Darwin; What’s It Really like?

If you’ve never been to Darwin, and up until Saturday 29th of June this year I hadn’t, I suspect it is one of those cities that you really can’t be too sure about. I know that’s how it was for me and as I said before on these pages, I’ve always felt it’s the kind of city you either love or hate.

That incredible bit of insight from me is entirely based on the fact that people who have commented or emailed me about the city have either loved it or hated it. I have had some readers describe Darwin as “a hidden paradise” and others as a “hellhole“.

So, after having spent 10 days there, which category do I fall into?

Our holiday in Darwin.

The idea of going to Darwin this month, apart from really wanting to see the place, was to have a summer holiday in winter. How did that work out?

Scorchio

Scorchio

Mission accomplished, I’d say, the weather was scorchio! Clear blue skies and not a hint of rain. Well, it’s not known as the dry season for nothing. Temperatures were hitting 32° to 35° each day; it was so much like the height of summer here in Brisbane.

So yes, we have had a summer holiday in winter.

But what’s Darwin like?

The city centre itself is incredibly small, there’s really not very much there. As for shops, very few of those too, and certainly no Myer, David Jones, not even a Kmart or a Big W. In fact, no major shopping mall (Update July 2015: oops, I really should not have used the word ‘mall’ because Darwin does have a shopping mall as explained to me by Michael below in the comments, my apologies for the confusion, I won’t do it again) or large indoor shopping complex at all in the city.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just pointing out that the city centre is very small, although that shouldn’t surprise me as the population of Darwin, at about 127,000 if you include the very close city of Palmerston, is also very small compared to our other cities.

But if shopping is your thing, my guess is that you will be one of those who hate Darwin.

When we arrived at our apartment we were met by its owner, Paul. Mrs Bobinoz was quick to ask “I thought the apartment was supposed to be in the heart of the city?

You don’t get more central than this.” was the reply, and, as it turned out, we WERE right in the heart of it, it just didn’t feel that way.

Here are some views from our balcony…

View above Darwin Plaza and the main shopping precinct.

View above Darwin Plaza and the main shopping precinct.

Below the tall building would be Mitchell Street, that's where most of the bars are.

Below the tall building would be Mitchell Street, that’s where most of the bars are.

And then to the right of that, you are already heading out of the city.

And then to the right of that, you are already heading out of the city.

And here’s a closer look at the Smith Street shopping precinct…

Smith St

Smith St precinct

About a 10 minute walk from the main drag of the city, you could be at the Waterfront…

On the waterfront

On the waterfront, shark, croc and jellyfish free swimming in the lagoon

Behind this relaxing same our water sprays and a wave machine

Behind this relaxing scene are water sprays and a wave machine

Remember, these pictures were taken right during the very middle of winter here; are you feeling slightly jealous yet?

The dry season

Of course, it may be the middle of winter, but Darwin doesn’t get winters or any of the four seasons, they get the wet season and the dry season. I was sure that I was seeing Darwin in its very best light having chosen to visit during the dry season.

Surely the wet season is simply too wet and too humid?

Not according to Paul the apartment owner, to whom I was bragging about the wisdom of the timing of my visit.

Not really,” he said “I much prefer the wet season. The mango’s are in season, the fishing is much better and although it can, shall we say, get a little bit uncomfortable at times with the humidity, it’s still my favourite time of the year.

In a way, I could imagine how different the area would be during the wet season with lush grass and billabongs replacing the dry, cracked up scorched earth I was seeing during my visit.

It’s not about the city

Darwin, from what I can make out, is definitely not about city life. It’s about enjoying the great outdoors and the area certainly has that in droves.

Eat picnic food and drink BYO beer and wine from your Esky while sitting at the free tables and chairs supplied at Stokes Hill Wharf; enjoy movies under the stars at the Deckchair Cinema; or enjoy the Mindil Beach Market before taking your picnic and drinks to the beach to watch the sunset…

Sunset at Mindil Beach

Sunset at Mindil Beach

Or visit Kakadu…

Kakadu - Ubirr

Kakadu – Ubirr

Darwin gets a big thumbs up, not just from me, but also from Mrs Bobinoz and Elizabeth. We loved it! We are not saying we want to live there, we are very happy in Brisbane, but we loved it as much as we loved Hobart two years ago, but for very very different reasons.

