Darwin is a cosmopolitan city unique to Australia. But like its brethren, it has its own internal quirks worth discovering – you just need to look below the surface.
It helps if you’re on foot. Get yourself acquainted by basing yourself somewhere central. The Hilton Darwin or DoubleTree on the south-eastern edge of the CBD makes an ideal starting point to access the best of Darwin – as well as the possibility of ordering Boston Bay mussels from room service.
Start the day with breakfast at Alley Cats Patisserie, a cafe-slash-patisserie just four minutes walk from Hilton Darwin. A display cabinet brimming with exquisite baked goods invariably empties throughout the day – everything is baked fresh at Alley Cats, from the organic sourdough to the cronuts.
The breakfast menu features twists on classics such as smashed avo; poached eggs on toast; bircher muesli and granola; as well as decidedly creative dishes such as the loaded croissant; a heart-stopping dish of haloumi, beetroot relish, eggs and hollandaise; and, for the sweet tooth, double-choc waffles with choc-soil parfait, caramelised banana, hazelnut praline and chocolate sauce.
Refreshments include espresso, cold brew, house-made iced teas, freshly squeezed juices, and, if you’re feeling brave, over-the-top milkshakes adorned with whole lamingtons, ice cream cones, clusters of Froot Loops and chunks of chocolate.
Fend off any post-sugar slump at Rabbithole, one of Darwin’s best coffee spots, found in Smith Street mall. It’s a compact space that quickly fills and the coffee, sourced from Campos is top notch. Once caffeinated, take a walk around Bicentennial Park, which runs the length of Darwin’s waterfront.
Back on Knuckey Street, head to hotspot PM Eat and Drink for lunch. Occupying a space in the former Woolworths building on graffiti-lined Austin Lane, PM Eat and Drink opened to much acclaim in 2016. The focus here is on seafood – evident from the marine-themed murals that decorate the walls – and striking share plates. Think chargrilled swordfish, whole fried Northern Territory-caught coral prawns and the freshest sashimi. The food menu is supported by an impressive award-winning wine list.
Head north to the waterside Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), one of the Northern Territory’s premier cultural institutions. Located on Larrakia land at Bullocky Point, MAGNT’s impressive collection includes 1.2 million natural history specimens and more than 30,000 artworks and cultural items. It’s also the home of the prestigious Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, which culminates in a major exhibition that runs from August to November each year.
No visit to Darwin is complete without a deep dive into its markets. Parap, Rapid Creek and Nightcliff markets are best tackled in the cool of the morning, but the most famous, Mindil Beach Sunset Market, is an afternoon affair. Operating on Thursday and Sunday evenings during the dry season, the Mindil market boasts a diverse array of stalls, among them food from sushi to souvlaki; artists, makers and jewellers; and the odd masseur or tarot reader. The seaside sunset is guaranteed to attract a gaggle of tourists keen to capture the perfect snap as the sun sinks below the ocean.
Oysters come freshly shucked and chilled or grilled at Oyster Bar. The waterfront eatery sources its oysters from Coffin Bay in South Australia, home to some of the country’s finest bivalves. A range of mostly seafood options make up the menu’s remainder: salt and pepper squid, panko prawns, prawn twisters and more. A wide selection of Australian beers and wine comprise the drinks list, as well as a collection of classic cocktails and, of course, oyster shots served three ways: Bloody Mary, chilli (with chilli vodka, tabasco and lime juice), and tequila (with pepper, tabasco and lime juice).
If you’d rather feast on flavours from Thailand, Indonesia and beyond, dine Asian restaurant Hanuman inside the Hilton DoubleTree boasts locally-sourced seafood and a special Hanuman Tasting Plate, offering a sample selection of the restaurant’s best dishes.
Finish your day out with an open air nightcap at the The Deck Bar, a Mitchell Street venue that makes the most of Darwin’s balmy climate. Sip on a cocktail – an Espresso Martini, the Perfect Storm – a moody mix of spiced rum, lime, bitters and ginger beer – or the Last Word (chartreuse, gin, lemon, Luxardo Maraschino) – before embarking on the breezy two-minute stroll to crisp clean sheets.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Hilton Discover. Hilton Discover encourages travellers discover a destination like a local.