Darwin: Howard Springs Nature Park

Howard Springs is a bushland oasis and family playground south of Darwin, just near Palmerston.  It is in a really tranquil setting off the Stuart Highway. They were assembling sails over the swimming pool when we were there. I was really surprised they haven’t had them in the past given it is so hot. As well as the pool there is a playground and BBQ area.











Darwin: Berry Springs


This beautiful, quiet waterhole would be the perfect place for a swim. If there weren’t crocodiles around. It was our last full day in Darwin and after spending two fun but busy days at Kakadu I was looking forward to doing something not so full-on. We were told it was a popular picnic spot for the residents of Darwin. It took a while for us to find it because it wasn’t well signposted but once we got there we found it to be deserted. We soon found out why. The waterhole was closed because they were still testing to make sure there were no crocodiles in there. To do that they set traps and check them regularly. There was a small waterfall nearby that was gushing but that didn’t turn out very well in my photos.




Darwin: Termite mounds in Litchfield NP

On our tour of Litchfield National Park I learned that there are two types of termite mounds: Cathedral and Magnetic.

As the name suggests, the Cathedral mounds sort of look like a cathedral.  They are tall and sort of rounded and grow very tall. They can last up to 50 years.



You can see how tall they are compared to these people.


The Magnetic termite mounds are called that because they grow north to south to minimise the amount of sunlight during the day.  They are amazing structures.  The have arches, tunnels, chimneys and even insulation.

There seemed to be a lot more of the magnetic mounds that we saw but because they just seem to ‘pop’ out of the ground they can be found anywhere.  Another thing I noticed is the they are not mixed. The cathedral mounds seemed to grow in one part of the park and the magnetic mounds in another part.



A cross-section of one of the mounds.


Darwin: Charles Darwin NP military bunker

The bunker was built during WW2 to hold ammunition. It was deemed far enough inland to avoid being a target for the Japanese.  The bunker has been transformed into a museum which details Darwin’s role in the war.  During World War II, this area was part of a network of military sites that formed Australia’s front line of defence.










The Bombing of Darwin memorial plaque

Before we went to Darwin I knew little about the bombing in 1942 during WW2.  It happened soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbour and was organised by the same Commander.  It was a strategic bombing rather than an invasion as I had been taught in school.  The Japanese were preparing to invade Timor.  With Darwin being so close to Timor they could easily have helped defend Timor from the military bases protecting the northern coast of Australia. The information on these plaques provides a lot of really interesting information.











Emerald Springs Roadhouse

To say I was surprised by how good this roadhouse is would be putting it mildly.  Our tour stopped here for breakfast on our way to Katherine.  Our driver told us that it used to be a normal (but unsuccessful) roadhouse until the current owners bought the property and transformed it.  We didn’t get time to look around much but were impressed by the gardens and laid-back feeling of the area.  The food was great.  Mum and I had raisin toast but Dad had an egg and bacon sandwich which looked delicious.

On their website, they advertise having the only cappuccino machine between Darwin and Katherine, therefore having the best coffee around.  I’m not a coffee drinker so can’t confirm that.

We also stopped off here on the way home from Katherine for dinner.  I ate one of the nicest Caesar salads I’ve ever eaten.




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Darwin – Day 4: Adelaide River War Cemetery

This was our first stop on our first day tour from Darwin.

Adelaide River is just over 100kms from Darwin and was the headquarters for the army and air force in World War 2. The cemetery was built for the 432 men and women killed in action.   I loved the tranquillity of the area.  It isn’t on a main road or in a busy area.   It is set in beautiful gardens.  We arrived very early in the morning. Our tour started at around 6.30 so this would have been before 8am I think. There was still a little bit of dew on the lawns and it wasn’t too hot.






I loved the gardens.  They are so beautifully maintained.



This tree was outside the cemetery. I love the way it twists and turns and is all gnarled. I’d love to know how old it is.

Mindil Market and sunset

Mindil Market is one of the ‘must do’ things in Darwin.  Whenever you tell someone you’re going to Darwin they ask if you’re going to the market.  I even find myself asking people now that I’ve been.

However it’s not just the market that it is well-known for.  It’s the sunset on the nearby beach that attracts most people.  The market is just on the other side of the sand dunes.  Most people make sure they arrive in daylight, buy takeaway dinner from one of the many stalls and go and sit on the beach, ready for the normally fantastic sunset that awaits.  I chose Thai but there are so many nationalities to try.

