Oodnadatta Track

Second Year On The Road

Australia Day in Darwin 
Australia Day Cane Toads! Australia Day
Wildlife in our backyard!Possum fell in the pool - nawwww!

 

Cocosaurus Cove
Crocodile snack - Crocosaurus Cove Meet the reptiles - Crocosaurus Cove

 

Litchfield National ParkTermite Mounds - Litchfield National Park

 

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

 

Cutta Cutta CavesCutta Cutta Caves Edith FallsEdith Falls
Lorella Springs Wilderness Park

Lorella Springs Lorella Springs Lorella Springs Northern Spiny-Tailed Gecko
Caranbirini Conservation Reserve Limmen National Park

 

Devil’s Marbles
The Pebbles Devils Marbles

 

Wycliff WellWycliffe WellAileronAileron
Arltunga Historical ReserveBinns TrackTrephina Gorge Nature Park
Binns Track
Alice Springs Beanie FestivalAlice Springs Beanie Festival
Lasseter’s Camel CupLasseters Camel Cup Lasseters Camel Cup
Henley On Todd RegattaHenley On Todd
Alice Springs Reptile CentreAlice Springs Reptile Centre
Our Time In Alice SpringsHelpex Alice Springs Finke Desert RaceFinke Desert Race
Mount Sonder, West MacDonnell RangesWest MacDonnell Ranges
Palm Valley
Palm Valley
Heating up in HermannsburgHeating up in Hermannsburg
UluruUluru-Kata Tjuta
Kata-TjutaUluru-Kata Tjuta
Rainbow Valley

Rainbow Valley Oodnadatta Track
Coober PedyCoober Pedy
Lake EyreOodnadatta Track

Birdsville

BirdsvilleBirdsville 2014-09-05 031 Birdsville 2014-09-06 007water Birdsville 2014-09-06 047water WintonWinton 2014-09-07 003water
NormantonThe Big Croc, Normanton Cobbold GorgeCobbold Gorge
Undara Volanic National ParkUndaraCrystal Caves
The Crystal Caves
Mt Uncle DistilleryMt Uncle Distillery

 

Cape York
Bamaga TavernCape YorkThe Old Telegraph Track
Cape York

Chilli BeachCape YorkCape York
Zazen

ZazenZazen
CooktownCooktown

Our Time In CairnsCairnsAustralia Day 2015 Cairns


 

 

Stoneography

How to Celebrate Australia Day

Stoneography

Australia Day is a day of celebration, to embrace all the things that makes Australia unique – our beautiful landscapes, our kooky wildlife, our love of sports, live music, gorgeous beaches, and the great Australian spirit.  The awesome thing about Australia Day is that it’s a public holiday so you score a day off work or a long weekend!

 

Back in Melbourne, we celebrated Australia Day in a variety of ways, but whatever we did, it was with mates and with the Triple J Hottest 100 was always playing.  Below are some pictures of our previous celebrations (BBQ kiddy pool party, picnic in the park & winery camping weekend).

 

 

Since we’ve been on the road, we’ve celebrated two Australia Days.

The first was in Whyalla SA, and we got involved in the town’s community celebrations down at the foreshore – sandcastle building, dummy spitting, market stalls, and some goon before bed. Dave even came second in the thong throwing competition!

 

Dave accepts his trophy at the Australia Day presentations

 

The second was in Darwin NT.  Juz was sick unfortunately but we still managed to do as much as possible.  Toad races, the Annual Australia Day Ute Run, a pool party and chicken parmas at the pub.

 

Australia Day

 

Here are our favourite ways to celebrate Australia Day…

 

Listen To Triple J’s Hottest 100 On The Radio

For us and a lot of other Aussies, this is the ultimate playlist for your Australia Day celebrations.  Trying to pick which songs will make it into the top 10 always makes for great conversation and debate!  You can also listen to the Hottest 100 countdown whilst doing any of the other activities listed below.

 

Have A BBQ With Your Mates

You can’t get much more Australian than putting on your best pair of thongs, getting together with your mates, firing up the barbie and knocking back a few cold beers from the esky.  The humble sausage in bread is a BBQ standard, as well as caramelised onions cooked with that secret ingredient (beer), but Dave’s favourite has to be lamb chops.

 

Don’t forget to BYO camping chair and esky.  Inflatable kiddie pools are optional, but they’re a great way to keep the kids entertained or your feet cool.

 

Hang out at the beach or Inflatable playtime in the pool

Australia Day is right in the middle of summer so staying cool is not only important but super fun.  Load up your car with a full esky, towels, umbrellas, chairs and various sporting equipment, and drive to the beach.  Once you find a semi-shady parking spot 500m away, gather up everything you crammed into the car and awkwardly carry it all to the closest available patch of sand.

 

If you’re not a huge fan of sand in your bum crack, there always seems to be at least one mate having a pool party at their place.  Expect giant inflatable thongs, pool noodle fights, backyard cricket and plenty of beer.  Fair chance they’ll be having a BBQ too, so remember to bring some snags along.

 

Check out all the awesome inflatables you can get on eBay.

 

Picnic in the park

Fill one esky with food and another esky with beer, grab a picnic blanket and a portable radio and head to the park.  For those who like being active, take a footy, soccer ball or Frisbee, or even a humble hacky-sack.  One time we brought our volleyball set along, formed teams and got really competitive – lots of laughs.

