Stores and stalls at the top
From authentic Aboriginal art to fun market buys, Darwin has the lot
Tiwi Art Network, Parap: Exploitation has been an unfortunate reality for Aboriginal artists for years. But there are plenty of ethical galleries in the Northern Territory committed to ending carpetbagging.
The not- for- profit Tiwi Art Network is a great place for the consumer with a conscience to start. There’s not a made-in-China sticker or a mass-produced item in sight in its Parap gallery, only certified Aboriginal works.
And you don’t need the knowhow or the budget of an experienced collector to find the right one- of- a- kind canvas to hang on your wall.
Gallery staff can point you to works by emerging or internationally acclaimed artists.
You can also buy direct from the creators with day tours of the network’s three communityowned art centres on Melville and Bathurst islands, during which you will learn about the jilamara (ceremonial body paint designs) that inspire their unique style.
Those seeking something brighter than the ochre-painted canvases, wooden pukumani (burial) poles and tungas (bark baskets) can buy vibrant fabrics, silk scarves and jewellery in the same distinctive patterns.
More: tiwiart.com. The Pearl Galleria, Darwin CBD: Shopping for pearls can be just as difficult as choosing the perfect diamond. In addition to examining the complexion, shape, size and lustre of a pearl, one must consider its true colour — as with wedding gowns, there are literally hundreds of shades of white.
The staff at Pearl Galleria will find the perfect handcrafted bracelet, ring or necklace to suit your skin tone and style, whatever your budget, and if they don’t have what you’re looking for, they’ll make it.
Jeweller Gaynor Beck selects each Darwin-harvested South Sea pearl before transforming it into a one-off piece, from a cute set of peacock-coloured pearl earrings to a classic pink pendant.
The galleria also lends its jewellery and hairpieces at a fraction of Parap Fine Foods, Parap: This Territory institution has been the go-to place for gourmet groceries, rare wines and unusual kitchen accessories since 1968. You can easily become lost for hours in this food and wine emporium, which sells everything from cookbooks and stocks and sauces to designer kitchenware.
Jars of local bush honey or rosella jam make ideal gifts, and don’t forget to check out the huge selection of deli goods, breads and sweets. The Pantazis family, who own the gourmet repository, will happily prepare you a hamper — simply collect it and find a spot to tuck in while watching the sun set over the Timor Sea. Accompanying tipples can be sourced from the wine room, which stocks awardwinning and quirky labels such as Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch and Good Catholic Girl.
On the top shelf are the likes of actor Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka, a rather spookylooking offering in a skull-shaped bottle containing vodka said to have been produced with Canadian glacier water filtered through diamonds.
More: parap finefoods.com. the price for special occasions such as weddings.
More: pearl galleria.com. Vintage Twist, Darwin CBD: Down a quaint arcade off the Smith Street Mall, Vintage Twist stocks a gorgeous range of feminine fashions. Tired of seeing others wearing the same dress at every dry-season event in Darwin, Gill Rebecchi opened the store two years ago with the aim of offering her clientele a more eclectic range of clothing.
Vintage Twist stocks one-of-akind retro and indie dresses and there’s always something new in store, from dazzling accessories and tapestry handbags to one-off fascinators.
Much of the vintage apparel — including a stunning fuchsia, strapless ball gown made by Saks on Fifth Avenue in 1950 — is sourced from the US. Pieces from popular vintage-inspired labels such as Stop Staring, Winsome Designs and Jools Couture also make regular appearances. More: Shop 5, Star Village, The Mall, Darwin. Humidity Gifts and Homewares: Don’t let the name fool you — this trendy little shop is an airconditioned oasis. Owned by local mother-and-daughter team Gill and Mel, Humidity’s range of charming gifts and gadgets could rival the collections at some of the best homewares stores on Australia’s east coast.
From inexpensive wallhangings and an eclectic range of clocks to cute Gummi Bear night lights, it’s easy to ferret out a great gift or item for the home.
Wannabe chefs can choose from a range of cookbooks or pick up a set of ninja-bread men cookie cutters.
Humidity also has a huge selection of educational toys and children’s clothing; JellyStone teething j ewellery and Ergo Cocoon, a sleeping pouch made from organic material, make ideal baby- shower gifts. More: humidity.com.au. Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin: More than just a place for up-close croc encounters, at Crocosaurus Cove, which houses the world’s largest collection of Australian reptiles, you’ll find an array of stylish crocodile-skin clutches, handbags, wallets and belts, each piece as unique as the locally farmed reptile it came from.
Skins from Australian saltwater crocodiles are considered more valuable than other species because of their small scale pattern and pliability.
While a visit to any of the Terri- tory’s leather shops is likely to give your credit card a good workout, the price tags are typically commensurate to the workmanship.
Those wanting to make a grand statement might find one of Crocosaurus’s hot pink or electric orange clutch bags just the ticket; more demure types could settle for quirky bangles, coin purses and key- rings, or manly beltbuckles and hat bands, complete with teeth. More: croccove.com. Sunset Markets, Mindil Beach: Buskers, snake handlers, sizzling woks and tarot readers create an exotic atmosphere at this evening market. While not the cheapest of its kind, there are still plenty of bargains to be found at Mindil Beach and the workmanship is of high quality.
Open Thursday and Sunday nights from April to October, here is the perfect place to buy that beautiful landscape photograph at a reasonable price or pick up a souvenir wallet or purse crafted from the skin of a cane toad or parrot fish.
More than 200 stalls selling hand-made jewellery, bric-a-brac, Aboriginal art, bush foods, clothing and souvenirs are based here. Be sure to check out Afroblonde, which sells one-of-a-kind bags, hats, belts and sandals made from recycled truck canvases and tyres.
Once you’ve exhausted the credit card (and yourself) do what the locals do and unfold a camping chair on the sand and enjoy a mango and lime juice under the stars. More: mindil.com.au.
in our Secret Shopper series: Canberra.
Mel Brautigam, co-owner of the trendy Humidity Gifts and Homewares; the store has an extensive and charming collection of toys, jewellery and gadgets
From left: There’s always something new at Vintage Twist; Crocosaurus Cove stocks a variety of crocodile-skin products; Mindil Beach markets at sunset