Once the sun has set, people either go home/to their hotels or go back to shopping at the stalls.  Live bands begin to play as well giving the market a very festive, fun atmosphere.




This performer moved when someone put money in the bowl.  One little girl got the fright of her life when he moved after she put some money in the bowl. She ran back screaming to her parents.





Delicious and healthy???? It is possible.


Darwin Day 3: Fannie Bay Gaol (interiors)

Fannie Bay Gaol was built in 1883 and used until 1979. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to live in such primitive conditions.  The accommodation was the most basic; harking back to the days when prison was more punishment than rehabilitation.  It was dirty and depressing. There was no privacy, hardly anywhere to go to escape the heat and rain during the wet season; nowhere to go to get warm during the dry season (even though it is a lot warmer in winter than the southern states of Australia).

It probably sounds like I didn’t like being there.  I did. I found it fascinating because it’s like no other jail I have visited before.  We were there in the heat of the day in the dry season and it was unbearable.




The ‘mattress’ was made of straw and a very thin material.





The gallows.




The Mess.




One of the cells.





Darwin – Day 3: Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

The Museum is in the suburb of Fannie Bay.  It has some really great displays.  My favourite was the Cyclone Tracey display.  Cyclone Tracey devastated Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974. For days the rest of the world had no idea what was going on.  In those days there wasn’t a lot of thought put into housing that would stand up to cyclonic winds.  The museum itself lost a lot of artifacts and exhibitions.

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Darwin Day 2: Shenanigans

Shenanigans is an Irish bar in Darwin. It’s a very popular bar in a very popular street in Darwin.  When we booked we were asked if we wanted a table indoors or out. It was a very hot day so we thought it would be nice to sit outside.  The waitress said we could sit outside because it was getting cold so the locals were starting to sit inside.  We laughed because the temperature was still in the mid 20’s all through the night.

Shenanigans salmon

Baked salmon with garlic butter and vegies. This is what I ate. The parmesan-crumbed salmon was perfectly cooked.

Shenanigans barra

Barramundi, chips and salad


Darwin Day 2: I smiled at a crocodile – Jumping crocodile tour


The Jumping Crocodile Tour was possibly my most-anticipated tour of my holiday.  I’ve never been very close to a croc.  Even at a zoo, the crocs are quite far away.  Knowing they were going to be just a few metres away was both scary and awe-inspiring.  Crocodiles are a big part of the Northern Territory, especially in the Top End (Darwn, Kakadu etc).  It is estimated that there are more than 80,000 crocs in the waterways.  Everyone is told not to swim in any open waters because there could be crocodiles.  Most waterholes are closed during the wet season and only open after extensive testing.  That means putting the croc traps in the rivers and waterholes to see if they catch any crocs.  Any that are caught up taken to croc farms.


Crocodiles spend most of their time under water. Being a cold-blooded animal, they only come up to bask in the sun the warm their bodies.  During the warmer months they bury themselves in the mud on the banks of the rivers under the shade of the trees.   They are not normally seen so they get tempted out of the water by buffalo meat on the end of a long pole.  They are very careful not to feed the same crocs all the time. They don’t want them to get too used to getting an easy meal and rely on the tours as a food source.  It’s hard to believe but the tour operators know the crocs by sight and have named a lot of them.


Our tour was on the Adelaide River.  Once we left the pier we steered to a point a few kilometres down the river, searching for crocs.  When we got on the boat we were warned to stay on the side of the boat we were sitting on.  We were warned that we would be dinner for the crocs if we all moved to one side and the boat rolled over.  That was a very sombre though so everyone was careful not to move.  To make that easier for us they would entice a croc to one side of the boat, lure it with buffalo meat and give it three chances to snatch the meat.  Whether it got the meat or not, the boat would be moved so the people on the other side of the boat could see the same process.  Once both sides saw this the boat was moved further downriver to find another croc.  The operators’ love of the crocodiles is very apparent in the care they take to protect them during the tour.

Sometimes they don’t get to see many crocs on the tours so we were very lucky to see four or five.  Including one huge one that measured about 5.5m long.  We were about to turn around and go back when he came along. You could just see his head gliding along with the rest of his body below water.