 

Community Events

Wherever you are in Australia, there will be a community event happening on Australia.  Activities can range from citizenship ceremonies, sausage sizzles and fun runs to thong throwing competitions, dunny races and parades.   Many events also hold fancy dress or best hat competitions!  Find a winner on eBay…

 

Look for an event near you at http://www.australiaday.org.au/

 

Camping

If Australia Day in the city isn’t your style, load up the car with your camping gear and go bush.  If you don’t have reception to listen to Triple J, you might have to sort out your own tunes, but all the other staples are there – mates, eskies full of beer, fun games, a campfire for snags and marshmallows and a tent closeby to welcome you after an awesome Australia Day.

 

RW15_eBay_AussieDay_vCOLOR_v4

 

HAVE A SAFE AND FUN AUSTRALIA DAY!

 

* Drink responsibly and don’t be a tosser on Australia Day… or any day for that matter.

 

Bye NT

Top 5 Things about the Northern Territory

Adelaide River Croc Cruise

 

We spent over a year in the Northern Territory; not out of choice but out of obligation.  We had to work in Darwin for nearly a year to replenish the bank account and we got stuck in Alice Springs for three months with Troopy troubles.  In that time, we have learnt a lot about the culture of the Territory and have even grown fond of it.  Despite the unbearable humidity of the Top End during the summer months, the relaxed and almost negligent attitude towards hospitality and business, and the worst television advertisements we have seen since we left Melbourne, the NT has its perks.

 

It was great to be surrounded by so much wildlife and aboriginal culture, and the locals are always up for a drink… or seven!  In Darwin, the lightning shows during the Wet Season are incredible, and it was wonderful to feel cold during the winter months in Alice Springs.  On top of all that, we made a bunch of great friends who we’ll miss until we get to see again.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

There is a big contrast between the Top End and Centralia.  The weather in Darwin and the Top End is hot and moist most of the time, while it is dry and dusty in Alice Springs.  While Alice is a quiet town, placid and laid back, Darwin is a little more promiscuous and is a backpacker haven.  Alice was also considerably cheaper than Darwin in terms of beer and meals when out on the town.

 

Trying to put together a list of only five things that are great about the Northern Territory was tough, but we did it and we think this list is pretty good.

 

Indigenous Presence

As Melbournians, it was unfamiliar to us to have so much aboriginal culture around us.  Whether it’s the colourful bags and wallets in the souvenir shops, the aboriginal art galleries that are probably more common than McDonald’s restaurants, or the groups that wander around the city almost aimlessly, waiting for the bottle shop to open, you can’t ignore the indigenous presence.

 

Our most enriching experiences were down near Alice Springs.  We learnt a little about the local language and their creation stories, but what really stood out was having to ask an elder for permission to stay on the side of the road overnight when our radiator split.

 

Learning about the Anangu culture when we were at Uluru was also eye-opening, and it makes us sad that European settlers interfered with that magical lifestyle with their trampling cattle and introduction of foreign plants, animals and diseases, amongst other things.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

Paradise

The Top End has pockets of paradise everywhere.  Hot springs, waterfalls, pools lined with lush vegetation – places that are easy to get lost in.  We found a few of these pockets all over the Top End

 

Lorella Springs Wilderness Park near Borroloola is definitely one of our favourites.  With beautiful waterfalls, cool pools and balmy springs, it was very difficult to pull ourselves away.  The Douglas Hot Springs was another location with a hot spring that fed into a creek, and with a campground nearby, it’s the perfect place for a week-long getaway.

 

Lorella Springs

 

Other great pockets of paradise include Robin Falls, Edith Falls and Gubara in Kakadu National Park.

 

Rock Formations

If you’re keen on rock formations, you can’t go past the NT Trifecta – Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon.  It will take approximately three days to explore all three, and if you can catch a sunrise or sunset, then you’re in for a treat.

 

Other rock formations to check out in the Northern Territory are Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve just south of Alice Springs, Chambers Pillar along the Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail, and the various Lost Cities dotted around the state.

 

 

Crocodile Craze

As we headed north along the western coast, the first warnings we received about crocodiles was in Derby.  We didn’t believe it at first, but after seeing heaps of freshwater crocodiles in the Kimberley and even witnessed a suspicious splash at the Fitzroy River crossing, by the time we got to Darwin, we were well aware of the presence of these prehistoric predators.

 

Darwin uses the croc craze to promote tourism, with great attractions like Crocosaurus Cove and the Adelaide River Jumping Croc Cruises, where you can see dangerous saltwater crocodiles snap for a piece of meat within metres of the boat.

 

Don’t take crocodiles for granted.  While some businesses use crocodiles to give tourists a unique experience, it’s certainly not all just for show.  Crocodiles are frequently spotted surfing waves at the beach and crocodile attacks happen frequently, to pets and lifestock, as well as to tourists and even locals (who have no excuse to not know better).

 

Adelaide River Croc Cruise

 

Markets

The NT is market central, and we took advantage of ever market we could find!

 

In Darwin, there are so many dry season markets you’re spoilt for choice.  Our favourites were Mindil Beach Night Market, Palmerston Market, and the Nightcliff and Rapid Creek Markets, both of which run through the wet season as well.  These markets are the go to places for a great atmosphere, energetic performances, cool shopping and delicious food at fantastic prices.

 

Mindil Markets

 

Goodbye NT!  It’s been fun; it’s been swell, but after more than 15 months, the swelling has gone down and it’s time to move forward.

 

Bye NT

 

CROCOPILE! - Crocosaurus Cove

Our Time in Darwin

Darwin

 

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 Seasons

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.

 

Darwin

 

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.

 

Truck Driver Beard

 

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.

