Welcome to Darwin cruise port, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) and the smallest, wettest, and most northern Australian capital city!
The ancestral home of the Aboriginal Larrakia people, the city of Darwin and its surrounding area are known for their tropical climate, diverse culinary scene, a variety of natural attractions and rich historic heritage. Due to its various tourist offer, amazing shopping and dining opportunities and great infrastructure, Darwin is a popular seaport in Australian cruise itineraries.
In this article, read about:
- Darwin cruise port info (Darwin cruise terminal, getting around)
- Top 15 things to do in Darwin port and the best Darwin shore excursions
Darwin Cruise Port Info
Cruise ships dock at Fort Hill Wharf terminal, a purpose-built wharf for cruise vessels located approximately 1.5 km/1 mile (a 15-minute walk) from Darwin downtown (also referred to as Darwin CBD – Darwin’s central business district). The cruise terminal has a natural deep water berth and a total quay length of 300 meters that can accommodate cruise ships up to 350 meters long.
Cruise lines normally provide a shuttle bus service to downtown free of charge, or for a small fee (check this with your cruise ship). The shuttle bus pick-up/drop-off point is usually in front of the Tourism Top End Visitor Information Centre in the downtown area. Taxis are available on the pier. Passengers can also take a pleasant walk to the city center (a 15-minute walk).
The cruise terminal complex consists of an air-conditioned terminal building featuring security screening and checkpoints, the nearby Stokes Hill Wharf with eateries, restrooms and ATMs, a mini market and Stokes Hill Wharf Car Park large enough to accommodate private vehicles, buses and taxis.
- See the port of Darwin on Google maps
- The currency in Australia is the Australian Dollar (AUD). 1 AUD equals approx. 0.70 USD. Credit cards and cash are widely accepted. Tipping is not common in Australia. See the currency converter
- There is a lot of humidity in Darwin and the rainy season is from April to November. Make sure you bring a waterproof jacket and an umbrella. Get more tips in my article What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 50 Cruise Essentials
- Smith Street is the main street in Darwin CBD. It is around 2.5 km long, intersects with Daly Street and Knuckey Street, and terminates with the Esplanade, the scenic 3 km of tree-lined walkways and extensive green spaces overlooking the Darwin Harbour. Between Knuckey Street and Bennett Street, there is a pedestrian area known as Smith Street Mall, the main shopping precinct in the city where you can find a wide variety of specialty shops, stores, supermarkets and eateries.
- The largest shopping center in the Northern Territory is Casuarina Square, located in Darwin’s northern suburb approximately a 15-minute drive from Darwin cruise port.
- Darwin Hop on Hop off bus tours are one of the best ways to get around the city as they stop at the major city attractions, including Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin Military Museum, Cullen Bay Marina, Waterfront Precinct, and Doctor’s Gully. Hop on Hop off buses stop next to the cruise terminal at Stokes Hill Wharf, which is a very convenient option for cruise passengers. Check out Darwin Hop on Hop off bus tours on Viator and Get Your Guide
- Darwin Bus Interchange is the main bus station in Darwin and is located near the Smith Street Mall and Darwin City Library on Harry Chan Avenue, 1.4 km/0.90 miles (a 20-minute walk) from the cruise terminal. The majority of buses operate between the major interchanges including Palmerston, Cullen Bay, and Casuarina. Check out the bus timetables and routes on https://nt.gov.au/
- Darwin International Airport is located about 13 km/8 miles (a 20-minute drive) northeast of the Darwin cruise terminal.
- Check out the best hotels in Darwin
Top 15 Things to Do in Darwin Cruise Port
1. Christ Church Cathedral
The Christ Church originally dates from 1902 and first became a cathedral in 1968. It served as the Garrison Church during WWII and suffered severe damage during Cyclone Tracy in 1974 which destroyed all except for the front wall and portico. The church was rebuilt in 1976 and consecrated on 13 March 1977, with the Archbishop of Canterbury in attendance.
