Darwin's central business district is bounded by Daly Street in the north-west, McMinn Street in the north-east, Mitchell Street on the south-west and Bennett Street on the south-east. The CBD has been the focus of a number of major projects, including the billion dollar redevelopment of the Stokes Hill wharf waterfront area including a convention centre with seating for 1500 people and approximately 4,000 square metres (43,000 sq ft) of exhibition space. The development includes hotels, residential apartments and public space.
Mitchell Street in the central business district is lined with nightclubs, takeaways, and restaurants. This is the city's entertainment hub. There are several smaller theatres, three cinema complexes (CBD, Casuarina, and Palmerston), and the Deckchair Cinema. This is an open-air cinema which operates through the dry season, from April to October, and screens independent and arthouse films.
The Smith Street Mall is a focal point for locals and a good place to start exploring. Here you'lll find the Victoria Hotel, or The Vic as it is commonly known, a heritage listed pub is one of the few late nineteenth-century buildings left in Darwin. Established in 1889 as the North Australia Hotel, The Vic has managed to survive cyclones over the decades and the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese in 1942.
The Star Theatre was the first purpose-built cinema in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. The partially open air theatre was built by Snell and Gordon, the company of well-known Darwin builder Harold Snell, in the 1920s. Destroyed during Cyclone Tracy, it was the centre of Darwin's social life between the 1930s and 1960s. The Star was renovated again and turned into a small shopping village containing a number of small shops and cafes. It continues to be a shopping arcade, now known as Star Village. The original projector is still on display near the entrance to the arcade.
Further along Smith Street on the corner of Harry Chan Avenue is Brown's Mart, the city's oldest commercial structure (1883). Opened in 1885 as the store 'Solomon's Emporium', it played many roles over the years, but today has become a cultural and historic icon of the city that is regularly used for theatre and performances. Opposite, the ruins of the Palmerston (Darwin) Town Hall are a reminder of Cyclone Tracy. Christ Church Cathedral (down Smith Street towards the harbour) has a memorial to the victims of the cyclone. The only part of the original cathedral to survive Tracy has been incorporated into the architecture of its replacement. In the courtyard behind the church is an ancient banyan tree, the Tree of Knowledge that has long been a meeting place for travellers, wise old-timers and free-thinking young people.
Christ Church Cathedral
Back towards the city is the Chinese Temple, which traces the history of the Chinese in the Territory. Heading west is State Square, dominated by the impressive extravagance of Parliament House. Nearby the Supreme Court has an amazing Aboriginal-designed floor mosaic; enter from Mitchell Street. Off the square are the Old Police Station and Courthouse, the Overland Telegraph Memorial and Government House. The Esplanade runs along the western foreshore of the city and Bicentennial Park.
The Old Court House and Police was built in 1884 for the South Australian Government, these colonial style buildings made from local stone have housed criminals, the Navy and today the NT Administrator's Offices. Restored after damage by Cyclone Tracy, these buildings are a stark reminder of the Darwin of yesteryear.
Darwin's small enclave of Doctors Gully is steeped in a rich tapestry of fascinating history, so much so that he waters of Doctors Gully have been declared an official marine sanctuary and are protected under the auspices of the Commonweath Government. At Doctors Gully, within walking distance of most city hotels is this unique attraction - a place where hundreds of fish come to shore at high tide to be fed by hand. It's all so very simple, yet one of the unforgettable experiences of any visit to Darwin.
Bicentennial Park is one of the most popular green spaces in the CBD with walking trails, memorial sites, lookouts and views that can include spectacular sunsets. Its lush green surrounds overlook the harbour and Lameroo Beach, creating picturesque views. It is a popular spot for a quiet walk or a calm picnic, with a great network of shared paths for walking and cycling. The park stretches from Northern Territory Parliament House to Doctor's Gully. It is home to monuments dedicated to those who died during the Bombing of Darwin, including: the Cenotaph War Memorial, the Civilian Memorial and the USS Peary Memorial. At the northern end is Aquascene, where you can hand-feed a variety of fish species at high tide. Major festivals that are held at Bicentennial Park include Greek Glenti where the Greek community gathers to celebrate their culture and food. Other major festivals are May Day and the Darwin Festival.
The USS Peary was an old American four-stacker destroyer and typifies how the Allies were scraping the bottom of the barrel for ships at the the testing time when Darwin was bombed by Japanese aircraft in February 1942. Elegant she was not, but she fought back fiercely before 5 bombs straddled the anchored ship and set off ammunition in her stern. The blast killed 80 crewmen. One seaman was still firing his gun as she sank beneath the waves. Much of this ship was salvaged by the Japanese in 1959, but there is is still a scatter of relics remaining, including ammunition, which should not be handled. Her deck gun has been raised and can be seen at Bicentennial Park.
Lameroo Beach is nestled against the cliffs along the Esplanade near Government House in Darwin's CBD. Darwin city's only natural beach, it has long been a popular camping, fishing and swimming spot for the Larrakia Aborigines and early residents of Darwin and was the location of the once popular all-season swimming baths. The baths were built to keep out crocodiles, but were less effective at excluding box jellyfish, which caused a number of deaths to bathers. The baths fell into disrepair during the 1950s.
