There are a lot of reasons to visit Australia — kangaroos, koalas, Uluru, Sydney Harbor, Melbourne’s food scene, Tasmanian wine county, salmon fishing off Perth… we could go on. One of the best reasons to visit might be the wide open spaces where there’s no WiFi, no phone signal, and a real sense of being unplugged can take hold. It’s a country where you can still get some elbow room, with 20 million people spread across a nation the same size as our own.
Darwin, the largest city in Australia’s vast Northern Territory, is a far cry from the colonial aesthetic that you’ll quickly recognize in Australia’s other big cities. It’s more like a place you’d find on America’s Gulf Coast — thriving during the tourist season, then going full ghost town in the off season, when the torrential rains wash the tourists back down south.
The city has a sense of being on the frontier. Cultures are still in the midst of melting into a collective whole. Everyone seems like an interloper. Surrounding this “Top End” outpost, you’ll find millions of acres of the most dense tropical rainforest in all of Australia. It’s a land of sharks, crocs, wallabies, swamps, and vast wilderness that reaches towards the horizon in every direction. It’s the wild Australia you always dreamed about and you should definitely put it on your list.
FOOD & DRINK
There are decent options for every palate in Darwin. If you’re more for the table service and high end atmosphere, places like Pee Wee’s (often ranked among Australia’s best restaurants) is a great place to dive into Australian cuisine. You’ll find haute-cuisine versions of local delicacies like kangaroo carpaccio and crocodile wrapped in betel leaves. Darwin’s Waterfront also has a row of higher end restaurants that feature the best food from the region.
A rung down the culinary ladder you’ll find standard Aussie fare pretty much everywhere else — meat pies, fish and chips, full (English) breakfasts, colossal burgers, and so forth. Middle class Aussie food is truly where the English influence shines brightest, which means you can get a mean steak and chips pretty much anywhere.