The church boasts modern architecture with stained-glass windows and valuable artwork. It is located a 15-minute walk from the Darwin cruise terminal. Read more at http://christchurchcathedral.org.au/
2. Government House
Located less than 300 meters away from the Christ Church Cathedral, Government House is originally known as “the Residency” as the Administrator of the Northern Territory (Her Honour the Honourable Vicki O’Halloran AO) resides there.
Built between 1870 and 1879, this elegant white mansion has played an important role in different historic events including the “Darwin Rebellion”, World War II, the Petrov Affair, constitutional milestones, and others. It also plays an important role in hosting visiting royalty and dignitaries, including vice-regal, diplomatic and government representatives of Australia and other nations.
3. Darwin Botanic Gardens
George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens expand over 42 hectares (104 acres) and are renowned for their beautiful display of tropical flora from northern Australia and tropical areas around the world. The tours normally begin at the Visitor and Event Centre where visitors can learn about the natural and cultural history of the garden, including information on plant collections and Aboriginal plant uses. There is a media room with interactive displays, a gift shop, an event space and picnic areas.
The garden itself is a green oasis filled with palm-lined walkways, a rainforest gully, a waterfall, and a multitude of exotic plants and flowers. You can admire the butterflies in the sensory garden, have a barbecue next to the shady Borassus lawn, enjoy the playground, and visit the iconic ornamental fountain. Darwin Botanic Gardens are located approx. 3.7 km/2.3 miles or a 10-minute drive from Darwin cruise ship terminal. The entry is free of charge. You can see the map of Darwin Botanic Gardens and get more info at https://nt.gov.au/
4. Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Also known as MAGNT, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is the Northern Territory’s major cultural institution featuring an outstanding collection of more than 1.2 million natural history specimens and 30,000 art and cultural works. Besides its impressive permanent and temporary exhibitions, MAGNT hosts various interactive, educational and research programs. History buffs can enjoy the Discovery Center which provides visitors a fascinating insight into Australia’s history and heritage.
Set in a scenic location at Bullocky Point in the suburb of Fannie Bay, MAGNT hosts the annual Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, the most significant award of its kind in Australia. MAGNT is located about 5 km/3 miles (a 10-minute drive) northwest of Darwin cruise port. You can get there by bus #6 from Darwin downtown. Free parking is available on site. Read more about MAGNT at https://www.magnt.net.au/
MAGNT also manages several other cultural institutions and historic sites including the Museum of Central Australia and Fannie Bay Gaol, a historic building dating from 1883 that served as the city’s main jail for nearly 100 years. Nowadays, Fannie Bay Gaol is a museum featuring the macabre old cell blocks, execution gallows and other rooms where hundreds of convicts used to be imprisoned.
5. Aquascene Fish Feeding Sanctuary
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Darwin is Aquascene, a unique sanctuary where visitors of all ages can hand-feed hundreds of fish that come to shore at high tide. This tradition dates from the 1950s when a resident of Doctors Gully began tossing breadcrumbs into the water at high tide, and fish started turning up for the free meal.
You can wade in the water or feed them from the concrete stairs of the viewing platform – it’s your call! Trays of bread are provided for feeding periods and the morning feeding sessions are best because the fish numbers are highest.
Aquascene is located 3 km/1.9 miles (less than a 10-minute drive) from the port of Darwin. Find more information on fish feeding times and prices at https://www.aquascene.com.au/
6. Crocosaurus Cove
Situated in the heart of Darwin, Crocosaurus Cove features the world’s largest display of Australian reptiles. The 200,000-liter freshwater aquarium is home to some of the largest saltwater crocodiles in Australia, turtles, barramundi, whiprays, and archer fish.