 

 

 

Darwin 2014-05-05 027

The Big Boxing Crocodile, Humpty Doo NT

The Big Boxing Crocodile

 

 

Located just outside the United fuel station on the Arnhem Highway, the Big Boxing Crocodile stands 6 meters tall and makes reference to the crocodile population of Darwin and the surrounding area.

 

It was supplied by a guy called Ray Park, who made it to celebrate Australia winning the America’s Cup in 1983.  It took 14 weeks to build, 2 weeks to paint and install, and has since helped out by attracting tourism to the area.  These days, it’s almost shrouded in vegetation, but the red mitts and gaping mouth full of teeth are still visible from the highway.

 

A big thanks to Ray for contacting us and giving us more information about the Big Boxing Crocodile.

 

Hanuman

Eating Out : Hanuman, Darwin NT

Hanuman

 

During our final week in Darwin, we organised to go to Darwin’s most highly rated #1 restaurant (according to Urbanspoon) with some good friends that we made while we were here.  Surprisingly enough, the best restaurant in Darwin isn’t Modern Australian but a combination of Thai, Indian and Nonya cuisine.

 

Hanuman opened in 1992 and has since won many awards for best wine list, best Asian restaurant, best ethnic restaurant… the list is seriously impressive but you have to wonder who their competition are.  Because of this prestigious reputation, Hanuman has a classier atmosphere than your regular Darwin eatery so it would be most respectful that you didn’t wear thongs if you do decide to dine there.

 

When we arrived, we saw the sign that kindly asked for no thongs but we weren’t about to go home to change our shoes so when Joe and Kate arrived, we followed them in and hoped no one would notice that we were under-shod.

 

We were seated in the outdoor deck, which actually seemed like it was indoors.  Beautiful Asian artwork and sculptures was strategically placed around the dining areas and inside by the cocktail bar, the lighting spread a lovely glow of purple and gold lighting along the walls and ceiling.

 

Hanuman

 

As we perused the menu, we ordered drinks.  Juz got a Zen Monk cocktail, which was ginger and lemongrass with Frangelico and coconut.  The initial flavour was interesting to say the least, but once the Frangelico appeared in the aftertaste, it was quite nice.  Our waiter was great and super passionate about the food.  He made some great suggestions and after a few minutes, our orders were sent to the kitchen.

 

Hanuman

 

Our entrée was the trumpet mushrooms, which were served in an interesting clay dish.  Each mushroom was topped with minced pork, prawn and spices, and garnished with some coconut cream, coriander and a slice of chilli.  They looked gorgeous and had a great savoury flavour that was laced with tastes from the sea.  The chilli added a nice punch but wasn’t too spicy at all.

 

Hanuman

 

Each of us ordered a main to share and we ended up with three curries and a whole fish.  The Thai crispy whole fish was served with a three flavour sauce (hot, sweet and sour), and looked pretty impressive on the pretty platter.  The fish was well cooked, possibly even on the dry side, but the sauce fixed that up.  Dave and Kate even dared to pick the eye out and eat it – GROSS – they said it tasted like fish and was really chewy.

 

Each of the curries had their own character – the lamb in the rogan josh was really tender, the beef vindaloo traded in ass-burning chilli for a mellow sweetness of spices, while the chicken chettinad in a fennel and mustard seed masala was spicy and fully of robust flavours.  To accompany our mains, we ordered the garlic naan and onion and cheese naan.  The garlic naan was fantastic but the onion naan could have done with a bit more cheese.

 

Hanuman

 

Once everything was eaten, including the fish eyes, we declined suggestions for dessert and went home.  While Juz was basking in the warmth of the curry spices inside her belly, Dave was having a bad time.  Despite enjoying the flavours of some Indian dishes, the spices don’t agree with him and he had reflux for the rest of the evening.

 

Hanuman Restaurant

 
Hanuman on Urbanspoon

 

 

Darwin YHA

Darwin YHA

Darwin YHA

 

Located only a few hundred metres away from the heart of Darwin’s nightlife, Darwin YHA gives you the convenience and affordability of an inner city hostel while still providing a quite place to rest your head.

 

Unlike the hostels further down Mitchell Street, Darwin YHA is not a rowdy party hostel – even though they have a public bar adjoining their building!  The Darwin YHA is a former motel that was converted to a hostel around seven years ago and has a friendly atmosphere that caters for guests of all ages.

 

FACILITIES

There are 168 beds available, with mixed or single sex dorms containing either four or six beds, as well a private double and family rooms.  Each room has air conditioning, a fridge and an ensuite, instead of a large shared bathroom.

 

The communal areas include a cosy kitchen and large outdoor BBQ area with lots of seating, a swimming pool surrounded by sun chairs and a dedicated TV room.  There is also wifi available, off-street parking and a well equipped laundry room.

 

The Dry Season is the best time to visit Darwin, so don’t be surprised if the Darwin YHA gets super busy during this time.  Book ahead to ensure you get a bed or come a little earlier in April.  Carolyn and her team at Darwin YHA also run social events (BBQs, etc) during the Dry Season and are more than happy to help you arrange tours and day trips.

 

 

THINGS NEARBY

To the South

Bus stop – 200m – Darwin’s public transport system is a network of buses that run from Darwin, Casuarina and Palmerston interchanges to service Greater Darwin and some rural areas.  For more information on bus times and routes, visit http://www.transport.nt.gov.au/public/bus/darwin

Fox Ale House – 220m – This is a great spot for a cheap feed and late night live music on the weekend.

Ducks Nuts – 220m – across the road from the Fox Ale House, Ducks Nuts Bar and Grill is a favourite amongst the locals and tourists.  It’s great for breakfast and coffee, and if you feel like dressing up and dancing when the sun goes down, there is a vodka bar at the back.

