with something for all types of travellers.

How to get there

The capital of the Northern Territory, Darwin, is a harbour city on the Timor Sea. Its waterfront has several accessible locales including the upmarket suburb of Cullen Bay, Mindil Beach (home to local institution the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets) and Darwin's Waterfront Precinct, a sophisticated dining and entertainment complex with a man-made lagoon and wave pool.

Don't miss

  • A sunset picnic at Mindil Beach Market
  • Enjoying a sundowner at a seaside restaurant
  • Swimming in the wave pool at the Waterfront Precinct 

Darwin's waterfront highlights

Top things to do in and around Darwin's waterfront

Visit Mindil Beach Sunset Market

Dine on spicy Thai green curry or pick up a bowl of satay noodles at long-time Darwin icon Mindil Beach Sunset Market, found less than three kilometres (two miles) from the city centre. The Asia-Pacific's influence on the city is unmistakable here, where food stalls showcase more than 30 exotic culinary styles, including Aboriginal, Islander, Thai, Indonesian, Chinese and European flavours. It's a great reflection of the multiculturalism of Darwin, the home of more than 50 nationalities, and a wonderful place to pick up local artwork and listen to bush poetry while enjoying northern Australia's balmy weather. The market is held from 5pm every Thursday between May and October. There is also a Sunday market held at the site which is somewhat smaller, with about 75 per cent of Thursday's stalls.

Dine beside the sea

When it comes to dining with a view, you're spoilt for choice along Darwin's waterfront suburbs. Have a sundowner at Darwin Sailing Club before taking a seat in the club's award-winning Waterfront Bistro, where you can dine on local seafood with a view of the setting sun over Fannie Bay. Mingle with Darwin's cool crowd at Lola's Pergola, a circus-themed gastropub on the water at Cullen Bay, where decor is a fun mix of carousel horses and carnival rides. There are plenty of dishes to pick from on the "American diner food with a Darwin twist" menu. Finally, a visit to this tropical city would not be complete without a meal of fish and chips. Visit La Beach Restaurant, also at Cullen Bay, for a takeaway container of locally caught, freshly cooked seafood and enjoy it at the waterfront park in front of the shop. You can also enjoy a seafood meal and catch sunset at one of the eateries on the historic Stokes Hill Wharf, a popular spot for recreational fishermen and the departure point for fishing charters and harbour cruises.

Cool down at the Waterfront Precinct

When it gets hot in Darwin you will want to make a beeline for the Waterfront Precinct, five minutes walk from the city centre. With a man-made lagoon for children, a hugely popular wave pool (with 10 different sets of waves alternating every 20 minutes) and a saltwater beach area where you can swim year-round, there is something for everyone. If you are seeking peace and quiet, find a spot on the shady lawn or wander the pretty parklands. If you'd prefer to step up the action, try flyboarding (balancing on a board with a jetpack underneath it), or scale one of the floating jumping castles. The Waterfront Precinct also has a great range of restaurants, including the casual Wharf One Food & Wine and The Oyster Bar, where you can dine on fresh chilled or grilled oysters. Come night-time, treat yourself to an alfresco movie at Deckchair Cinema, around the corner from the Waterfront Precinct. It screens films seven nights a week during the dry season and is right on the water.

Get outdoors

Outdoor recreation is a big part of life along Darwin's waterfront, and cyclists will love the 70 kilometres (43 miles) of council cycle paths across the city. Spinway NT has bikes for hire at multiple hotels, as well as stands on Kitchener Drive, on the waterfront, and at the Visitor Information Centre. For an adventure of the salty kind, board a SeaLink ferry from Cullen Bay's wharf to the Tiwi Islands, about 2½ hours away. Visiting the Islands, known for their beautiful wood carvings and bright textiles, for a day trip is a great way to spend time in the outdoors while also experiencing local culture. 

Stay at a waterfront casino hotel

Set among tropical beachside gardens, with a private white-sand beach, two pools and 24-hour entertainment, SKYCITY Darwin is one of the city's premier accommodation choices. The five-star boutique hotel is within walking distance to major attractions including Mindil Beach Sunset Market. But you won't want to leave, with the hotel housing five restaurants, seven bars, a casino, lagoon day spa and a sauna.

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