Unless you are breaking your journey here, Darwin isn’t the first place that springs to mind for a family holiday. Most people head here on their way to visit Kakadu National Park or begin a road trip out to Kimberley.
We were in Darwin for exactly this reason – heading off to explore Kakadu and the surrounding national parks. But we were pleasantly surprised by the city itself and we happily spent a few days trying out all the best things to do in Darwin with kids.
Being quite small, the city is easy to navigate and as we were visiting during the dry season, the tropical weather was beautiful, making it a pleasure to wander along the esplanade, visit the waterfront area and do the coastal walk along Mindil beach.
We found an excellent playground on the esplanade and enjoyed the alfresco dining options along the waterfront promenade. (Don’t miss getting an ice cream at Trampoline Gelato!)
We also found plenty of kids activities in Darwin to keep everyone entertained for a few days.
We didn’t even have time to fit it all in, and as the weather was so lovely we could easily have stayed for a few more days and just hung out at our hotel pool!
So if you are planning your Darwin family holidays and are wondering what to do in Darwin with kids, then read on!
If you don’t have time to head out of town to see the crocodiles in their natural habitat, you can see them right in the city centre at Crocosaurus Cove, one of the most popular Darwin attractions for families.
This small Darwin zoo / aquarium is most famous as being home to the Cage of Death, one of the most crazy things to do in Australia!
Here you are lowered in a Perspex ‘cage’ into the enclosure of one of the large 5-metre+ saltwater crocodiles and left to mellow as the enormous reptile swims around you checking you out!
I bought Cage of Death tickets for my husband as a birthday ‘treat’. I have to say I completely underestimated how scary I would find it, and as we were being lowered down towards the water it felt much less of a ‘treat’ as I anticipated!
You do feel very vulnerable sitting there, but it is quite incredible seeing the large salties so close up. It is pretty much as close as you will get to a saltwater crocodile without losing a limb.
There are only 12 session times per day for the Cage of Death, so be sure to book ahead if you want to do this. Click here to book Cage of Death tickets.
Beyond the Cage of Death, you can check out all the salties – including Bart who starred in the movie Crocodile Dundee, watch one of the 9 reptile shows, see the Big Croc Feed Show and learn all about them in the exhibition.
There is also a ranger program during the school holidays.
Wave Pool Darwin
One of our most fun mornings in Darwin as a family was spent at the waterfront Darwin Wave Pool. This is a great resource to have in the middle of a tropical city.
There are plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas near the pool and shaded grassy areas for relaxing on. Boogie boards, inflatable rings and pool noodles are provided to make the experience even more fun.
This Darwin swimming pool is open every day from 10am-6pm and costs $7 per adult and $5 for children. You can also buy a family pass for $18 for up to 2 adults and 3 kids. Children aged 3 and under are free.
Pay to enter and get your wristbands from the kiosk behind the wave pool, and there are changing facilities here too.
There are plenty of nearby Darwin waterfront restaurants nearby for lunch or dinner after you have exhausted yourselves in the waves!
Big Buoy Darwin Water Park
Located in the water at the recreation lagoon right next to the wave pool is the Big Buoy Water Park, one of the most fun things to do in Darwin.
This inflatable floating water park is a lot of fun for kids, with its climbing cube, water slides and launch pad. My kids had so much fun climbing, jumping, bouncing and sliding!
Entry to the park is on the hour every hour. Timings change depending on season, so check the website for updates. Entry costs $16.50 per person per hour.
Ages 6 and above are allowed on the water park and the maximum weight allowed is 110kg. Adult supervision on the water park is required for under 11s.
You can also hire stand up paddleboards and kayaks from Big Buoy.
Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory
If you are looking for free things to do in Darwin, we really enjoyed our visit to this Darwin museum. With rotating art exhibitions and the permanent museum exhibits, we found it had a really good mix for the whole family.
The kids loved exploring all the animals and natural specimens in the natural history section, including ‘Sweetheart’ the preserved saltwater croc! They equally loved spotting some of the regional aboriginal art techniques we had learned about during our Kakadu tour.
The Cyclone Tracey exhibition is a must-do in Darwin too. This tropical cyclone ripped through the city of Darwin over Christmas in 1974, destroying 70% of the city’s buildings and leaving more than half the population homeless.
The museum is open every day from 10m to 5pm. If you visit in the late afternoon, you can wander next door to the Darwin Ski Club, a popular spot for sunset drinks. Alternatively you can follow the Coastal Walk back to Mindil Beach for the sunset markets.