Crocosaurus Cove – 400m – an absolute must see destination when in Darwin. Experience of a lifetime!

Shennanigans – 450m – this is a great drinking location with awesome trivia on Tuesday nights.  Try the Sweet Potato Salad or Chicken Parmigiana.

Waterfront Precinct – 1.5km – with a great selection of pubs and restaurants, the Waterfront is a great place to spend your Sunday afternoon.  Have a picnic next to the Recreation Lagoon or have a dip in the Wave Lagoon.

Deckchair Cinema – 2km – another great attraction that is open during the Dry Season, the Deckchair Cinema is a great way to relax while enjoying a movie under the stars.

 

 

To the North

Aquascene –550m – this attraction relies on the tides so check their website for fish feeding sessions. The gardens are wonderful as well.

Nirvana – 700m – one of Darwin’s popular destinations for food and live entertainment. http://www.nirvanarestaurantdarwin.com/default.html

Mindil Beach – 2km – during the Dry Season, enjoy the Mindil Beach Markets on Thursday and Sunday nights.  Territory Day, the Beer Can Regatta and various cultural events are also celebrated at Mindil Beach.

 

Tours are also available to Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park, the Tiwi Islands and Arnhem Land Aboriginal Reserve.

 

THE ESSENTIALS

Darwin YHA is located at 97 Mitchell Street in Darwin city.  Reception is open from 6am to 10pm – to make a booking, visit the YHA Australia website: http://www.yha.com.au/hostels/nt/darwin-surrounds/darwin-yha-backpackers-hostel/

 

Phone: (+618) 8981 5385

Email: darwin@yha.com.au

 

Darwin YHA

 
Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor
 

Holmes Jungle

Experience : Holmes Jungle Nature Park

Holmes Jungle

 

We woke up early on Take A Walk In The Park Day to head over to Holmes Jungle before the day got too hot. The nature park covers about 250 hectares and protects a monsoon forest, right on the fringe of Darwin’s northern suburbs. We visited at the end of the Wet Season so it was a bit damp and overgrown, but we had a fantastic journey into what seemed like another world.

 

We parked the Troopy at the Hilltop Picnic Area and took the Woodland Walk to the forest. It was strange how quickly the environment changed from dry and grassy to damp and shady. We were suddenly surrounded by tall trees and loud shrieks coming from the canopy. We came across a Keelback Snake and Jewel Spider before the path narrowed and all but disappeared into the tall green grass.

 

Keelback Snake - Holmes Jungle

 

We pushed our way through the grass, which was about 2 metre tall, and moved as quickly as possible – we’d already come across one snake and we didn’t want to see another one! We came out of Holmes Jungle with grass seeds all over our arms and legs, but with big smiles on our faces. It was quiet an adventure to come before the annual cleanup after the wet season.

 

Jewel Spider - Holmes Jungle

 

The Waterfront

City Profile : Darwin

Sunset at East Point

 

When we arrived in Darwin back in June 2013, we were exhausted.  We had just driven through the Kimberley and broken down on the road towards the Bungle Bungles and we were looking forward to spending some time in a city.

 

Darwin was not what we expected.  The city is set among tropical bushland and it’s really small.  The CBD doesn’t have any skyscrapers, there is only one main shopping centre in the northern suburbs and the airport is right in the middle of everything. There is heaps of vegetation around town, consisting of banyan trees, palm trees, screw pines and frangipanis and every now and then you’ll see a water tower.  The people are totally laid back, with many of the inhabitants working in defence or the mining industry, and there’s a considerable percentage of pubs and taverns around town that offer free lunchtime strip shows.

 

 

There is heaps of wildlife around town.  Green tree frogs, asian house geckos and tata lizards that are regular house guests, and you might even see the occasional python hanging around. Frilled neck lizard reserves are common and if you stick around long enough you’re bound to see one.  Nearly every resident has a dog for security and nearly every dog still has their balls.

 

In the 10 months that we have been in Darwin, we’ve lived at four addresses, worked a variety of jobs and experienced the Wet Season, the Dry Season and the Build up.  When the time comes for us to pack up and continue on our journey, it’ll be like leaving home all over again.

 

FAST FACTS

  • Darwin is the smallest and most northerly Australian capital but is one of the fastest growing cities.
  • The population is around 130,000 people, but this doubles during the Dry Season.
  • Darwin participates in gas and oil production, the mining industry, and tropical horticulture, and the Port of Darwin is the main outlet for Australia’s live cattle export trade into Southeast Asia.
  • There are two seasons in tropical Darwin – the stinking hot, sticky and sweaty wet season and the mild and balmy Dry season.  The lightning storms of the wet season are spectacular and the average temperature during the year is around 30°C so stick to shorts, singlets and t-shirts during your visit – there is no need for pants or jackets… ever.
  • There are a few aboriginal communities within the metropolitan area.  While you generally don’t enter the communities out of respect, occasionally they’ll have festivals and invite people to come in for tours.

 

 

 

 

HISTORY

The Larrakia people are the traditional owners of the land and lived in the greater Darwin region before European settlement.  They lived alongside the settlement and gave them food but many died of disease or were pushed away to camps on the outskirts of the city.  After much struggle and adjustment, the Larrakia people prevailed and today they have an active role in the community and their nation is 2000 strong.