I know I could live in either of those places quite happily.

Dangerous creatures

What about the crocs and other killer critters in Darwin Bob?

Yes, I thought you’d ask. So on Friday I’ll cover that and maybe we will do a bit of crocodile hunting.

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{ 38 comments… add one }
  • carol July 10, 2015, 5:35 pm | Link

    I went to darwin two weeks ago and i loved it. i read everything you wrote about it here on your site before going there. it was the kind of city i was exactly looking for, not a lot of people, relaxed, quiet, clean, lots of outdoor adventure. They do have a shopping centre now called Casuarina Square. Darwin is the kind of change I want since my life has been revolving around city living for as long as i can remember. i feel tired and burned out from the lifestyle i’ve created here in Manila. Darwin was a breath of fresh air. i want to raise my kids there and will be processing my migration papers soon. I continue to read your posts bobinoz!

    • BobinOz July 10, 2015, 9:03 pm | Link

      Yes, it’s definitely a chilled out place to live Carol, I can see why it would feel like a breath of fresh air of the Manila. I hope you’re visa application goes well and you get to raise your kids in Darwin.

  • Michael July 2, 2015, 6:25 am | Link

    A Mall? Darwin City does indeed have a “Mall”, its “Smith Street Mall”.

    In Australia a “Mall” is not what American’s call a Mall. A Mall is a paved street ONLY for Pedestrian Traffic, usually surrounded by Retail Shops. Darwin’s main Mall is “Smith Street Mall”, its in the centre of the Darwin CBD.

    What American’s call a Mall is called a “Shopping Centre” in Australia, of which there are several in Darwin, Palmerston & Casuarina. Yes the biggest one is in Casuarina, which is a residential suburb of Darwin.

    • BobinOz July 2, 2015, 7:42 pm | Link

      Hello Michael

      Thank you for clearing that up, you are absolutely right, my bad. I was using the word mall as in the North American terminology to mean indoor shopping centre. As you have quite rightly pointed out, they are referred to as ‘Shopping Centres’ here although some people do say mall.

      Like me.

      Not sure why I do though, because I’m not from North America, I’m from England, and even in England we call them shopping centres.

      I really do need to pull my socks up 🙂

      I have made the necessary amendment to my post and credited you.

      Cheers, Bob

  • Someone July 1, 2015, 4:37 pm | Link

    Darwin does have a indoor mall. Casurina

    • BobinOz July 1, 2015, 10:13 pm | Link

      Yes, it does, but it’s not in the city 🙂 it’s a fair distance from it. I was just pointing out that the city itself doesn’t have a mall, which is unusual.

  • Nick Alex September 10, 2014, 11:46 am | Link

    Hahahahaha yes perhaps,

    Thanks for your kind replies Bob and all the best with this wonderful page of yours,

    Cheers, Nick from Sydney :-)))

  • Nick Alex September 9, 2014, 7:18 pm | Link

    Hey Bob,

    Oh dear that doesn’t sound too good…lol

    Whenever i go for a holiday somewhere its usually for a few weeks….if i visit Darwin….it may only be for a day or 2 and most probably be hauled up in my hotel…lol…idk i guess i’m just a big city person…i can’t imagine a capital city without its luxuries…Darwin to me looks comfortable with all the necessities of life but it doesn’t have much more than that and that’s a shame especially when Canberra our nation’s capital is also in the country yet it has so much more.
    Oh well i can say some good about it too…it will be the 40th anniversary of Cyclone Tracy this year and of what I’ve seen from the devastation at the time and almost nothing left of the city…its really grown into a very beautiful place and much bigger a city than it ever was in the past and i take my hat off to them for accomplishing that.