Deckchair Cinema is an outdoor cinema located on the edge of Darwin Harbour. From April through to the end of the wet season, locals and visitors enjoy the screening of a cross section of current films, from family favourites to festivals and foreign films, under the stars at the Deckchair Cinema. It is a tradition to come early, bring the family and a picnic dinner, before watching a movie against the backdrop of a starlit night sky and the lights of ships passing or at anchor in the harbour. Location: end of Jervois Road off Kitchener Drive, Darwin Wharf Precinct.
Built in 1925, Lyons Cottage was originally known as the Cable Company Residence, as it was erected to house an executive of the British Australian Telegraph Company. In 1948, it became the home of John Lyons, a one time Mayor of Darwin, and his family. It is Darwin's only remaining example of colonial bungalow-style architecture. The building is filled with photos and descriptions of life in the early years of the city. Free admission. Location: Cnr The Esplanade and Knuckey St, Darwin.
Crocosaurus Cove, located in the heart of Darwin city, allows visitors a unique, up close and personal view of Australia's iconic Saltwater Crocodiles. Bringing together some of the largest Saltwater Crocodiles in Australia and boasting the World's largest display of Australian reptiles, Crocosaurus Cove is a must see attraction The thrilling 'Cage of Death' lets you (or you and a friend) experience being submerged into a tank with a five-metre croc. You'll also get to feed these amazing reptiles, handle a baby croc and see an aquarium full of sawfish, barramundi, archerfish and whip rays, as well as explore the Turtle Enclosure and Reptile House.
Galamarrma (Tree of Knowledge)
Galamarrma - The Tree of Knowledge in the centre of Darwin - is a banyan Tree (Ficus Virens) that is believed to be a remnant of the rain forest that once covered the area and is culturally significant to the Larrakia people. It was a place where youths met with and learned from their elders, and where wisdom was gained in its shade. Palmerston residents used the tree as a rest stop, a place for discussions, a postal address, community notice board and meeting place. The age of the tree is not known, but was well established by 1898. In 1969, due to public pressure to save the tree, plans for the Civic centre were altered by three meters to avoid destroying the tree which remains to this day.
WW II Oil Storage Tunnels
There are two events that have left an indelible mark on the city of Darwin; Cyclone Tracy and the bombing of the city during World War II by the Japanese. Reminders of both exist throughout the city centre - the oil storage tunnels under Stokes Hill are perhaps the city's greatest legacy of the Japanese bombing. The tunnels were built to protect Australia's north coastal wartime oil supplies from further air attacks following the bombing of Darwin in February 1942. Like most things past generations of Australians built to protect themselves against foreign invasion, it was a case of "too little, too late".
Town Hall Ruins
Looking at modern day Darwin, it is difficult for those who didn't witness Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day 1974 to conceive the power of its brute force and the devastation it caused, leading to the city having to be almost totally rebuilt. A stark reminder of this catastrophic event are the ruins of the Old Darwin (Palmerston) Town Hall in Smith Street.
Parliament House in Mitchell Street is Australia's newest Parliament Building, it has been the seat of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly since 1994. Parliament House is located on State Square in the centre of Darwin, which is also the administrative centre of the Northern Territory law and government. It stands on the site of the old Post Office and Telegraph Station, bombed during the WWII raid on Darwin. Free guided tours depart from the foyer of Parliament House at 9am and 11am every Saturday excluding the months of December and January, with an additional tour from May to September at 10.30am on Wednesday. You will visit all public areas and hear about the history of the site, the building, and the role of Parliament.
The Darwin Waterfront Precinct is a recreational/tourist area featuring restaurants, bars, a wave pool and a man-made beach. It is located five minutes' walk from the Darwin Central Business District (CBD). The Waterfront Precinct is built on reclaimed land from Kitchener Bay between Stokes Hill and Fort Hill (which has since been removed). The inviting, crystal blue waters of the Wave Lagoon draw everyone to the centre of the precinct with 10 different wave patterns to excite people of all ages. Open 10 am - 6 pm seven days a week, the Wave Lagoon is open all year round except Christmas Day.
The cool, aquamarine water of the nearby Recreation Lagoon laps at a sandy beach perfect for sand castles or a place to relax and enjoy a safe swim to escape the tropical heat. The Recreation Lagoon is patrolled by experienced lifeguards from 9 am to 6 pm seven days a week. Just like the ocean, the Recreation Lagoon is a natural ecosystem with fish, algae and small Cassiopeia jellyfish.
Stokes Hill Wharf
The historic Stokes Hill Wharf Precinct is a popular multi-purpose harbourside venue located only 5 minutes drive from the Darwin CBD. It features shopping, restaurant and tourist facilities complex on Darwin Harbour. The centrepiece of the complex is a Function Centre, around which are tourism facilities like a cruise ship wharf, alfresco dining areas, recreational fishing platforms and fishing charters, harbour cruises, sightseeing, shopping and live entertainment.
Indo Pacific Marine
A tropical aquarium on Darwin's Stokes Hill Wharf, the Indo Pacific Marine features a large aquarium displaying living coral and other denizens of tropical seas. In total, there are 30 marine displays including the living marine centre featuring coral reef ecosystems. Cafe and giftshop.
George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens
A stone s throw from the city centre (Geranium St off the Stuart Hwy) are 42 hectares of gardens that showcase local flora and that of other tropical habitats around the world. Explore monsoon forests, coastal foredunes and open woodlands on a stroll through the botanic gardens. Free entry. Open 7am - 7pm.