24 Hours / Australia / Eat / See

24 Hours in… Darwin

— 23 Aug 2012 —

24 hours in Darwin. What to do, what to do?

Renowned for its history, good food and party life. It was going to be one hell of a mission to explore it all in 24 hours.

Armed with a city map and a big bottle of water, off I went to try my best.

First stop, breakfast.

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I found this cute little cafe, Java Spice Cafe, by the way of TripAdvisor reviews. It rated in the Top 5 eateries in Darwin so I just had to go and try it out. Naturally.

And I’m glad I did. Not only was the chai latte spicy and silky smooth, the modern and elegant Asian inspired decor is drool-worthy interior decorating. Bright reds and oranges adorn the walls with intricate gold touches in the tea light candle holders which dress the oddly paired tables. And cushions galore. There’s one on every chair, even the padded chairs. You won’t be able to get away from them.

Photo courtesy of Darwin Foodies

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A final farewell to Kat (she was off to get her some free alcohol at the Qantas lounge, lucky!!), I set off to the waterfront down Knuckey Street. On the way, there’s plenty of architecture to admire. The old theatre, Lyons Cottage, Parliament House, the cathedral. I love the oxidised limestone the buildings are built from.


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I dropped into the storage tunnels to see what it was all about. The chap at the front was a (weird) dedicated war fanatic. We spent about 10 minutes chatting about whether I’m Chinese, where I’m from and then becoming cocky about how he knew me better than I did, nothing about the tunnels. Like I said, weird.

The WWII Oil Storage Tunnels were built during WWII (der!) to store aircraft fuel. There were a total of 9 storage tanks installed by Australian  government as a sign of support to the navy to change from coal to oil power.  Later, 11 additional tanks were installed however were taken out by the Japanese in air strikes. Nowadays, only Tunnels 5 and 6 are open to the public with historical information boards and photographic displays of Darwin during WWII. These serve as a reminder of the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives in the protection of our great country.

I’m not really into war history but the photographic displays gave me a sense of how life was in those days, the smartly dressed Army personnel (men and women) and most importantly, the way Darwin was back then.

If you suffer from claustrophobia and not accustomed to smelling mildew (not saying I live in a mildew covered house), I wouldn’t recommend it. For everyone else, go for it. A nice way to kill 30 mins.

WWII Oil Storage Tunnels
Open Everyday
09h00 – 16h00 (May – Sept)
09h00 – 13h00 (Oct – Apr)
Adult $6/Child $3.50
Address: Lower level, Kitchener Dr

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Right down the road is the Darwin Waterfront, where I thought I was having lunch but unfortunately, the seafood restaurant I wanted to go to, was CLOSED FOR LUNCH. Great, just my luck.

Now, you would think, if a restaurant is in one of the prime tourist spots, it would be open for business for the 3 main meals of the day. Right? Or is it just the business side in me that thinks that? Why would you not open when your rivals next door are open? Do you not want to charge tourist exorbitant prices to eat at your restaurant? Especially if it’s rated in the Top 10? <end rant>

There is a significant amount of history associated with this area. It is where the first bomb landed in Australia during WWII, where the early European settlers waded ashore and camped, where the early Malay/Chinese settlements were built and home of the Larrakia people.

The area is now a beautiful playground for the young and old, with a man-made beach, complete with a wave pool. It has huge grass areas where one can chill out for the afternoon and get some Vitamin D. It is surrounded by chic designer apartments using the latest in energy-efficient innovations.

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My Plan B lunch also turned out to be a flop, so I decided to go to Cullen Bay in search for a seafood restaurant. Surely the restaurants on the marina would be open for lunch right? Stupid me, decided to give public transport a try. So I waited at the bus stop which I thought would take me up to the bay, and waited. Only to be told, I was waiting at the wrong stop. 20 MINS DOWN THE DRAIN.

At this stage, my stomach was starting to eat itself so I decided to give public transport a miss and take a taxi, only to find NO TAXIS. I should have given up at this stage but I really hanging out for some fresh seafood. I was determined to make it to Cullen Bay, so I called on my trusty feet and I walked.

It was a helluva long walk. Basically one end to another. Past the CBD, past the dodgy looking area, past the commercial area, past the rich looking area. 35 mins later, I finally made it. AND THE RESTAURANT WAS OPEN. I was a happy girl. Although I was past the hungry stage, I splurged on a big dish of fresh barramundi and a mango smoothie, all which still only came out to under $40!!

It was a perfect afternoon to be near the water and pretending to be one of the rich.

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I still had to get my cultural intake before heading over to the Mindel Beach Night Market to pick up some presents. The best place? Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. No photos are allowed in the museum as a sign of respect for the original Aboriginal works.

It doesn’t look like much on the outside but holy moly, the place was huge. Levels upon levels of displays of Aboriginal works, fossils, minerals and metals, Cyclone Tracy, Japan and Chinese artifacts, and my favourite, the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. The awards are in their 29th year and is held every year to celebrate the works of talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait nationals.

My favourite piece is racebook by Raymond Zada. A reality check on how prevalent racism is in the Indigenous community and how cruel some people in this world can be and continue to be. Disgusting and powerful at the same time.

There a cafe at the back where you can take a rest after the cultural fix. Even the hat had had enough.

Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Open Everyday, free entry
09h00 – 17h00 (Mon – Fri)
10h00 – 17h00 (Sat – Sun)
Address: Conacher St, Fannie Bay

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You can take a walk along the shore and through the “Botanic Garden” to get to Mindel Beach. The Mindel Beach Night Markets are held on Thursdays and Sundays during the dry season (Apr – Oct). During this time, the area is transformed from a standard beach foreshore into a shopping and eating heaven. The buzz, the aromas, the sunset, it’s like no other market I’ve been to before.

I stumbled upon Jac (from the tour) and her hostel friends (Jasper and Lauren) during my walk down and together, we braved the crowds to find a hat for Jasper and food for all of us.

I made the stupid choice of getting a spicy chicken laksa (I didn’t need to sweat more than I was already from the humidity) but it went down like a treat. It tasted like KL.

The highlight of the markets is not the shopping or the food. It is the view.

Mindel Beach Night Markets
17h00 – 22h00 (Thurs)
16h00 – 21h00 (Sun)
The markets are next held 25th Apr – 31st Oct 2013.

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I left the markets earlier, with plans to meet up with the others at Monsoon, to get to the souvenir stores before close. I also wanted to check out a couple of shows at the Darwin Festival.

I went to an Aboriginal arts exhibition, the food markets and a mini alternative music gig. It’s always great to see the talent of local acts.

Darwin Festival
Various locations, free and paid events on offer
w: www.darwinfestival.org.au (for program)
The next festival is held on 8 – 25th August 2013.

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And to cap off the night, we ended up at Monsoons for Thursdays night Ladies night. I don’t think I have ever seen the entire female population of a city in the one venue, but there’s always the first time for everything right?

All I can say about that night is; free-flowing champagne, topless waiters and cross-dressers. Everything else, what happens in Darwin, stays in Darwin.

Monsoons Restaurant & Party Bar
46 Mitchell St, Darwin CBD
w: www.monsoons.net.au (for events)

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So, I tried to explore as much as I could but it was only the surface. I will be back Darwin.

Till next time,
xx

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