When we arrived in Darwin in June 2013, we were only supposed to stay for 2 months. The plan was to get some work, earn some money, and be on our merry way towards the red centre before the summer.
However, life got in the way of our plans and we decided to stay until May 2014 for a number of reasons:
- We wanted to experience both the Dry and Wet Season
- Our funds were severely depleted and we needed to save up more money than we thought
- It was a great opportunity to experience more of Darwin
The best time to be in Darwin is during the Dry Season because this is when the city comes to life. The weather is warm and dry during the day, cool and balmy in the evenings, and it hardly ever rains. The city’s population more than doubles as tourists from other states and overseas move in and most of the special events are on, such as Territory Day, the Beer Can Regatta, Mindil Markets and various cultural festivals. There are also a decent number of public holidays as well.
Before the Wet Season hits, there is a two month period called the Build Up. Everyone loves talking about how hot and sticky the Build Up is, and it’s not pleasant. It’s muggy all through the day and into the night and the weather alternates between patches of sun with sudden downpours that provide little relief. Sleep is restless and sweaty if you don’t have a fan or air conditioning, and this is about the time the tourists start leaving Darwin and the markets close for the season.
You know the Wet has arrived when you can finally sleep comfortably at night, provided there isn’t a noisy storm overhead. The constant rain and cloud cover allows the temperature to drop below 30 degrees sometimes and the lightning shows are spectacular, but the humidity can be so thick, you could cut it with a knife. The one thing about the Wet Season that we found the most horrifying was the mould and mildew. The constant wet and mildly warm temperatures provide a great environment for mould and we put the Troopy through a massive vinegar treatment and dehumidifying session to keep the green furry stuff at bay.
The transition from Wet to Dry is sudden and beautiful. You’re no longer hit by walls of humidity when you step outside and it doesn’t feel as hot either. We got our first taste of the Dry Season around mid-April, a few weeks before our departure from Darwin.
Living in Darwin
When we first arrived in Darwin, we tried to find temporary accommodation in the city but because it was the Dry Season, all the hostels in town were full. We turned our attention to caravan parks, and the only one that wasn’t booked out for the next three months was Coolalinga Caravan Park – so that was our home for the first two weeks.
Juz was working for a week before we were invited to stay at the warehouse until we found somewhere to live. Because we planned to stay in Darwin for a little longer than planned, we searched for a room to rent on Gumtree. We found a place, went to check it out, and moved in a week later. It was with a girl called Nina and her dog Atlas and the house was beautiful. A two-storey house next to a reserve, with a pool, sauna and gas stove in the massive kitchen.
We lived with Nina for just over 4 months. We had plenty of parties and dinners with her, and we got to meet her friends too. Because the house was surrounded by gardens and was next to a reserve, we would always have a chorus of frogs after the rain.
We had to reassess our financial situation and find a cheaper place to live so we could save up more money before leaving Darwin, so we moved in with Dave in Coconut Grove. Yes, we moved in with another Dave, so it was a bit funny for Juz to call for Dave and get two responses. The house was much simpler – single storey with no pool or sauna – and it was on the main road so it was both noisy yet convenient for Dave to catch the bus. After a couple of weeks, another housemate moved in – another Dave.
As a whole, Darwin is an expensive city to live in. New housing is deliberately being built slowly to keep the prices high and the rentals full. What we were paying for a room in a share-house would get us a whole house in the outer suburbs back in Melbourne! Products and services are generally dearer than down south, and the justification is that it’s because Darwin is so remote. Dave reckons they hike the price up just because they can and thus coined the term “Darwin Tax”.
Fun in Darwin
Right off the bat, our impression of Darwin was that it was totally laid back little city. Beers after work is a given and after a few months, we started bumping into friends at the supermarket, in the city, on the street.
We loved going to the markets during the Dry Season, but our regular weekly activity was Trivia at Shenannigans. Our team was awesome and we’d place nearly every week, which meant we’d win a Shags Voucher to use the next week. The voucher would usually cover dinner and drinks, and we’d only have to pay a few dollars each to cover the rest of the bill. Our core team were a great bunch of people and we would often have visitors to the team, like Dave’s colleagues and friends visiting from Melbourne.
Working in Darwin
We worked for nearly the whole time we were in Darwin, but we had to after all. Staying at the caravan park for the first two weeks wasn’t going to pay for itself. Juz scored a few temporary jobs here and there to tide us over, but it wasn’t until she scored the job at a party hire place that a steady income was achieved. A few weeks later, Dave got a job as a delivery driver and our savings were finally starting to grow.
After about four months, we changed jobs. Juz went from party hire to a primary school, doing administration in the back office, while Dave traded in the hard yakka of deliveries for a cruisy office job in the city.
When we were about two weeks away from leaving Darwin, Juz was the first to hang up her boots and take on unemployment. Dave stayed in his job until the eleventh hour, and received an awesome plaque to thank him for all his hard work.
Pros & Cons of Darwin
There are some things about Darwin that we will miss, and some things that we are happy to leave behind. Some pet peeves were the constant humidity of the Wet, the Darwin Tax and the lack of … development? We found that there wasn’t that many things to do that didn’t involve drinking. Juz was also not impressed when her favourite leather belt got mouldy during the Wet Season.
The things we loved about Darwin include the raging storms and lightning shows, the critters that lived all around, such as the lizards and frogs, the markets and the relaxed lifestyle that everyone seems to have. We’ll also miss all of the great friends we made during our time in Darwin.