Darwin's parks, harbor, and tropical clime make it lovely for strolling during the Dry. The tourist office distributes a free map showing a Historical Stroll of 17 points of interest around town. The Esplanade makes a pleasantly short and shady saunter, and the 42-hectare (104-acre) George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens (tel. 08/8981 1958), on Gardens Road 2km (1 1/4 miles) from town, has paths through palms, orchids, every species of baobab in the world, and mangroves. Entry is free. Take bus no. 4 or 6; the buses drop you at the Gardens Road entrance, but you might want to walk straight to the visitor center (daily 8:30am-4pm), near the Geranium Street entrance (24 hr.), to pick up self-guiding maps to the Aboriginal plant-use trails.
The pleasant 5km (3-mile) trail along Fannie Bay from the Skycity Darwin hotel and casino to the East Point Military Museum is also worth doing. Keep a lookout for some of the 2,000 wild wallabies on the east side of the road near the museum.
Darwin has two wildlife parks worth visiting. At the Territory Wildlife Park (tel. 08/8988 7200; www.territorywildlifepark.com.au), 61km (38 miles) south of Darwin at Berry Springs, you can take a free shuttle or walk 6km (3 3/4 miles) of bush trails to see native Northern Territory wildlife in re-created natural habitats, including monsoon rainforest boardwalks, lagoons with hides (shelters for watching birds), a walk-through aviary, a walk-through aquarium housing sting rays and sawfish, and a nocturnal house with marsupials such as the bilby. Bats, birds, spiders, crocs, frill-neck lizards, kangaroos, and other creatures also make their homes here (but not koalas, because they don't live in the Territory). A program of animal talks runs throughout the day. The best is the birds of prey show, at 11am and 2:30pm. Go first thing to see the animals at their liveliest, and allow 4 hours to see everything, plus 45 minutes traveling time. It's open daily from 8:30am to 6pm (last entry at 4pm), and closed December 25. Admission is A$26 for adults, A$13 for children 5 to 16, A$46 for a family of one adult and two children, or A$72 for families of six. Take the Stuart Highway for 50km (31 miles) and turn right onto the Cox Peninsula Road for about another 11km (7 miles).
In addition to housing a small crocodile museum, Crocodylus Park & Zoo (tel. 08/8922 4500; www.crocodyluspark.com), a 15-minute drive from town at 815 McMillan's Rd., Berrimah (opposite the police station), holds croc-feeding sessions and free hour-long guided tours at 10am, noon, 2pm, and 3:30pm. It doubles as Darwin's zoo, with exotic species including lions, Bengal tigers, leopards, and monkeys on display. It's open daily from 9am to 5pm (closed Dec 25). Admission is A$30 for adults, A$22 for seniors, A$15 for children 3 to 15, and A$80 for families. Bus no. 5 (Mon-Fri only), from Darwin, will drop you about a 5-minute walk from the park entrance.
The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Conacher Street, Bullocky Point (tel. 08/8999 8264; www.magnt.nt.gov.au), also holds an attraction for crocodile fans -- the preserved body of Sweetheart, a 5m (16-ft.) man-eating saltwater croc captured in Kakadu National Park. The museum and gallery is a great place to learn about Darwin's place in Australia's modern history. It has sections on Aboriginal, Southeast Asian, and Pacific art and culture, and a maritime gallery with a pearling lugger and other boats that have sailed into Darwin from Indonesia and other northern parts. A highlight is the Cyclone Tracy gallery, where you can stand in a small, dark room as the sound of the cyclone rages around you. The gallery and museum are open from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday, and 10am to 5pm weekends and public holidays; closed January 1, Good Friday, and December 25 and 26. The cafe has lovely bay views. Admission is free to the permanent exhibits. Take bus no. 4.