Mindil Sunset Markets
The Mindil Sunset Markets are a Darwin institution and one of the best things to do in Darwin at night, making it a popular hangout with locals and tourists alike.
This Darwin market takes place every Thursday and Sunday from 4pm – 9pm, from 25thApril – 31stOctober.
Here you will find live music, market stalls selling local handicrafts and souvenirs, and a huge selection of food stalls hawking food from around the world.
If, like us, you are visiting Darwin during peak period, I would recommend heading down to the markets early. We arrived around 6pm and it was so crowded. After 5 days in the outback it was quite a culture shock!
It has a really relaxed atmosphere and fun vibe though, so definitely one of the cool things to do in Darwin.
War History Darwin Day Tour
Darwin was on the receiving end of Australia’s first enemy attack during World War II, when the Japanese rained bombs on the city on 19th February 1942.
There are several war related heritage sites around the city, including ammunition bunkers, oil storage tunnels, watch towers and more.
If you have older children, particularly those studying Australian history, taking a Darwin city tour of these sites is a great way learn more about what remains Australia’s largest ever military attack.
Jumping Crocs Tour
One of the most famous things to do around Darwin is to take a Jumping Crocs tour.
These fun Darwin crocodile tours take you 60km south of Darwin to the Adelaide River, which is home to more than 1600 crocodiles.
The one-hour boat cruise gives you the opportunity to see these enormous saltwater crocodiles in their natural habitat and experience their massive strength and agility as they leap out of the water for food.
Corroboree Wetland Cruise
One of our favourite things we did in Kakadu National Park was the Yellow Water Billabong tour. If you don’t have time to visit Kakadu, the Corroboree Wetland cruise is a great option for a wildlife-focussed Darwin sightseeing tour.
The Corroboree Billabong is part of the Mary River Wetlands, which is home to the largest concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the world.
In addition to viewing these crocs up close, you can also expect to view a huge variety of birds and other wildlife, including Jabiru storks, magpie geese, eagles, kingfishers and more.
The Corroboree Billabong is located around 100km from Darwin.
Litchfield National Park
Located just an hour’s drive from the city, Litchfield National Park is easily visited as a day trip from Darwin and as such is one of the most popular Northern Territory points of interest.
Litchfield National Park is home to several beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes and is also a popular destination for hikers.
The national park is staggeringly beautiful and is well worth hiring a car to explore for the day. Most swimming holes are easily reached without a 4WD vehicle.
If you don’t want to drive yourself, you can easily book a day tour from Darwin. Click here to learn more.
You can read more about the different waterfalls in Litchfield National Park here.
Where to Stay in Darwin
There is a good choice of family accommodation in Darwin, including hotels to suit all budgets and also plenty of Darwin apartment accommodation.
Here we highlight some of the best places to stay in Darwin for family holidays.
If you are planning to visit Darwin during peak season, be sure to book as far ahead as possible. When we visited, we found many of the best hotels in Darwin were fully booked.
Adina Apartments Darwin Waterfront
This Darwin waterfront accommodation is perfectly located at the waterfront precinct, close to plenty of restaurants and fun attractions such as the wave pool.
These Darwin waterfront apartments are available as one- or two-bedroom apartments, all offering full kitchen and laundry facilities, in addition to separate living areas.
Onsite facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, gym, restaurant and parking.
Doubletree by Hilton Darwin Esplanade
This Darwin city hotel is handily located on the Esplanade, right across the road from a fantastic kids playground and within easy walking distance of shops, restaurants and Crocosaurus Cove.
The Double Double rooms are available with two queen beds, to allow a family with two kids to all sleep in one room.
Onsite facilities include a large outdoor swimming pool, with a poolside restaurant open breakfast, lunch and dinner with a kids menu.
Do note that the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Darwin is located right next door to this hotel, which can lead to confusion with both booking the hotel and arranging transportation!
Mindil Beach Casino Resort
Formerly known as the SkyCity Darwin, this beachfront hotel in Darwin is known for being among the best luxury accommodation in Darwin.
Both 4-star hotel rooms and 5-star resort rooms are on offer at this Darwin casino hotel. All rooms can accommodate a family, with a choice of two queen beds on offer in most rooms.
Family friendly facilities abound at this 5 star hotel in Darwin, including 8 restaurants and bars, two large outdoor swimming pools and a private beach.
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