It is nothing unusual to hear visitors to the Northern Territory say they were told not to visit during the wet season because “it’s too hot and it rains”. While that is true in some respects, Kakadu National Park can be spectacular during both the wet season and the dry season.
But with the dry season upon us (May – September), let’s take a look at where in Kakadu you can visit with cheap car hire from Darwin. What surprises many visitors are finding is that Kakadu really isn’t all that far from Darwin – it’s just 3 hours via the Arnhem and Sturt Highway. It is important to remember that you will need a park pass to enter Kakadu. You will need to purchase before you arrive in the park. Get them here.
Laying 100km north of Darwin, the Tiwi Islands is the perfect day tour destination to explore the culture and history of the “Island of Smiles”. There are minimal tourist facilities across the 11 islands that make up Tiwi, however only Bathurst and Melville Islands is are open to visitors.
So how to get to the Tiwi Islands? There are two options to get from Darwin to the Tiwi Islands – a 30-minute flight from Darwin, or a ferry that travels from Darwin to Bathurst Island three times a week. If you are coming from Darwin Airport, we offer car rentals in Darwin close to the airport. It is then just under 10km to Cullen Bay Marina where you can get the ferry to the Tiwi Islands.
If you find yourself in the Northern Territory but only have limited time to explore, there’s plenty to do in and around Darwin. While the city and surrounds can be easy enough to get around on public transport, organising car rentals in Darwin will allow you to see more in a shorter time period. With Gecko, you can take advantage of cheap car hire and ute hire in Darwin.
Crocosaurus Cove & Crocodylus Park
Always wanted to swim with a croc? Crocosaurus Cove is home to the only crocodile dive in the country, allowing you an up close and personal interaction with some pretty large saltwater crocodiles. Swimming not for you? Feed the juvenile salties, hold a baby croc and discover some of our Northern Territory reptiles in the reptile house.
Crocodylus Park is fantastic for the smaller people travelling with you. With saltwater crocs ranging from babies to 4.5m adults, big cats, primates, water buffalo, kangaroos, meerkats and a range of reptiles and birds, you certainly won’t be short on things to see. Make sure you jump on a crocodile feeding tour or a Croc Boat Cruise.
City’s Military History
Darwin is absolutely teeming with military history, and the Bombing of Darwin is still the largest single attack on Australia by a foreign power, as the target of Japanese air raids in 1942. As a result, there are a number of fantastic heritage sites around the city including ammunition bunkers, airfields, oil storage tunnels, explosive stores and watch towers.
Jump on one of the guided tours from the city, or visit the Darwin Military Museum and Defence of Darwin Experience in East Point Reserve, Bombing of Darwin Harbour and Royal Flying Doctor Service Experience at Stokes Hill Wharf, the WWII Observation Post in Sandy Creek, WWII Strauss Airfield Precinct in Noonamah.
Sunset Markets at Mindil Beach
The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets are a must visit when in Darwin. With food stalls serving cuisine from over 30 different countries across five continents, there’s certainly plenty to choose from. Walk around the markets, purchase quality art and craftwork from local artists, watch buskers and performing artists before deciding on what to eat and heading down to the beach to watch the sunset.
The markets run on Thursdays and Sundays from April to October and are certainly worth the visit.
Taste the Local Food
With residents from so many different countries and cultures living in and around Darwin, you could be forgiven for getting overwhelmed with where to eat! From local mackerel in a fish curry from Spice Garden Eating House and Wild Caught NT Saltwater Barramundi at Pee Wee’s at The Point to local Mud Crabs from the Darwin Fish Market and Crocodile Laska at Elijah’s Kitchen, there is plenty to try.
Consider a Day Trip to the Tiwi Islands
It comes as a surprise to many visitors to Darwin that the Tiwi Islands are only a 2.5 hour ferry ride away. SeaLink runs a ferry trip to Bathurst Island where participants meet their local Tiwi guide for a journey through the Wurrumiyanga community. Visit the Patakijiyali Culture Museum, as well as the Mission Precinct where you can view the unique Catholic Church. Have morning tea with the Tiwi women who will bless you with a smoking ceremony. View and purchase Tiwi arts and crafts from the various centres and learn some of the rituals associated with the Pukamani (burial ceremony). Permits are required to travel to the Tiwi Islands.
Darwin is full of amazing and wonderful places to discover. Grab yourself cheap car hire in Darwin and start exploring!
Only an hour south-east of Darwin, but feeling like a whole other world away, the Djukbinj National Park (pronounced jook-binj) sits on the Arnhem Highway, east of Humpty Doo. Home to a section of the Adelaide River, Djukbinj is an important roosting and feeding habitat for a range of waterbirds including magpie geese, egrets and brolgas, as well as other wildlife.
The park is a traditional hunting ground for the Limilngan people, who today manage the park in partnership with Parks and Wildlife. Access to the park is limited between December and March due to the area receiving 90% of its annual rain fall during this time.
Rent a car with Gecko Car Hire Darwin and travel 120km south of Katherine along the Stuart Highway and you’ll soon come across Elsey National Park. This national park is on the smaller side when compared with the other parks across the Northern Territory but it sure won’t disappoint the traveller looking for somewhere to stop and explore.
If you’ve ever wanted to test the benefits of swimming in thermal springs, Elsey National Park is the place to do it. The Mataranka Thermal Pool is well known for its healing benefits where you can lay back under the shade of the pandanus, paperbark and palm forest. The pool is spring fed and sits at 34 degrees year-round.
The nearby Bitter Springs is surrounded by palms and tropical woodlands. Laze back in the 33-degree temperature of this thermal pool while you keep an eye out for the native wild and birdlife that are attracted to the area.
Need to cool off? Stevie’s Hole, found a little further along the Waterhouse River, isn’t warmed by the springs and is the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day.
Visiting Darwin and looking for the ultimate wetlands adventure? The Corroboree Billabong forms part of the Mary River Wetlands and is perfect for a day trip from Darwin or for a stop on your way to Kakadu National Park.
Just 90 minutes south-east of Darwin or west of Kakadu, the wetlands are located not far off the Arnhem Highway, and absolutely teeming with wildlife.
2 days - 1 week
Darwin to Katherine and surrounds to Darwin
Best in dry season June - September
320kms south-east of Darwin with some of the most stunning desert and national park sights in the Northern Territory, if Katherine isn’t on your bucket list – add it now!
From deep gorges surrounded by stunning sandstone cliffs to hot springs for a weary soul, you can do Katherine and surrounds in as little as two days or take your time to meander through this amazing part of Australia.
Discovered back in the 19th century, Bitter Springs is a favourite with many travellers. Located within Elsey National Park, just over an hour south of Katherine out of the town of Mataranka, you won’t want to leave these spring-fed thermal pools. Perfect to relax after driving or exploring the national park. Don’t forget an underwater camera for this one!
1 - 5 days
Darwin to Darwin
Best in Dry Season June - September
3 days - 1 week
Darwin to Darwin
Best in Dry Season June - September
Rent a car from Darwin, pack a tent or book ahead and enjoy the best of Kakadu National Park. There’s a treasure chest of natural beauties within. Welcome to outback Australia!
This trip kicks off in Ubirr, a 3.5 hour drive from Darwin. Ubirr is famous for its well preserved ancient Aboriginal rock art. Throw your walking shoes on and take on the Ubirr walk, which takes you past some of the amazing art sites and leads to a beautiful lookout, a great place to catch the sunset.