 

The Dutch were the first Europeans to swing past the area, but it wasn’t until 1839 during the second voyage of the HMS Beagle that a little colony got started.  The first officer of the Beagle named the port after his buddy, Charles Darwin, who sailed with them on the Beagle’s first voyage in 1836, but the settlement was established as Palmerston in 1869.  After a gold rush in Pine Creek in 1870, the population of the colony more than doubled from 135 to 300 and when the NT was transferred under federal administration in 1911, it was renamed Darwin, but didn’t reach city status until 1959.

 

Darwin has been rebuilt twice.  The first time was after 1942 when the same Japanese warplanes that bombed Pearl Harbour attacked Darwin.  The town was severely damaged and 243 people were killed, but what the air raid showed was how close the World War got to Australia.

 

The second time Darwin had to be rebuilt was after Cyclone Tracy in 1974.  This category 3 storm hit on Christmas Eve, devastated the city, killed over 70 people and destroyed more than 70% of the buildings in Darwin.  Most of the population was evacuated to either Alice Springs, Adelaide or Sydney, and about 60% didn’t return.  After the cyclone, new building codes were put in place to construct houses that could withstand high winds and provide protection for the residents.

 

Cyclone Tracey Memorial

 

POINTS OF INTEREST

Darwin has all the typical attractions, such as the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and George Brown Botanical Gardens,  which is not only fantastic but totally free to enter, as well as a few special treats that you can’t find anywhere else.

 

Crocosaurus Cove

We cannot emphasise to you how awesome Crocosaurus Cove is.  Entry is a total bargain for the goodies inside and if you go on the Big Croc Feeding Experience with a guided tour, you’ll have a day that you’ll never forget.

 

 

Aquascene

You might think that feeding the fish sounds mundane but this place is really cool.  They have a great display of marble statues and pretty gardens.  While the majority of fish are diamondscale mullet, you might spot a shark or batfish.

 

Aquascene

 

Stokes Hill Wharf & Darwin Waterfront

The Darwin Waterfront is the equivalent of Docklands in Melbourne, but more frequently used.  The grassed area is a great place for a picnic or Sunday Session during the Dry Season and the surrounding restaurants are quite good.  The Darwin Convention Centre and Wave Lagoon are also nearby.

 

Stokes Hill Wharf is a short walk from the Waterfront and is a great platform for fishing.  At the end of the Wharf is a small plaza with some food outlets.  It has much historical significance as it bore the brunt of the Japanese bombing on the 19th of February 1942 – over 240 people died and many ships were sunk in the vicinity.

 

 

FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Territory Day

On July 1st, Territorians celebrate Territory Day.  There’s quite a build-up to the event, with fireworks for sale on nearly every corner!  It’s not a public holiday (yet) and in the evenings, everyone floods to Mindil Beach for the markets and food stalls, and to watch the amazing firework show on the shore.

 

Territory Day

 

Fireworks continue through the night as everyone lets off their crackers.  We found a quiet place next to Port Darwin to let off our fireworks while others let theirs off in their front garden or on the street.  Spot fires arose throughout the city and evidence of the madness showed the morning after.

 

Beer Can Regatta

Possibly the most Territorian event other than Territory Day, the Beer Can Regatta is a great opportunity to let your love for beer shine.  Mindil Beach is flooded with tourists and locals for the markets, the food and the activities on the shore.  We spent the day on the Grogmonster and watched the beer can boat race.

 

 

Noonamah Rodeo

If bull riding, motorbike jumps and bucking broncos is your thing, the Noonamah Rodeo is definitely worth a look.  There are plenty of interesting characters to watch too, heaps of food stalls and overpriced beer, and the atmosphere is true country.

 

Won't give up without a fight - Noonamah Rodeo

 

Ethnic Community Events

Darwin is very multicultural and during the Dry Season, they hold many cultural festivals.  India@Mindil was very colourful with dance performances and plenty of delicious foods to try.  The Cyprus Festival was also orientated around food and dance.  Both of these events were free.

 

 

Hoon Events

The Hidden Valley Raceway is a popular spot to unleash your inner bogan.  They’ve got drag races, burnouts, motocross, supercars and it is the starting line of the Australia Day Ute Run.

 

Hidden Valley Drags

 

The All Ford Day was also on while we were in Darwin and there was a great display of both old and new cars.  Juz got the opportunity to take a seat in one of the drag cars for the Beat the Heat Off Street drag racing event.

 

 

 

 

MARKETS

Darwin is a market haven.  Between Thursday and Sunday during the Dry Season, there are about 5 or 6 different markets that you can go to, and each offers something a little different.  If you’re after a decent feed, you can’t do much better for value than at the markets.  A large tub of curry can be as cheap as $10 or prepare to pay about $7 for a bowl of delicious chicken wonton soup.

 

Mindil Markets

 

FOOD & DRINK

Shennanigans

Even though we lived 15 minutes away from Shenannigans, it was our local.  We’d go there every week to have dinner and play trivia.  The menu is awesome and has all the regular pub meals like steak and chicken parmigiana, yummy salads and a few goodies like the Territory grill and chicken supreme.  The prices are awesome too and if you’re not that hungry, you could just grab a side of spiced crocodile or a bowl of beef chilli for $5.

 

Chow!

Tasty Vietnamese and south east asian food on the Waterfront, Chow! is fully licenced and has some awesome cocktails on the menu.

 

Chow!

 

Yotz Greek Taverna

Dave took Juz here for her 30th Birthday dinner and it blew her socks off.  Even though it’s quite fancy and pricy, we dined right next to the Cullen Bay marina and the moussaka was to die for.

 

Tim’s Surf & Turf

If you love an outrageous amount of fried food piled up on your place, you’ll love Tim’s Surf and Turf.  The portion sizes are horrifying but the food tastes great and they have a magician that wafts from table to table performing nifty card tricks.