    Lets just hope they one day have the capacity to become a big huge city and have all the luxury stores and so on, maybe one day.

    Kind regards Nick from Sydney.

    • BobinOz September 9, 2014, 9:49 pm | Link

      I suspect that at some point in the future, and it may be the distant future, that Darwin would be a much bigger city with the kind of shops you want, maybe in 100 years or so if this planet and us humans are still around then, in the meantime though, Singapore sounds more like you’re kind of place, it’s just a little further north. 🙂

      Cheers, Bob

      • Vicki September 25, 2016, 12:05 am | Link

        To put things in context regarding the size of Darwin and it’s growth:

        In 1970 when my dad emigrated he initially lived in Darwin it had a population of around about 30,000. Due to be drafted to the RAE, a tour of duty in Vietnam then a quick flight back to Blighty to marry my mum and subsequently being posted to VIC he never returned to Darwin but he would not recognise the place if he’d been alive to go there as it is 4 or 5 times the size now. Growth is relative and Darwin is plenty big enough for the population as it stands. Let both the city and the territory grow naturally, not the way someone from an entirely different type of place thinks.

        P.S I am from an entirely different place so have no idea what the right way is other than growth to meet the needs and demands of it’s population not that of others.

        • BobinOz October 2, 2016, 4:58 pm | Link

          Thanks for the background information Vicki, it is pretty interesting.

          I think the growth in Darwin has been and will continue to be quite natural and it will probably always be Australia’s smallest capital city.

  • Nick Alex September 5, 2014, 12:20 pm | Link

    Hello Bob,

    Thank you for your kind reply….

    I do like Target very much….i may visit one day because it looks really beautiful from the air….but i’m not really interested in the outdoor stuff…i’m more of a shopping, cinema, theater sort of persons and i love my big malls especially when they have everything like Myer, DJs and the like and its a little daunting that such a beautiful place and capital city like Darwin doesn’t have those after all “It is a capital city” and most capitals have very luxury….i guess they don’t have the capacity yet…but i would very much like to see Darwin become a huge metropolis like Sydney & Melbourne one day.
    I’m sure it’ll happen…its a city and cities are mean’t to grow not stay the way they are.
    Again my opinion everyone.

    Thank you Bob, i love your webpage here and i absolutely love my beautiful Australia :-)))

    • BobinOz September 5, 2014, 4:54 pm | Link

      Even the cinema is outdoors in Darwin 🙂

      I wouldn’t count on Darwin building a big shopping mall anytime soon with the likes of DJ, Myer or any of the others you mention, it’s simply not that kind of place from what I’ve seen. It’s not even really like city, more of a big country town. But then, I suppose, they used to say that about Brisbane, so maybe one day, who knows?

      • Territory Cardinal November 22, 2015, 10:04 pm | Link

        A brand new indoor mall is in stage one of construction.we will have a Myers in Darwin and other known stores you never saw that coming.this town is largely influenced by mines oil and gas plants,the economy is at its strongest with a lot of major players up here hell we even have the newest rydges hotel in Australia if you come back today Darwin is being destroyed by mainstream dreamers.it is a good thing to be unique what a boring world we will have if every city was the same with the same old shops stores brand names tags labels bla bla bla.being a bit closer to a basic enjoyable lifestyle is why I love Darwin but it’s turning into your brisbane Melbourne Sydney type of place major development is happing good bye the Darwin I knew.

        • Nicholas Alex November 23, 2015, 8:07 pm | Link

          That’s good to hear…

          After all it is the capital city of the Northern Territory and most if not all capital cities must be a cut above the rest…meaning better than the suburbs and country towns…when it comes to luxury stores etc.
          That’s wonderful news…Darwin is sure getting better and better and better.
          Will visit one day. 🙂

          • BobinOz November 30, 2015, 8:12 pm | Link

            Mixed views there then.

            As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I really don’t think Darwin is a Myers kind of place, so I can see why some locals, like you Territory Cardinal aren’t keen, but I can also see why others, like you Nicholas Alex, think it’s a good idea.

