A Little Homesick
The Graduate Escape

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Darwin

Ladies and Gentlemen, today I present to you: Darwin.

If you enjoy saunas or steam rooms, Darwin is the city for you. I naively thought that going the week before “winter” began would give us a little respite from the humidity . . . I was wrong. Darwin autumns are like Sunny Coast summers: hot, humid and cloudless. I loved it, my hair not so much. Darwin’s tropical climate makes it, so I’m told, pretty inhospitable during the summer months – there wouldn’t be enough frizz-ease in the world to tame my locks. Going around autumn/winter makes the daytime temperatures significantly more bearable and the nights – dare I say it – pleasant! Don’t even think about going for an early morning run, though. Although the views over the water are spectacular, you’ll still return absolutely dripping.

Accommodation

Try to stay in one of the hostels on Mitchell Street. You’ll be in centre of the city, surrounded by bars and restaurants, and (most importantly) just down the road from Cotton On. Chillis and the YHA are two that spring to mind. Expect to pay between $20-$30 per night.

We stayed in a hostel that was more . . . amphibian . . . in name. DON’T GO HERE! It’s dirty, there’s mould on the bedroom walls, and full of creepy old men lurking outside the rooms. I mean, unless that’s your sort of thing, then you’d love it!

If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more relaxed but still walking distance from the action, try looking around the waterfront precinct – it’s got a much more cosmopolitan vibe and is probably my favourite area in the city.

Activities

Crocodiles: these are probably Darwin’s (and the Northern Territory’s) most famous residents. They also bear an uncanny resemblance to my un-moisturised legs. No trip to Darwin is complete without some sort of crocodile experience, and I’m hoping for your sake it’s in a controlled environment rather than in the wild . . .

The most obvious choice to get your croc fix is Crocosaurus Cove and, being the basic tourist that I am, that’s where Poppy and I headed. It’s $35 for an adult ticket (yes, I did consider trying to get away with a child’s ticket) and that includes all the animal shows, holding a baby croc (but no photos), and multiple entries throughout the day.

Crocosaurus Cove is also home to the legendary Cage of Death. This totally-safe-sounding experience involves being places in a giant plastic tumbler and being slowly lowered into the water in one of the crocodile enclosures. The staff then poke a giant stick with a bit of meat on the end through the railings to try and tempt the crocodile closer. Not going to lie, I was super keen to do this at first and the only thing that stopped me was Poppy’s reluctance, but I’m quite glad I didn’t now. It’s really expensive at $170 for one person and the whole thing only lasts for 15 minutes. Also the glass was pretty scratched so I’m not sure how good the view from inside would be. These are clearly all excuses, and the real reason why I’m glad I didn’t partake was that the crocodiles were bloody ginormous and I would’ve been absolutely terrified – probably would’ve cried.

Speaking of their size, although Crocosaurus Cove is a great option for those who are money and time-limited, I’m not sure how ethical it is. I’m not saying they mistreat the animals at all, my only concern is that the enclosures seem quite small, but hey, I’m in no way a crocodile expert. Also the whole holding the baby crocodiles set up seemed a little iffy. I’m 100% guilty of holding koalas (both at Currumbin and Australia Zoo) and I’ve also held snakes, but these little crocs had their mouths sellotaped shut and were kept under the computer desk until someone came along. There were also a selection of props – like sunglasses – and big ol’ bright lights, which rubbed me the wrong way. The lady working there also said that they weren’t really sure which crocodile was which, so the same animal could be taken for photos multiple days running, essentially overworking them. Call me hypocritical, call me over-sensitive, but my animal rights senses were tingling, and I’ll happily be proved wrong.

There’s a few other options too, but because I was short on time and on a tight budget, I couldn’t visit them. Crocodylus Park is a 15 minute drive from the city centre and offers the chance to take an eco-cruise to see the crocs, and also has a selection of other animals on offer. Had we not just been to Australia Zoo, we probably would’ve gone here.

Another option would be one of the jumping croc cruises. These take place outside of Darwin (most on or around the Adelaide River) and whilst they offer the chance to see wild crocodiles in their natural environment, they are noticeably pricier. Having said this, both my local Darwin contact and the lady in the Ripcurl shop recommended it. I’ve seen the photos and it does look awesome. Next time, Darwin, next time.

The final option would be to just take a dip in any watering hole that you see around Darwin. If there’s a sign warning you about the presence of crocs the better! Not only will you not spend a dollar, but you can get up close and personal with these dinosaurs! Think of all the edgy Instagram shots you can take! I’m kidding. Don’t do this. I will not be held responsible for any crocodile-related deaths of readers.