 

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Buses

Darwinbus is the only public transport network that operates in Darwin and has services that run between the city, Casuarina and Palmerston interchanges, as well as a few rural locations.  While most of the services run 7 days a week, they’re not regular and may only have 2 services in the morning and another 2 or 3 runs after work, so if you miss your bus, you’re walking!

 

INFORMATION & ACCOMMODATION

Tourism Top End Information Centre – 6 Bennett Street, Darwin, Phone: 1300 138 886

Darwin YHA – 97 Mitchell Street, Darwin, Phone: 08 8981 5385

 

 

 

Chow!

Eating Out : Chow!, Darwin NT

Chow!

A new Vietnamese restaurant opened in Darwin while we were there and after dubbing Saigon Star as the provider of the best pho, we realised we had a new contender to sample.  We set our expectations fairly low and walked down to the Waterfront for a feed.

 

We arrived just as they opened and chose a table inside next to the window.  The décor was clean and attractive with a pretty feature wall and fabric lighting fixtures around a central bar.  We ordered some beer while we perused the menu.  While the laksa, Vietnamese savoury crepes and Lemongrass chicken caught our eye, Juz went with a beef pho and Dave selected the wonton and BBQ pork egg noodle soup.

 

Chow!

 

Our lunch came out fast, and was presented beautifully in designer crockery.  At first, Juz was a little disappointed that the ritual of adding fresh herbs to the soup herself was taken away, but after tasting the soup with the herbs already included, she realised there was a new winner.  The broth was clear and fresh and was beautiful balanced with cinnamon and star anise.  The noodles were soft, silky and fresh while the beef was tender and extra delicious when dipped in the provided plum sauce.

 

Dave’s soup was colourful but didn’t have as much appeal as Juz’s pho.  The dumplings were a little bland and the noodles needed more time to cook, but the broth was tasty.

 

Chow!

 

Overall, we really liked Chow! and look forward to our next visit.  They have a great selection of beer, their cocktails have funny names and the pho was absolutely delicious – quite possibly the best pho Juz has had since we left Melbourne.

 

http://www.chowdarwin.com.au/

 

Chow! on Urbanspoon

 

Cage of Death - Crocosaurus Cove

Experience : Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin

Crocosaurus Cove

Did you know that there are over 200 crocodiles, both big and small, that live in the heart of the Darwin CBD?  They all reside at Crocosaurus Cove, with many other creatures like turtles, snakes, lizards and frogs, and they would love a visit from you!

 

Crocosaurus Cove is an incredible attraction that was opened in 2008 to rejuvenate Darwin city.  These days, they get up to 400 visitors a day during the Dry Season, including families with kids, international visitors and young Aussies.  All staff are incredibly knowledgeable and super friendly whilst always keeping your safety in mind, and the souvenir shop stocks all the usual stuff like pens, shot glasses and toys, stuffed toys, as well as crocodile leather products.

 

There are two roads that you can take when exploring Crocosaurus Cove.  You can pay the entry fee and walk around the centre yourself, getting to the meeting points on time to see presentations and feedings (check the Croc Cove program here), or you can choose the Big Croc Feed Experience that includes a guided tour.  We spent the morning exploring by ourselves and went on the guided tour later in the day.  We both agree that the tour was a bloody ripper.  We had an extra special mate along for the tour – a frilled neck lizard that would sit on our shoulders – and we got to feed some of the critters.  We got so much more information from our guide and learnt heaps about the enclosures and the centre itself.  We highly recommend opting for the Big Croc Feed Experience.

 

 

Meet the Reptiles

The reptile enclosure at Crocosaurus Cove is the largest collection of Australian reptiles… IN THE WORLD!  It holds over 70 species from the Top End and Kimberley region, including lizards and geckos, snakes, turtles and quite possibly a new species of crocodile – the pygmy crocodile.  They’re still waiting on DNA results that will determine the new species, but in the meantime, enjoy this great ‘Terminator’ shot that Juz took.

 

Pygmy Crocodile - Crocosaurus Cove

 

We learnt about non-venomous pythons, like the beautiful albino olive python, which doesn’t grow as big as its olive counterpart, but still has that placid and friendly disposition.  We also learnt about some of Australian’s venomous snakes, like the death adder, who is too fat to move quickly so they usually hide and end up getting trod on.

 

 

An interesting fact that we learnt about snake bites is that the venom is spread by the lymphatic system, not the bloodstream!   If you are bitten by a snake, apply pressure and immobilise the affected area to prevent the venom from reaching vital organs.

 

This was by far Juz’s favourite location, not only for the air conditioning, but because of the displays and the reptile handling.  We got to hold a big blue tongue lizard, a bearded dragon and a friendly Stimson’s python that slithered all over Dave.

 

 

The reptile feeding was also a thrill.  They presented an olive python with a humanly pre-killed rat so that we could watch how the snake gets its big lunch down its little throat.  Contrary to popular belief, snakes don’t actually dislocate their jaw, but they can open their mouths to 160°!  We learnt that snakes have a sense of smell that compensates for their bad eyesight and their forked tongue allows them to smell in ‘stereo’.  They also locate prey by sensing heat and once they capture their dinner, they constrict it to suffocate it so gently that no bones are broken.  If the snake does break bones, the kill will be abandoned because broken bones can scratch or stab internal organs during digestion.

 

 

Meet the Fish

Crocosaurus Cove has a massive 200,000 litre fresh water aquarium that is based on the Daly River system.  The selection of fish include two massive whip rays that can grow up to 1.3m wide, enormous barramundi, and two endangered saw fish, which made our day every time we saw them.  Despite the 22 razor sharp teeth in each side of their rostrum, they looked super happy with their pink gummy smile.