            When this new indoor mall is up, I think the people will decide with their wallets. It will be interesting to see how long Myers remains in Darwin.

  • Nick Alex September 4, 2014, 10:09 am | Link

    Hello Michael,

    Thank you for your kind reply…

    And in reply to you…nope if Darwin remains the way it is,
    I will not be visiting…ever.
    Because I am not an outdoor person, unless the outdoor consists of Wine tasting or a food and wine festival in the sunshine.
    I’m afraid if it remains the way it is…it is not the place for me but for others who enjoy that sort of thing.

    Have a lovely day 🙂

    Kind regards Nick.

    • BobinOz September 4, 2014, 9:46 pm | Link

      They have Target, any good to you Alex? 🙂

  • Michael September 4, 2014, 8:21 am | Link

    Wow Nick, Judging by the way your can rattle off those fashion shop brandnames and need skyscrapers etc. I can definately say that Darwin is not the place for you.

    Sure there is plenty of shopping, but a Sydney, Hongkong, New York, London, Darwin is NOT (and hopefully never will be).

    Darwin is a smaller, friendlier, more down to earth, lots of Natural attractions, friendly people, easy to get around and lots of work opportunities and the ability to get out and enjoy nature, the bush, the sea, etc. So we are more at home having a BBQ with friends, or going Camping than glamming it up for a black tie function. Don’t get me wrong there are still black tie functions, just as I said a much more real, down to earth people type place, rather than glam, gloss and luxuries.

    • Nick Alex November 24, 2015, 10:10 am | Link

      Um..its a capital city dude…you want nature go to the country..lol

      And not all luxury are black tie functions..{Not sure what you mean by that}

      Actually if there’s more stores and luxury shops…there’s actually {More job opportunities}

      Honestly people who want Darwin to stay the way it is need to get with the times and stop complaining..its a city, not only a city…but the capital of NT, not a little country town.
      Sure people can be friendly and welcoming, down to earth and nice…nothing wrong with that but it has to grow and get better and will, nothing will stop that from happening.
      But like i said…you like nature …go to the country and the let the cities grow.

      Have a great day.

      • BobinOz November 30, 2015, 9:05 pm | Link

        Nick, if you haven’t yet been, I really think you need to visit Darwin. Yes, it is a capital city, but it is also very much like living in the countryside.

        You only have to drive out of town for about 20 minutes, maybe 25 at most, and all you will see is countryside for a very very very long way. You have to visit it to actually appreciate what Darwin is really like.

        It is a capital, by default, but it really is just a big country town. I don’t think that will ever change whether they get a Myer or not.

        So, have you been yet?

  • Nick Alex September 3, 2014, 11:18 pm | Link

    Hi my name is Nick and i am from Sydney.

    I would like to visit Darwin very much but may wait a few years in the hope they may build a major shopping complex in the city with upmarket stores such as Myer & David Jones. Including the luxury shops such as Dior, Chanel, Gucci, Cartier etc. Would also love to see a huge Westfield complex built into the city. I am more of an indoor shopping person…not really interested in the outdoors.
    I also like entertainment such as theater and cinema….not sure how much of this Darwin has but i like that too.
    Of what I’ve seen in pictures Darwin is very small and unusual for a capital city..those patches of undeveloped green and soiled earth next to the city are an eyesore….in my opinion that should be turned into a lovely park with flowers and more…its port should be filled with luxury hotels and resorts, maybe throw in a casino or convention center as well and would love to see more skyscrapers in Darwin making it rival cities like Sydney, Melbourne & Adelaide…of course i have never been there but as i said..i’m more of an indoors recreation person and i love my luxuries too and with that said i would prefer that Darwin adds all the above that i mentioned before i would visit.
    Apart from that…the city itself looks beautiful from the air apart from the eyesores. Its climate is lovely and some of the hotels and restaurants look really nice.
    It just needs more…it desperately need to look and act more like a capital city.
    And here’s hoping it will.
    Just my opinion folks….hope at least some of you will agree with me.