If you seek adrenaline and a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, book a Cage of Death experience – Australia’s only crocodile dive, which will get you face-to-face with a giant saltwater crocodile! You can also go for a Whipray Encounter or a Big Croc Feed VIP Experience, where you get to feed one of the world’s most deadly predators. Crocosaurus Cove is located on Mitchell street that runs parallel to Smith street. Get more information on opening times and prices at https://www.crocosauruscove.com/
7. Darwin Waterfront Precinct
Darwin cruise port overlooks the city’s waterfront precinct, a scenic bayside area featuring seafront parks, green spaces, swimming and recreation lagoon, an aqua park, Darwin Wave Pool, hotels, restaurants and cafes. It’s a lively area bustling with both visitors and locals, particularly packed during sunset time!
8. Darwin Military Museum
This impressive museum is located in the northern suburb of Darwin called East Point, around 10 km/6.2 miles (a 20-minute drive) northwest of Darwin port.
During World War II, Darwin was bombed 64 times over almost two years. On 19 February 1942, 188 Japanese planes bombed Darwin in two air raids, causing the death of 292 people. This fascinating museum offers a powerful insight into the drama of the war and showcases a wide variety of artifacts including Navy, Army and Air Force items from Australian, US and other armed forces.
The museum also features the Defence of Darwin Experience, an immersive and interactive experience that tells the story of the 19th of February 1942 bombing. You can learn about daily life in the Northern Territory during WWII and hear the stories of men and women who survived the war. Get more information about the museum at https://www.darwinmilitarymuseum.com.au/
Useful tip: If you are interested in learning more about the rich WWII history of Darwin and the Northern Territory, you can also visit a few more historic sites:
- World War II Oil Storage Tunnels is an underground museum honoring the heroes and victims of the war with exhibits, photos and artworks. It is located in Darwin Waterfront Precinct, only a 15-minute walk from the cruise terminal. More information at https://www.ww2tunnelsdarwin.com.au/
- Darwin Aviation Museum is located 10 km/6.2 miles (a 15-minute drive) northeast of Darwin cruise port, near Darwin Airport. The museum features vintage military planes, multimedia exhibits and a variety of items and artifacts about Darwin’s aviation history and wartime experience. Find more information at https://www.darwinaviationmuseum.com.au/
9. Mindil Beach
Mindil Beach is located in the suburb of The Gardens, about 4 km/2.5 miles (less than a 10-minute drive) northwest of Darwin cruise terminal. Mindil Beach is Darwin’s flagship beach known for its golden sands and spacious green areas that are home to Mindil Beach Sunset Market which takes place on Thursdays and Sundays, from April to October.
With over 150 food, beverage, arts and craft stalls, and live entertainment, Mindil Beach is Darwin’s cultural melting pot and a unique place to experience the city’s authentic vibe! Read more about the market at https://mindil.com.au/
10. Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park is the perfect choice for those visitors looking for a nature getaway. This famous national park ranks among the most visited ones in the Northern Territory due to its breathtaking natural treasures including waterfalls, lush forests, crystal clear waterholes and scenic landscapes.
Litchfield National Park expands on approximately 1,500 km2 and is located about 105 km/65 miles (a 1-hour 15-minute drive) south of Darwin cruise port. The park has numerous walking tracks, campsites and swimming areas, which makes it perfect for hikers, nature lovers and adrenaline-seekers looking for thrilling activities such as 4WD off-road rides.
Some of the main attractions in the park include Florence Falls, Buley Rockhole, The Lost City, Wangi Falls, Tolmer Falls, Walker Creek, and many others. Get more practical information at https://nt.gov.au/parks/
11. Kakadu National Park
Covering an area of approximately 20,000 km2, Kakadu National Park is the second-largest national park in Australia and a World Heritage Site. The park is known for its diverse landscapes that comprise lush rainforests, wetlands, rocky gorges, waterfalls and rivers that are home to more than 1700 plant species and a remarkable variety of wildlife.
Kakadu National Park is located within the Alligator Rivers region of the Northern Territory, around 150 km/93 miles (a 1-hour 45-minute drive) east of Darwin. Birdwatching, hiking, boating, fishing and croc spotting are only some of the activities you can do in this spectacular place.