 

 

One of the coolest fish in the aquarium is the archerfish and we got to feed these little guys during the guided tour.  They have fantastic eyesight and spit water at their prey (insects, bugs) to knock them into the water.  They can spit up to 3 metres above the water’s surface, but their accuracy is limited to 2 metres.

 

The Archerfish – Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin from Our Naked Australia on Vimeo.

 

Meet the Crocs

The main attraction!  They’ve got big crocs, baby crocs, juvenile crocs and even lover crocs – the royals, Kate and William.  A few of the crocodiles were so old and injured that they’ve been brought to Crocosaurus Cove for sanctuary.

 

As part of the guided tour, we got to do two awesome things – feed the giant crocodiles and go croc fishing!  Juz was first up to feed the largest crocodile in the centre and the feeling of having a 5 metre, 80 year old crocodile on the other end of the pole was indescribable.  After the terrifying crack of the crocodile’s jaws clapping around the hunk of meat, the pole arched as Juz heaved and the string eventually gave way.  What a feeling…

 

 

Dave had his turn with a different crocodile that was sleeping in a pool only 2 meters from our faces.  It took a while to wake the critter up, but after a flash of white water and teeth, we knew he meant business.

 

The croc fishing was heaps of fun.  We approached the juvenile crocodile pond to find a huge ‘crocopile’ and had a giggle as we referenced a South Park episode.   We stepped onto the jetty, the guide baited our fishing line with a small piece of meat and the crocs jumped out of the water for a bite.

 

CROCOPILE! - Crocosaurus Cove

 

Hold a Baby Crocodile

The World of Crocs Museum exhibits various crocodile species from all over the world and is also the place where you can get up close and personal with a baby crocodile.

 

The first thing we did when we arrived was hold Fluffy, a 3 month old baby saltwater crocodile, and holding Fluffy again was the last thing we did before we left.  They had a few Fluffies on rotation to ensure that one hatchling didn’t get overhandled or too tired.  It was a great opportunity to hold a feisty little croc, and get a closer look at its scales, feet, eyes, and teeny tiny teeth.

 

Tom Kelly, the resident photographer was very informative and pointed out sensory spots on Fluffy’s scales before taking some hilarious photos.  The sensory spots help the croc feel even the smallest change in the water – the slightest ripple could mean lunch time!

 

 

Cage of Death

While this feature was recommended to us by a few mates, we chose to watch instead of participate.  The Cage of Death is Australia’s first and only crocodile dive experience and while it looked like heaps of fun to be centimetres away from a crocodile, we were happy to stay dry on the sidelines.

 

We saw three cage drops, with most of the thrill seekers being in their 20s.  We had a chat with some people after their dunk and they said it was really cool, scary and well worth the money.

 

 

There’s a reason Crocasaurus Cove is one of the most popular attractions in Darwin – it’s great fun for kids and adults alike.  We wholeheartedly recommend taking the Big Croc Feeding guided tour – it’s worth every dollar.  Not only do you get to feed the crocs, you get to hold more animals than everyone else, you get your own guide to answer any questions you throw at them, and you get VIP priority for baby croc holding and croc fishing.

 

If you’ve got the dollars and the guts, you should totally book your place in the cage of death!  We might have to find some time to head in to Crocosaurus Cove one more time to take a dunk in a croc tank…

 

Crocosaurus Cove

 

Experience Crocosaurus Cove

Crocosaurus Cove is open throughout the year from 9am to 6pm, except on Christmas Day.  If you have a Northern Territory driver’s license, you’re in luck!  An NT Locals Pass entitles the holder to pay the entry fee once and receive entry for the ENTIRE YEAR – perfect for families with young kids or reptile lovers!

 

Address: 58 Mitchell Street, Darwin City

Phone:  08 8981 7522

Website: http://www.crocosauruscove.com/

 
Book your tour at TripAdvisor

 
Crocosaurus Cove

Roma Bar

Eating Out : Roma Bar, Darwin NT

Roma Bar

We had heard mixed reviews about breakfast at Roma Bar but after we heard that they do thick cut ham on their eggs benedict, we had to give it a try.  From the outside, the place looks like it might be a bit daggy and run down but surprise, surprise, it was actually quite trendy.

 

They had an outside eating area with tables that overlooked the street, as well as a big bench made of polished wood that had been roughly cut.  It was bright and spacious inside the café, with another gorgeous wooden table surrounded by stools.  The chick behind the counter was exceptionally friendly and energetic.  We ordered two coffees and two eggs benedicts, and took our number to a table outside.

 

Roma Bar

 

Before long, our coffee arrived.  Dave’s macchiato was cascading and had clear layers of froth, milk and dark coffee.  Juz’s latte looked nice and strong, and the soy milk was frothed really well.  Both were deliciously smooth without any bitter or burnt taste.  Considering that we didn’t specifically ask for strong coffee but we got it anyway, we knew we were at a quality establishment.

 

Roma Bar

 

Our breakfast arrived shortly afterwards.  Two muffins topped with wilted spinach, ham cut straight off the bone and poached egg with a dishlette of hollandaise on the side.  This was unusual, and after we tasted the hollandaise, we understood why.  The sauce was really thick and packed with a super tangy punch, so the side serve gives the diner an opportunity to add tang to taste.  We loved the tang and the dishlettes were empty at the end of our meal.