MAGNT: Surprise, surprise, I went to a museum and an art gallery. Two of my favourite activities rolled into one – how’s that for a cultural explosion! Located about 40 minute walk from the city centre, if you’re after a little culture don’t miss it. Also if you’re after air con this is the place to be. Downstairs you’ll find the usual suspects: natural history and, being Darwin, a corner dedicated to Sweetheart the crocodile. Another bit not to be missed is the section about the not-so-scary-sounding Cyclone Tracey. For those of you not in the loop, Cyclone Tracey destroyed Darwin on Christmas Day of 1974. She’s kind of a big deal, despite being given the name of a middle-aged mum. Art-wise, the current exhibition (as of May 2017) looks into life in New Guinea. The photographs cover everything from modern-day gangs to the country's more spiritual side. They've also got a selection of artefacts - think: masks, drums, etc - which are incredible. 

Mindil Beach: during the dry season (May-October) Mindil beach is home to the famous sunset markets on Thursdays and Sundays. Obviously we timed our visit to not coincide with either of these days . . . but I’ve heard that the markets are a must-see. Oops. During the day the beach is pretty empty, and not one I’d recommend for swimming. Last year there were 130 deaths around Australia due to preventable drownings . . . all of those outside the flags. Boom. Who said I didn’t pay attention at work? No flags at Mindil Beach = no swimming for Sarah. Also crocs and sharks and stuff. Poppy mocked me for being a Cautious Carol until Sam confirmed that it was, in fact, a stupid idea due to sharks and crocs. It pays to be a Sensible Susan, kids. The sunsets here are also meant to be epic, but sadly we missed out due to a prior burger and beer date in the city. Priorities.

The Waterfront: a far safer place to swim. Not only are there flags, but there’s also lifeguards. Into the water I went. This whole area is really modern and full of nice apartments and restaurants. It’s really easy to get to too as it’s just a short stroll down Smith Street and across the bridge! You’ve got a few options for swimming here as well: the little lagoon (free), a wave pool ($7 for an adult ticket), and an inflatable water extravaganza ($15 per person, per hour). Once I’ve married a billionaire, I’ll definitely be heading back and checking out both the wave pool and doing the inflatable thing, but until then the lagoon will have to suffice. A mega bonus of Darwin’s ridiculous excuse for autumn (aka 34ºC and sunny) is that the water feels like bath water. In May! To give you an idea of sea temperatures across Australia at this point in the year: I’m pretty sure I spotted an iceberg off the Sunny Coast the other week and I’ve heard that Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay has completely frozen over and there was a polar bear sighted in St Kilda last Tuesday. As if this oasis couldn’t get any better, there’s minimal sand and maximum grass surrounding all three pools. So I will not be finding sand everywhere for the next week, thank you very much. Darwin, you beauty.

Bicentennial Park: much closer to the main hub of the city is Bicentennial Park, a sort of long stretch of grass with a play area and amazing views across the water. I’d heard only bad things about Darwin (thanks mum) but honestly, the views are spectacular. Especially early in the morning (about 7am) when I foolishly went for a run. At this hour there’ll be quite a few exercisers, a little later and you can find mummy aerobic classes, and any later than that you’ll be too busy searching for air con to visit ;)

Botanic Gardens: I truly am my mother’s daughter. En route to the MAGNT, we popped into the botanic gardens to visit a particular café. I’d come across Eva’s Café when researching hipster places to eat in Darwin. Eva’s is a really cute little café in an old church with a breakfast menu to die for. I was torn between the coconut bircher and the homemade granola but, as photos show, the granola won. Coconut yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit. I also had one of their juices (a watermelon concoction) that sadly I drank before photographing. Professional instagrammer, I am not.

Things I didn't have time for . . .

Darwin Military Museum: history geek and proud! I'm kind of ashamed to say that I know next to nothing about Australia's involvement in WWII. Okay, I know absolutely nothing. Shameful, I know. Anyway, the Darwin Military Museum is open 7 days a week, tickets are $18 for an adult, and you can find out all about the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese in February 1942.

Fannie Bay: if you're looking for somewhere actually safe to swim in Darwin, Fannie Bay Beach is the place to go (so I'm told). It's part of the East Point Reserve and is safe even during box jellyfish season (roughly October to May). If prisons are more your sort of thing, you can head inland to Fannie Bay Gaol. Open for almost 100 years from 1883 to 1979, the gaol is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays only, form 10am - 3pm.

Transport

An incredibly short section, as Poppy and I decided to walk everywhere to save money. Darwin is a pretty walkable city, with our longest journey being around 40 minutes. Having said this, during the summer months I'd say it would be nearly impossible to walk anywhere - I'm not exaggerating about the humidity. Luckily Darwin does have a bus network with timetables and other information being found here!

The Roadtrip

Soooo folks, time for one of my more risky ideas: driving from Darwin to Perth in 8 days. Yeah . . . I'm not known for my good decisions (just look at my ex-boyfriends). Today being Friday, I'm going to post a lil blog explaining everything on Sunday, then I'll start a day-by-day coverage on Monday. You're all sitting on the edge of your seats, I know.

Hold tight, fellow humans!