It is very thrilling to see a croc jumping vertically out of the water, revealing almost all of it’s body.  I was fascinated to think that the croc was only 1-1.5m away from me.  They are magnificent creatures.  I loved being able to see how big their jaws are and the definition of their jaws.  We were close enough to see how sharp their teeth are.  I was surprised to how few teeth they have.



One of the crocodiles coming towards us.



This is the Adelaide River.  It is such a picturesque area.


The second part of the tour was Rachel feeding these birds.  I don’t know a lot of breeds of birds so I can’t remember them.  They were so majestic though.


When we were approaching the wharf we were warned there was a female crocodile sunning herself.  We were advised not to look for her, just to get to land as quick as we could.  I didn’t see it but I certainly wasn’t going to walk slowly to find out what she would do if disturbed.



Darwin Day 1 – Sunset Dinner Cruise

The first touristy thing we did in Darwin was the Sunset Dinner Cruise on the Charles Darwin with Darwin Harbour Cruises.

Not knowing our way around we almost got on the wrong boat.  There are two companies running similar cruises and we nearly got on the first boat we saw.  While queuing to board I had a funny feeling we were in the wrong place. I asked the man that was helping people board and he confirmed my doubt.  So we had to rush back to move the car further down Stokes Hill wharf.

We departed soon after boarding but had to wait a while for dinner.  The sun hadn’t started setting yet so we had a few drinks and chatted.  I have to say the food was quite average in my opinion but I’m not one for mass-produced buffet food.  However I wasn’t there for the food.  I was there for the sunset.  And I wasn’t let down. At all!  It was the most stunning sunset I have ever seen.  As soon as it started to set I was out the door on the balcony and took a few hundred photos in about 20 minutes.  Below are four that I picked out to share with you.







Darwin accommodation – Mantra on the Esplanade

Our accommodation was at the Mantra on the Esplanade, overlooking Darwin Harbour.  I was lucky to be able to see the sun rise from my bedroom window and the sun set from the balcony.  It was a three bedroom apartment but we booked an apartment with a 1 bedroom apartment and a connecting hotel-style room.  However when we checked in we were upgraded to the three bedroom apartment.  Parts of the décor were a little dated in some rooms but it was a nice comfortable apartment.  During the day the temperature was around 32 degrees Celsius every day so we had to keep the air-conditioner on all the time.  Each room had it’s own control and I had to keep mine on during the night.  Our apartment faced west and caught the afternoon sun.


The sun setting from our apartment balcony.  The colours of a Darwin sunset are simply amazing.





Darwin – Day 1. Getting there

Our flight to Darwin was scheduled for 8.35am. To get there (I live about 40 mins from Melbourne Airport) meant leaving home at 5.30, and dropping the car off at the airport parking place. What I didn’t plan for was missing the turn off to the airport and having to drive across the Westgate Bridge, getting off the freeway and straight back on again in the opposite direction so I could take the correct exit. All this wasted about 15 minutes. Once I dropped off my car and we got the transfer bus to the airport I was able to relax.

In my opinion, the efforts airlines have gone to to make it “easier” to check in are only making it easier for them to not hire terminal staff. Even though we checked in and chose our seats before leaving for the airport, we still had to spend about 10 mins trying to understand the new check in system. It doesn’t seem to save passengers much time.

Next stop was the food court to buy some breakfast. I can’t eat before a flight until I’m safely checked in and ready to board the plane. We had at least half an hour to fill in before boarding so we were able to relax and watch the planes come and go from the Qantas terminal. Once we boarded we had to wait for forty minutes because a passenger had to get medical clearance before he could fly. Unfortunately he chose to tell the flight attendant after he had boarded.

To get to Darwin, you fly right over the centre of Australia, including Alice Springs and nearby Uluru (nearby being a relative term). It is while flying over the centre that you realise how Australia really is the wide, brown land. I sat in the window seat so was able to look out of the plane for a lot of the flight. There’s not a lot to see apart from the desert but it has its own beauty.



Lake Eyre

Lake Eyre (above) is Australia’s biggest lake. It covers 9,500sq kms and is the lowest point in Australia at 15m below sea level. It only fills once every fifty years on average because it is in an arid and semi-arid part of the driest continent in the world. There are smaller floods every three or four years but they only fill it up to 1.5-2m. It is divided into two sections. The section in the photo above measures 65km x 24 km. It is a salt lake and the salt is up to 50cm thick at its thickest point. I was really glad when we flew over it. I didn’t really know the path we would fly from Melbourne to Darwin.