Darwin was bombed 64 times during World War II, and 12 ships were sunk in the harbor. It was an Allied supply base, and many American airmen were based here. The Darwin Military Museum, Alec Fong Lim Drive, East Point (tel. 08/8981 9702; www.darwinmilitarymuseum.com.au), housed in a World War II gun command post, plays a video of the 1942 and 1943 Japanese bombings. It has small but fine displays of photos, memorabilia, artillery, armored vehicles, weaponry old and new, and gun emplacements outside. It's open daily from 9:30am to 5pm (closed Good Friday and Dec 25). Admission is A$12 adults, A$10 seniors, A$5 children 5 to 15, and A$30 families.
Empty World War II oil storage tunnels (tel. 08/8985 6322), on Kitchener Drive, in the Wharf Precinct, house a collection of black-and-white photographs of the war in Darwin, each lit up in the dark. The simple but haunting attraction is worth a visit. Admission is A$5 adults and A$3 children. The tunnels are closed in December and February. They open daily from 9am to 4pm May through September and 9am to 1pm Tuesday through Sunday and public holidays October through April.
Even if you are not a military or aircraft buff, you may enjoy the excellent Australian Aviation Heritage Centre, 557 Stuart Hwy., Winnellie (tel. 08/8947 2145; www.darwinsairwar.com.au). A B-52 bomber on loan from the United States is the prized exhibit, but the center also boasts a B-25 Mitchell bomber; Mirage and Sabre jet fighters; rare Japanese Zero fighter wreckage; and funny, sad, and heartwarming (and heart-wrenching) displays on World War II and Vietnam. Hours are daily from 9am to 5pm (closed Good Friday and Dec 25). Admission is A$12 for adults, A$9 for seniors, A$7.50 for students, A$7 for children 11 and under, and A$30 for families. Guided tours are at 10am. The Heritage Centre is 10 minutes from town; take the no. 5 or 8 bus.
For an insight into Darwin's pearling industry, visit the Australian Pearling Exhibition (tel. 08/8999 6573), on Kitchener Drive near the Wharf Precinct. It has displays following the industry from the days of the lugger and hard-hat diving to modern farming and culture techniques. It's open from 10am to 3pm daily; closed December 25 to February 28. Tickets cost A$6.60 for adults, A$3.30 for children, and A$17 for families of five.
If you have an evening free, get out on the harbor. Australian Harbour Cruises (tel. 0428/414 000 mobile phone; www.australianharbourcruises.com.au) offers 3-hour sunset cruises aboard the restored lugger Anniki. They leave Cullen Bay Marina daily at 4:45pm and cost A$70 for adults and A$50 for kids 15 and under. The price includes a glass of bubbly and some nibbles. Darwin Harbour Cruises (tel. 08/8942 3131; www.darwinharbourcruises.com.au) operates a sunset champagne cruise aboard the sailing schooner Tumlaren, which costs A$70 per adult and A$45 for children 2 to 12. A sit-down four-course dinner cruise aboard the Alfred Nobel costs A$110 adults and A$65 children 2 to 12. Cruises leave from Cullen Bay Marina.
The Top End's wetlands and warm oceans are fishing heaven. The big prey is barramundi, or "barra." Loads of charter boats conduct jaunts of up to 10 days in the river and wetland systems around Darwin, Kakadu National Park, and into remote Arnhemland.
The same company that runs Darwin's Tour Tub bus runs the Northern Territory Fishing Office (tel. 1800/632 225 in Australia, or 08/8985 6333; www.ntfishingoffice.com.au), a booking agent for a number of fishing charter boats offering barramundi day trips and extended wetland safaris, reef fishing, light tackle sportfishing, fly-fishing, and estuary fishing. A day's barra fishing on wetlands near Darwin will cost around A$320 per person; for an extended barra safari, budget between A$550 and A$825 per person per day, depending on the size of your group (up to five people). If you simply want to cast a line in Darwin Harbour for trevally, queenfish, and barra, the company will take you out for A$110 per person (or A$95 for kids under 12) for a half-day. It also rents skipper-yourself fishing boats and tackle. Also check out the fishing section on www.travelnt.com for detailed information on fishing tours, guides, and everything you need to know to make your arms ache from reeling 'em in!
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.