    Kind Regards,

    Nick.

  • stephen April 16, 2014, 8:55 pm | Link

    Hi Bob
    I’m a 49y.o single male, wanting a lifestyle change, bloody Melbourne is too cold and the population is getting to big for me (country boy at heart). Apart from IT jobs, i’ve noticed at job site\s, hospitality jobs in remote areas from Darwin fly in fly out and Refugee support worker positions. Have you heard of anyone getting these jobs or how prevalent they might be. And how is the single women situation there? any or many asian women to marry?

    • BobinOz April 17, 2014, 2:33 pm | Link

      No, I’ve not heard of anyone landing these jobs, but I do know that Darwin and NT are generally regarded as the easiest places to find work. So I think you would stand a good chance.

      As for single Asian women, I am a married man, I don’t monitor these sorts of things 🙂 If I remember from my holiday there last year, Asian women were well represented among the population though, so again, you have a chance.

      Good luck, Bob

  • Michael Parker December 16, 2013, 4:04 pm | Link

    Hi Adrian,

    Rental accomodation in Darwin is in high demand, but there are also many new houses and many many units that have come on stream as rental properties in recent times.

    Rent is pretty expensive, but if you have good references you should be fine.

    Also comming in the Wet Season (low Season) from Oct-March/April, is the best time and the very best time to rent is in January of any year (as there are a lot of people that leave at Christmas.

    Also it depends on what you are looking for, there are plenty of share accomodation rooms where professionals or tradies have rented a house on a share basis.

    Darwin is booming (allthough not across all sectors) at the moment so that does mean there is a fair bit of demand, but as long as you don’t have to have the right rental the same week, you should be fine.

    Let me know if you want a job, I’m recruiting IT Tech’s and Engineers:).

    Also get in contact if you want to make some business connections (I run an IT company here) and can also get you an invite to some business networking groups and put you in touch with a rental property manager.

    Michael

    Some links you might find useful are:
    http://www.realestate.com.au/rent/in-darwin+-+greater+region%2c+nt/list-1
    http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-real-estate/darwin-city/c9296l3004866r250

    • Adrian Skipper December 16, 2013, 6:27 pm | Link

      Hi Michael
      Thanks for your informative message . I have also sent an invitation to connect on linkedin. I don’t know anyone in Darwin at the moment but from what I can see it looks pretty good . Would like to catch-up when I get over there & would appreciate your help in connecting with the various networks.
      By the way my career website http://www.adrianskipper.com . Business website http://www.hispeed.co.nz . Down here I have been doing IT and business consulting .
      Regards Adrian

    • Nick July 23, 2014, 5:39 am | Link

      Hi Michael,
      Myself and my partner are soon moving to Australia. we have been in touch with a few agencies to help us find work before we move. We are heading in the direction of work, rather than a chosen destination. Do you currently have any available positions? Feel free to take a look at my website http://www.nwilburnit.co.uk which is my own company, my skills are self taught and backed up by minor qualifications but i am willing to take a lesser position if you require proof of my abilities. I’m hoping to find a position within the next 6 months. We have already been assessed for Permanent residency and have passed with far more than the required points. If you require any additional information do mot hesitate to contact me for my phone or Skype details.

      Thank You

  • Adrian Skipper December 14, 2013, 8:18 pm | Link

    I’m looking to head up to Darwin in early 2014 and wanting to make some business and real estate connections . I am highly qualified & experienced ITC project manager with crossover business skills .. Technically literate aswell .
    I understand accommodation is a bit limited and looking for someone who can advise .

    • BobinOz December 16, 2013, 3:42 pm | Link

      I can’t help you directly Adrian, I’m down here in Brisbane. But I think you are right, rentals are very scarce in Darwin. I heard them mention it on the radio when I was there on holiday, they were joking that 10 people applied to rent a cardboard box.

      All I can suggest is you look at my page Cost of Buying or Renting a House in Australia and use the links there to search for somewhere to live.