Kakadu National Park is also culturally important as it includes a rich heritage of Aboriginal rock art. Aboriginal people, called Bininj in the north of the park and Mungguy in the south, have lived continuously in the area of Kakadu for over 60,000 years and are spiritually connected to their country. There are more than 5,000 Aboriginal rock art sites in the park with some paintings up to 20,000 years old. The main rock art galleries providing a fascinating insight into Aboriginal life for thousands of years are Ubirr and Burrungkuy (Nourlangie). Read more about Kakadu National Park at https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/
12. Nitmiluk National Park
This spectacular park covers more than 292,000 hectares and is owned by the Jawoyn Aboriginal people whose rock art sites dot the park. Although located far from Darwin (around 290 km/180 miles, or a 3-hour drive one way), this national park is worth mentioning as it boasts a great variety of natural wonders and dramatic landscapes.
The two most popular places are the stunning Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, a 13-gorge system carved through ancient sandstone by the Katherine River, and the picturesque Leliyn (Edith Falls), popular for swimming and drive-in campgrounds. Walking, hiking, canoeing, mountain bike riding, swimming and boating are the most popular activities in the area. Nitmiluk National Park also boasts numerous cultural sites where you can learn about the Jawoyn Aboriginal people, so don’t miss out on visiting rock art sites. Get more information on the national park at https://nt.gov.au/parks/
13. Territory Wildlife Park
Territory Wildlife Park is an authentic zoo offering visitors unique and up-close encounters with the animals and plants of the Top End in their natural habitat. The park is adjacent to Berry Springs Nature Park and is located around 50 km/30 miles (a 45-minute drive) southeast of Darwin port.
At the park, you can get face-to-face with a 4-meter saltwater crocodile in an aquarium, walk through treetop aviaries, and visit the Goose Lagoon or the Nocturnal House which is home to rare and endangered native nocturnal animals of this region. The park covers an area of more than 400 hectares and upon arrival visitors get a park map to help them navigate through the park. Get more useful information on the Territory Wildlife Park’s official webpage https://territorywildlifepark.com.au/
14. Tiwi Islands
Also known as the “Island of Smiles”, Tiwi Islands are nestled in the Timor Sea, about 80 km/50 miles off the north coast of the Australian mainland and Darwin. Tiwi Islands (meaning the “two islands”) consist of two main islands – Bathurst Island and Melville Island, and nine smaller uninhabited islands.
Tiwi Islands have been inhabited by the Tiwi, one of the numerous Aboriginal groups of Australia, and are renowned for their thriving Aboriginal art culture and local people’s traditional lifestyle. Besides the cultural immersion where you get to witness ancient customs and rituals and learn about the daily life of Aboriginal communities, Tiwi Islands offer beautiful landscapes and a variety of wildlife that you can observe on one of the wildlife tours.
To get to the Tiwi Islands, you need to catch a ferry at the Cullen Bay Ferry Terminal located a 10-minute drive from the port of Darwin. The ferry ride lasts 2.5 hours each way.
15. Mary River National Park
Mary River National Park is located approximately 155 km/96 miles (a 2-hour drive) southeast of Darwin cruise port and is famous for its first-class fishing, four-wheel driving, bushwalking and birdwatching activities.
Cruising is the best way to experience the lush Mary River wetlands and its abundant wildlife including saltwater crocodiles, the iconic Barramundi, and a wide variety of native fish and birdlife. You can also go camping, walking, picnicking, 4-wheel driving, or fishing, particularly in the Shady Camp fishing area, also known for its large population of saltwater crocodiles. Learn more about the Mary River wetlands and national park at https://nt.gov.au/parks/
To Wrap Up
Whether you decide to explore Darwin city highlights or visit one of spectacular Australia’s Northern Territory natural attractions, the port of Darwin offers many choices for everyone’s taste! Make sure you plan your day ahead to get the most out of this wonderful port of call!
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