 

Roma Bar

 

We really enjoyed our breakfast at Roma Bar.  The staff were super friendly, the coffee was magnificent and the thick ham on the eggs benedict is a great way to stand out from the crowd.  We will definitely go back again, perhaps to try the Indian breakfast of dahl, yoghurt and roti, or the flamenco breakfast.

 

9-11 Cavanagh Street, Darwin

Phone: (08) 8981 6729

http://www.romabar.com.au/
Roma Bar on Urbanspoon

Cyclone Tracey

Cyclone Season in the Top End

Cyclone Tracey

The likelihood of experiencing a cyclone is an expected occurrence when you’re living in the tropics during the Wet Season.  Darwin has and always will be prone to cyclones because of its position on the globe.  In the last 150 years, there have been at least four destructive cyclones that have caused the loss of lives and property.  The most recent and well known is, of course, Cyclone Tracy.

 

Cyclone Tracy

Cyclone Tracy formed in the morning of the 21st of December 1974 in the Arafura Sea, about 700km north-east of Darwin.  Tracy headed south-west, cleared the western tip of Bathurst Island and then turned south-east to head straight for Darwin.

 

Cyclone Tracy reached Darwin in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve 1974.  By 10pm, the gale force winds were already causing damage.  For the next six hours, terrified residents were subjected to heavy rain and screaming winds of well over 200km/h.  The officially recorded windspeed was 217km/h, but that’s only because the anemometer broke – the Bureau of Meteorology estimates the gusts reached well over 250km/h.

 

Cyclone Tracy moved away from Darwin and the rain and wind began to ease, but the damage was done.  By sunrise on Christmas morning 1974, over 70 people had died and over 70% of Darwin’s buildings were flattened.  There was no infrastructure left standing for power or phones, so Darwin was almost completely cut off from the rest of Australia.  In fact, most Australians didn’t even know about the cyclone until late in the afternoon on Christmas day.

 

The people who had nothing left in Darwin left – most didn’t return.  Many of the people who were evacuated to Whyalla, Adelaide, Alice Springs or Sydney didn’t return.  By the 1980s, 60% of Darwin’s population had relocated.  The people who did stay worked to rebuild, and now Darwin has a new look and is one of the fastest growing capital cities in Australia.

 

We were fascinated by the Cyclone Tracey story and learnt more about her power and terror at the Darwin Museum.  They have historical videos, before and after photographs, and a small dark room that simulates what it was like to be hit by a vicious cyclone in the middle of the night.  There is also a great memorial on Trower Road…

 

Cyclone Tracey Memorial

 

What is a cyclone?

A cyclone is a low-pressure system that forms over tropical waters and produces winds of over 63km/h around the eye.  Cyclones spin clockwise in the southern hemisphere and anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere.  The strength and severity of a cyclone is categorised from 1 (least bad) to 5 (most bad).

 

Category

Strongest gusts (km/h)

Examples of typical effects

1 Less than 125 Negligible house damage.  Damage to some crops, trees and caravans.  Water craft may drag moorings.
2 From 125-164 Minor house damage.  Significant damage to signs, trees and caravans.  Heavy damage to some crops.  Risk of power failure.  Small water craft may break moorings.

3

From 165-224 Some roof and structural damage.  Some caravans destroyed.  Power failures likely.

4

From 225-279 Significant roofing loss and structural damage.  Many caravans destroyed and blown away.  Dangerous airborne debris.  Widespread power failures.

5

More than 280 Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction.

 

How to prepare for a cyclone

Living with cyclones is a part of life in NT.  The government knows this and provides plenty of advice and resources for the public.  Essentially, the best thing to do is be prepared and stay informed – turn on your TV or radio and get on the internet.  “Are you cyclone ready?”

 

  • Make sure you have a cyclone plan and that everyone in your house – including children – is aware of what to do.
  • Make sure you prune trees and clean up loose objects in your yard before cyclone season starts.  If you wait until a cyclone is on its way, it’s too late.
  • Make sure you have a cyclone kit ready.  It should contain at least three days worth of food and water plus torches, candles, matches, etc.  Download a free emergency checklist here.  Locals suggest stocking up on beer as well.
  • Make sure you stay informed – use radio, internet and TV.

 

Our first cyclone experience

On Thursday 19th November 2013, the category 1 Tropical Cyclone Alessia formed off the coast south of Java and started moving south-east towards Broome at approximately 13km/h.

 

Darwin was officially put on cyclone watch on Friday afternoon and advisory notices started playing on TV and radio.  This was a little contradictory to how Darwin media usually is.  It’s not uncommon to see ads on TV for events that have already happened, but in the case of Cyclone Alessia, there were TV and radio bulletins advising what to do as soon as Darwin was put on cyclone watch.  By Saturday afternoon, Darwin was upgraded to cyclone warning and we started getting excited.

 

Darwin on Cyclone Warning!

 

We already had an emergency kit and plenty of food and water, so we just had to stock up on beer and wine.  We tidied up outside by putting loose bits and pieces in the shed and moving the outdoor furniture right up to the house. We also started expecting a worried phone call from the parents back at home.  They were already fretting that we’d be taken by a croc and now they had to worry about a cyclone too?!

 

We woke up on Monday morning and discovered that TC Alessia had been downgraded to a tropical low when it made landfall a few hundred kilometres south of Darwin.  What a fizzer!

 

Cyclone Alessia

 

While we’re a little let down we didn’t get to experience an actual cyclone, we’re obviously happy that TC Alessia didn’t make it to Darwin and do any damage.  It was definitely a great practice run for the next cyclone.

 

Have you ever experienced a cyclone?  We’d love to hear your story!