Exploring Darwin in a day or two
from a Hop-on, hop-off bus
Way up in Australia’s Northern Territory you’ll find its capital, Darwin, a bustling modern town that offers a variety of sightseeing possibilities. This fascinating town is the only place in Australia where you can enjoy such a unique selection of sightseeing experiences, from lazing on tropical sundrenched beaches to savouring the best in Asian cuisine, shopping up a storm in a variety of open-air markets and viewing magnificent Aboriginal artworks.
Darwin is home to people of many different nationalities which is why its cuisine is so varied. But there’s lots more to do here than sample different cuisines: there’s a vibrant nightlife and a never-ending list of sightseeing possibilities, both scenic and cultural. You’ll get to explore a number of excellent museums and art galleries, swim in the Wave Pool at the city’s new Waterfront Precinct, explore the tunnels created underground during the Second World War and savour a sunset cruise through Darwin’s pretty harbour. And that’s just a taste of what’s on offer…
With such a variety of sights to see, there’s only one way to explore Darwin, and that’s on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, which lets you choose what you want to see and when. This way, you can hop off the bus at each destination you want to explore, then, hop back on the bus again until you’re ready to see something else.
How much does it cost?
At the time of writing the rates are $45 for an adult and $20 for children aged 4 to 12 years. A family ticket costs $110 and is good for 2 adults and 2 children.
Departs from 9am onwards and every 70 minutes after that:
9am, 10.10am, 11.20am, 12.30pm, 1.40pm, 2.50pm
Full tour takes exactly 70 minutes.
Tip: Some of the entrances to the stops are discounted. See descriptions at the end of the description of each stop for more details!
HISTORY BUFFS – THESE ARE DARWIN’S HISTORICAL SIGHTS:
Here is a list of sights to enjoy on your tour:
Stop 2: Catalina Flying Boat Base – Doctor’s Gully
Stop 3: USS Pearly Memorial
Stop 5: Darwin Cenotaph
Stop 6: Parliament House (former Post Office site)
Stop 7: World War 2 Storage Tunnels & Wave Pool at Waterfront Precinct
Stop 9: George Brown Darwin Botanical Gardens
Stop 10: Museum & Art Gallery of NT
Stop 12: Darwin Military Museum, East Point
Stop 14: Qantas Hangar – display of aviation history
Places to see and things to do along the route:
1. Our Darwin bus tour begins at the City Street Stop, which is at the corner of Smith St. Mall & Knuckey St. This is Darwin’s shopping precinct, and part of it - from Knuckey St to Bennett St - is pedestrianised. Visit the Galleria Arcade in the Smith St Mall; it is one of the largest side arcades in the city and offers a variety of great shops. Once you’re tired of shopping, there are some historic sites to see, too, like the Victoria Hotel, which was built in 1894, and on Bennet Street at the end of the Mall are two buildings worth taking a look at, Parliament House and the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.
Aquascene is a fairly nice attraction
2. Hop off at the next stop to explore Aquascene, where you can hand-feed hundreds of mullet and milkfish that come to shore at high tide. Throughout the feeding period, trays of bread are provided. Aquascene is also home to a variety of fish species, including rays, cod, catfish and diamond fish
Enjoy a discount of 10% at Aquascene to feed the fish at high tide.
3. Next along your route is the Holiday Inn Esplanade, which offers an unbeatable panoramic view of the town and the harbour. Also here is the USS Peary Memorial, which was erected as a memorial to the crew and officers who perished on the ship during the first air attack on Darwin in the Second World War.
While you’re in the area, you can also visit the Leichardt Memorial. This memorial has an interesting story attached to it: it was built in honour of a man called Leichardt, who set out on a 15-month expedition to find a new route to Port Essington, close to Darwin, in October 1844. Only seven men survived the tough 5,000 km journey from Darling Downs to Darwin – Leichardt, the leader, was not one of them.
4. Next hop-off point is on Mantra Esplanade, where you’re in for some fun and entertainment. Here you can visit famous Crocosaurus Cove, home to more than 70 species of Australian reptiles, the biggest collection in the world, including some saltwater crocodiles. You will also get to interact with some of them if you like. At Crocosaurus Cove, you can swim alongside the croc enclosure, go fishing for crocs, or if you’re very adventurous, why not dive in the Cage of Death and see crocodiles up close? You can also visit the freshwater aquarium to see Barramundi, Sawfish and Whipray, and watch the crocs being fed.
Enjoy a discount of 10% for entrance into Crocosaurus Cove.
Show time in the Crocosaurus Cove
5. Palms City Resort is your next hop off point, to visit some of Darwin’s most historic attractions. Here on the Esplanade looking over pretty Darwin Harbour is Lyons Cottage, the first stone cottage to be built in Darwin and the only one that still remains. Built in 1925, it boasts high ceilings and shuttered windows; you’ll notice it bears a strong resemblance to other British Colonial houses found in areas that were once Colonial, like India, Singapore and Malaysia. Visit the museum inside to see items that tell the story of Colonial and early European history. Also in the area you’ll find Darwin Cenotaph. This lookout point offers some panoramic views; it’s also a memorial to those who lost their lives in World War Two.
6. Hop off at your next stop to see the Administration offices on the Esplanade, which are the home to the Administrator of the Northern Territory. The building, which is called Government House, was erected in 1871 and is home to the oldest known surviving European structure in Australia, the Drawing Room.
This area boasts a selection of well-preserved historic buildings that you can visit, including Old Palmerston Town Hall and Christ Church Cathedral. You must also stop off at Survivor’s Lookout, a viewpoint over the harbour. Here you will see photographs taken of the bombing of Darwin in 1942, some of which were taken from this very spot. In State Square you can visit Australia’s newest parliamentary building, Parliament House, which opened in 1994. Some historic memorabilia is on display here at the Northern Territory Library including the Northern Collection of Old Palmerston Town.
