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Dadventurer Does Darwin... and Beyond!


It's been twelve years since Laura and I first fell in love with the Northern Territory of Australia and we're still hooked. We're proud that the kids were born here and we love the outdoorsy, adventurous lifestyle they'll be brought up with. We've seen a few people pass through Darwin for a weekend and leave pretty underwhelmed - I think that's because they've done it wrong! You see, the real charm with Darwin is just how easy it is to get out of it! There's nothing between you and the great outdoors... no traffic, no barriers just a highway to adventure. For a young family like ours it's perfect, there's so much to see and do you can't help but be entertained.

There's a couple of things you really need to see if you're heading to Darwin... Crocodiles and waterfalls. Miss these and you've really stuffed it... Yeah, yeah, there's the city centre and surrounds, the markets, heaps of places to watch the best sunset you've ever seen, miles of unspoilt and underused beach, a decent wildlife park, a surprising and growing multicultural food culture and a couple of decent museums. Blah, blah blah. Fit them in where you can... but make sure you swim in a waterfall and see a crocodile - preferably on 2 separate occasions!!

Now, I get it... there's a time and a place to dadventure (yeah, it can be a verb!) and there's a time to just kick back and relax and enjoy. I aren't going to judge, I'm just going to make sure you experience the NT whichever mood you and your family happen to be in. For each Darwin experience I'm going to give you 3 options; The "Chillin' with the Fam" option for if you're in a kicking back with your kids kinda mood, the stanDAD option for if you want to get the standard Darwin adventure experience and the "Dadventurer+" option for if you really want to go for it. Now I want to be very clear... there is no snobbery in these options, no judgement - do what you want. We've done and enjoyed them all at different times.

The Estuarine (Saltwater) Crocodile

They're bloody everywhere. And there's a few ways to see them. We kinda think there's nothing more special than seeing them in the wild, where they should be. Obviously, this needs to be done safely (or they might actually eat you!) There's plenty of places to do that, including a real easy city option, if you're short of time or energy.

Chillin' with the Fam: Crocosaurus Cove

On the infamous Mitchell Street (Have you seen the TV show Territory Cops?!) in the middle of the city centre is Crocosaurus Cove, a small but pretty decent zoo (Zoo? well, like the aquarium and the reptile house of a zoo... There's no lions or anything!) You can see some BIG crocs up close - realizing just how bitesize the kids or even adults are, little crocs even closer and even go fishing for crocs and make them dance for their dinner. You can pet a snake or lizard, hold a baby croc for a photo ($) or jump in the infamous Cage of Death ($$$) and get dunked into a few croc tanks while the 5 metre monsters are having lunch!. The fish feeding is great - the boofing barra, squirting archer fish and weird sword fish put on a decent show for the tourists. The kids love to see the animals up close and get underneath the big crocs in the aquarium. All in all it's a great half day in and out of air con and is very easy to access. $38 adults, $23 kids, $0 under 3s.


StanDAD: Adelaide River Jumping Croc cruise

You don't have to go far from Darwin to see some crocs in their own back yard - about an hour's drive in fact. And this is a totally different experience. Our kids love getting out and about in the territory and the drive out to the Adelaide River through the wetlands is pretty cool. Once you get on the boat you'll be seeing crocs pretty quickly, the driver and the guide on the boat will pull up alongside a few crocs and get them to jump out of the water (almost fully out of the water!) to earn a snack. You WILL see crocodiles, probably big ones. And their jump out of the water will let you really appreciate the size of some of these monsters as you measure just how many times the kids (or even the adults!) would fit inside them. As a pretty cool bonus you'll get up close to some of the NT birds of prey as the kites and eagles swoop in to score a feed from the boat - our kids cannot get enough of them! $45 adults, $30 kids, $0 under 3s for a 1 hour tour.


Dadventurer+: Corroboree Billabong Boat Hire with Corroborree Houseboats

We find an excuse to do this every time we have someone to show around. Driving the boat yourself gives you an extra layer of adventure and control but there's plenty of advice and assistance from the guys who run the boats. It's a massive billabong to explore and you'll see crocs, jabirus, kites, turtles, fish (if you're lucky!) and a heap of other animals. You can fish for barramundi, animal watch and explore some truly incredible scenery and take control as the Dadventurer you truly are... There's a range of boats to hire but the 6-person or 10-person bbq pontoons are what I'd go for. They're a bit slow but there's heaps of shade, nice tall sides to keep your kids safe, and plenty of room to move around. Letting the kids roam the boats (with very keen supervision) will help them enjoy the tour and not feel too trapped. From $275 for up to 6 people for a half-day on the water.


Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National park. Old friend, trusty welcomer of tourists, Darwin's swimming pool... It's a great little (by Aussie standards) national park an hour and a half from Darwin with awesome options for a hike, a swim or a sight-see. Easily accessible water holes like Wangi, Florence and Buley are great for a swim and to chuck the kids in - watch out for the water monitors that are happy to swim along with you! A little walk will give you a bit of a more peaceful time at Cascade or Greenant but driving through a river will take you away from the tourists all together. There's the magnetic termite mounds, tabletop swamp and Tolmer falls to look at while you dry off.

Chillin' with the Fam: Litchfield Park Tour

If you want to kick back, relax and let someone who's paid to drive around drive you around you can book a tour. You'll see all the main attractions, swim in the most popular spots, laugh at the, inevitably hilarious, tour guide's jokes. You can't go wrong really - the waterholes are great, the scenery is great, it'll be great! you'll have plenty of time to talk to the kids about what you're seeing and the kids should be able to see out of the window easily enough to enjoy the drive. 1 day tour from $100 each, lots of options around town.


StanDAD: Litchfield Self-Drive

I prefer to wing it... My wife describes this differently and says that I just don't like to plan. But it's more than that, travel is exercising our freedom and I feel a bit locked in on a tour. When we go to Litchfield I like to keep the options open and if we find a spot we really enjoy then we'll stick there for a while, let the kids play and let their hair down. It's not about seeing and "ticking off" each waterfall, sight or walk. It's just about enjoying the national park as much as possible. If you only see one or two spots then you're just leaving the others for when you next visit! The car hire/self drive gives you the option to find a spot to swim and play, eat and relax or equally, if the kids are sleeping you can skip a stop or two and save your energy for wake up time! You might not be fussed about a particular termite mound, swamp, waterfall or other sight so you can prioritize something else instead - easy to do as everything is clearly signposted in the park. Avoid the crowds by, well, not being on the same coach as them! Car hire from about $60 per day, watch our for limited km deals!

Dadventurer+: Litchfield 4x4

The 4WD tracks in Litchfield National Park give you access to some of the more secluded spots. You'll find that, in the dry season, crossing water is the key to finding an uncrowded swimming hole and there are some stunning spots accessible after the rains have gone and the rivers have calmed down a bit. The Southern Access Track to Surprise falls is a stunning drive crossing the Reynolds River (about 5 times) and Surprise is a great spot to swim and jump in. Tracks are well marked and there's plenty to see and do on the way if the kids get bored or need a break from their booster seat! If you have some 4x4 experience it is well worth it, but take it easy and don't cross water if you're not sure you can get through. Wait and watch someone first if you're not convinced. 4x4 hire available in Darwin, wide range of price options from about $150 per day. Read the small print on the rental agreement!


Long Weekend Bonus: Camping at Litchfield National Park

If you've timed it well and you don't have to get back to work/school on Monday morning it would be a perfect chance to sleep in the national park and see the sun set and then rise somewhere cool, wouldn't it?! There's options for each level of adventure you've set out to Litchfield with so here goes...

Chillin' with the Fam: Litchfield Park Cabins

There's some great little cabins here that will fit a family or group of travellers in and it's right on the way in to Litchfield... It'll leave you with a 10 minute drive in the morning to beat the tourists, tour buses and locals to a nice quiet swim.

StanDAD: 2WD Camp Grounds

There are 2WD campgrounds that are just great. They have plenty of shade and some basic facilities. The unspoilt stars above you, the short walk to your own private waterfall (at least until the tourist buses rock up!) and the surprisingly cool sleeping conditions are all stunning. They can get busy so get there in good time to set up camp.

Dadventurer: 4WD Camp Grounds

The 4WD bush campgrounds are the next level NT experience. They have fire pits to cook on, plenty of shade and room enough to camp away from someone else's tent doorstep. As always, crossing a river will buy you some extra space. With less people around you get a more authentically wild NT experience but you're further from the Litchfield Park facilities. Check ahead if you or the kids are fussy - facilities are either basic or nonexistent.

sandy Creek and the Central valley have particularly cool campgrounds. Note, you have to book these as of 2022... so don't just turn up expecting a spot.

Extras

Fit these in around the crocs and waterfalls where you can.

Sunset: Heaps of options including Darwin Museum and Sailing/Ski club, East Point Reserve, Waterfront, Mindil Beach Market (Sunday/Thursday evening only)

Local Markets: The best stop en route out of the city for a breakfast or supplies for the road trip. Parap, Nightcliffe or Fred's Pass. Highly recommend Vietnamese pork rolls, paw paw salad, crepes and the fresh juices. Mindil Beach Market is good on a Thurs or Sun night on the way back.

Wildlife Park: Yep, there is one and it's good. Great for a half day and a good shady walk for those still pram bound.

Museums. War and Regular: War is great if you're into that kind of thing, the Darwin Museum gives a good overview of the place and is free.

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