      Cheers, Bob

      • Adrian Skipper December 16, 2013, 6:16 pm | Link

        Thank you Bob , you are most helpful and much appreciate your advice 🙂 . We are located at the moment in Auckland having originally come from the UK and Africa. So planning to complete the tour by basing in Aus where the climate is a bit warmer than Auckland and business opportunities are better. Seasons greetings and catch you again . Regards Adrian

  • Kay July 29, 2013, 7:05 am | Link

    Hi bob, what a great website!! I’ve just read your 20 reasons to come to oz, brilliant and so helpfull. We are currently looking to migrate over there and to Brisbane funny enough as our friends are there and they have said its best to come somewhere where you will no someone to help with anything which is a good idea. We filled in an application online for global visas, they claim to find a job, a rented house sort out visas and shipping etc all for £2,000 now call me suspicious but I’m a little scared about this has anyone else used this company??? My husband is a car painter(sprayer) if any firms are reading this and want to sponsor us please hellllppppp we want to come to the land of oz. xx

    • BobinOz July 29, 2013, 4:47 pm | Link

      Hi Kay

      I strongly suggest you Google “Global Visas reviews” then see how comfortable you feel about using this service.

      The only agent I recommend at the moment is my one, I’ve been working with him since late 2011 and I trust him 100%. Check out my Visa Assessment Service.

      Good luck, Bob

  • Michael Parker July 15, 2013, 4:38 pm | Link

    Hi Bob, Great article about Darwin. I live here & have done so for many years. Its certainly got lots and lots of oportunities for enjoying life and getting work. I’m an employer and any skilled IT staff are welcome to contact me by email sending their resume to michael AT a t e g r a DOT c o m DOT a u (anti spam modified) if your in Darwin or heading this way, travelers or SKILLED with excellent ENGLISH and customer service skills, staff allways wanted.

    Darwin is a great place and you won’t be dissapointed, I guess the only negatives are the humidity in the wet season (Oct-April) and the cost of living. Also checkout http://www.theterritory.com.au

    Michael

    • BobinOz July 15, 2013, 10:29 pm | Link

      Hi Michael

      If I get any IT guys (or girls) looking for work, I will head them your way. Cheers!

      Bob

    • Shaunak Marulkar March 3, 2015, 5:56 pm | Link

      Hello Michael,

      I am Shaunak from Pune (India), a Post Graduate in Human Resources with 8+ years of HR experience, outgoing, confident and pretty good command on English. I intend to shift to Australia soon and have cleared my Skills Assessment. I am now going to apply for State Sponsorship from NT Government and then for PR Visa. Initially, I am willing to work at lower positions, just to prove my capabilities and then take it ahead from there.

      Besides, I also enjoy travel, explore various restaurants and hotels and like solo travel as well. You can check my website: http://www.flywithshaunak.wordpress.com.

      Do let me know if you think I can be of some help. I have also sent you a mail on this & a Linkedin Invite.

      Thanks Bob, had it not been for your site, I would have never got so much information and would not have been able to contact Mr Michael Parker 🙂

      Regards,
      Shaunak
      +91 86050 10116

      • BobinOz March 4, 2015, 12:46 am | Link

        Glad to have helped Shaunak, I hope it all goes well for you. Thanks, Bob

  • Sam July 11, 2013, 10:07 pm | Link

    Looks very nice Bob… Loving the pics. Hope there is a video to follow?
    Would you say there are more creepy crawlies up that way compared to where you live or would you say its about the same?

    • BobinOz July 12, 2013, 3:15 pm | Link

      I had to put up with a few irritating flies when I was out in the countryside, but nothing in the city and surprisingly no mozzies. Not sure what it would be like in the wet season though, maybe it would be different as mozzies love water.

      As for other critters, I didn’t see any so it’s no different from where I live in Brisbane. That’s not to say there aren’t more creepy crawlies up that way, logic suggests there would be, but I just didn’t see them.

      I’ll be doing a video later today if I get the chance, it won’t be the city though 🙂

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