7. Your next stop will take you to one of the highlights of a visit to Darwin - the five World War II storage tunnels on Darwin Waterfront. These underground tunnels were built under the cliffs of the city during the Second World War to protect Darwin’s oil supplies from the Japanese. They may be an engineering feat, but they weren’t completed in time and were never used. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Darwin’s historic bombing, they were opened to the public in 1992. Inside you will be able to see some fascinating memorabilia, including old photographs of Allied activity.
Aside from its historic sights, which also include visit Survivor’s Lookout (see stop 6 above) which you can visit from here, there’s lots to do in Darwin’s bustling Wharf Precinct. So take some time to explore its shops and alfresco cafes while you’re in the neighbourhood.
Enjoy 50% discount on memorabilia here on presentation of your bus ticket.
8. Indo Pacific Marine is next on your tour. In this land-based marine centre you can find out all about Darwin’s surrounding coral reefs and experience an underwater world full of rare and undiscovered species.
Historic Stokes Hill Wharf offers insights into the country’s fascinating history, with its murals and a fascinating photographic display of the historic bombing raids during the Second World War. Part of the waterfront project is the Darwin Convention Centre, a popular location for exhibitions and events. You can also take a cruise of the harbour from the wharf and the area is full of excellent dining opportunities.
The immense Wave Lagoon is another popular attraction. Here you can enjoy all sorts of water activities, from swimming in artificial waves that reach up to 1.7m high, to rides on boogie boards and tubes.
Enjoy 10% discount at Indo Pacific Marine to visit Darwin Convention Centre, the Wave Pool & Stokes Hill Wharf.
9. For a peaceful break from Darwin’s noise and excitement, why not hop off at George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens? This lush 100-acre oasis in the middle of the city was established in 1886. It is a popular spot for relaxing while strolling through beautiful coastal dunes, mangrove forests and open woodlands and looking at all sorts of magnificent plants and flowers. You’ll also find the city’s original Wesleyan Church in the gardens, as well as a popular tree house that you can climb for some spectacular views.
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10. There’s always something to see and do at your next stop, the Museum & Art Gallery of NT (Northern Territory). Here, in Darwin’s largest museum, you’ll find a variety of displays that tell the story of the region’s art, history and culture. The museum and gallery complex is made up of 5 major permanent galleries, a theatre, café and shop. You must explore the Cyclone Tracey Gallery, which displays the effects of the catastrophic cyclone that destroyed Darwin in 1974. Another highlight is the Gallery of Indigenous Art, which boasts some excellent Aboriginal arts and crafts. And look out for a large number of stuffed animals including, Sweetheart, a preserved saltwater croc.
Enjoy 10% discount at Cornucopia Café at the Gallery.
11. Hop off at this stop on a Saturday to visit Parap Market and while you’re here, you can also visit Qantas Hanger. The Parap Market, which is only open on Saturday mornings, offers all sorts of exciting goods, including Asian and local foods and ingredients, and excellent arts and crafts. Close by is the heritage-listed Qantas Hangar, famous for its collection of old cars and aviation artifacts. The hangar is situated on the original runway where Ross and Keith Smith landed in Darwin in 1919, on their winning flight from England to Australia. Don’t be surprised to find that the hangar isn’t a museum; instead, it’s a workshop for members of the Motor Enthusiasts Club who come here to work on their vintage cars.
12. Next hop off point is Darwin Military Museum in the East Point Reserve. Here, through videos photographs and a large collection of weapons, you can find out all about Darwin’s experiences during the Second World War. Lake Alexander is also located here in the reserve; this lake was once a coastal marsh, but today it’s a popular picnic spot and bathing area with a playground and bicycle tracks.
Enjoy 10% discount on World War 2 memorabilia.
13. Another must-see along your route is Fannie Bay Gaol with its old gallows. Built in 1882, the gaol museum is home to some fascinating photographs and videos of the damage caused by Cyclone Tracy. While you’re visiting, take some time to explore the original building, with its 16 stone cells, kitchen and a wash-house. You can also see a watch tower, and two maximum security wings built in the 1950s as well as a separate cell block that was used for female prisoners; this was added in 1928.
Enjoy a discount on the entrance free at Darwin’s historic prison.
14. If you’re travelling on the tour between Monday and Friday, this is when you should hop off to visit Qantas Hanger in Parap (See No. 11 above). This famous hangar was built in 1934; it was city’s original aerodrome and the first stop for flights coming from out of Australia. Operated by Qantas, the hangar was almost destroyed in World War Two by Japanese fighter planes. When Darwin’s new airport was built, Qantas Hangar eventually closed. Today it’s used as a workshop by the Motor Vehicle Enthusiast’s Club who restore vintage cars here.
While you’re at the hangar, watch out for the restored 120-year-old Sandfly steam engine on display. This historic steam engine was the only one of its kind to operate on the North Australian Railway.
15. Hop off at Darwin’s Skycity Casino at your next stop if you’re in the mood for some entertainment. Aside from the Casino, there is also a great selection of restaurants to choose from.
Enjoy free giveaways at Skycity Casino on presentation of your bus ticket.
16. The next hop off point is at Cullen Bay Apartments, an ideal stop if you’re staying in the area, or are looking for somewhere to dine
17. Last stop along the route is Travelodge Mirambeena on the Marina. Before you head back to your hotel, you can explore the area or dine at one of its excellent restaurants. This is also the stop if you want to take a ferry to Mandorah.
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