WA­TER, WA­TER EV­ERY­WHERE

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - SARAH NI­CHOL­SON

Coach tours, four-wheel drive ex­cur­sions and walk­ing sa­faris are the modes most of­ten as­so­ci­ated with ex­plor­ing Aus­tralia’s rugged Top End. But it’s a spot best seen from the wa­ter and lo­cal op­er­a­tors of­fer ev­ery­thing from sight­see­ing cruises that sur­vey Dar­win’s his­toric wa­ter­front to day trips nav­i­gat­ing the wa­ter­ways a cou­ple of hun­dred kilo­me­tres from the North­ern Ter­ri­tory cap­i­tal. FRONT AND CEN­TRE: The Sea Dar­win team of­fers a one­hour Aus­tralia Front­line Cruise from Stokes Hill Wharf — the first land­mark tar­geted when the Ja­panese bombed in 1942 — that vis­its sig­nif­i­cant World War II sites, in­clud­ing the fi­nal rest­ing place of the USS Peary and the fly­ing-boat base at Doc­tor’s Gully. More: seadar­win.com. SUNSET SOIREE: Charles Dar­win, a cata­ma­ran con­sid­ered to be the Top End’s most sta­ble tourist ves­sel, sets sail from Stokes Hill Wharf late ev­ery af­ter­noon for a din­ner cruise that takes pas­sen­gers to the Ti­mor Sea be­yond Dar­win Har­bour in time to see the sky show off its fiery sunset fin­ery. More: dar­win­har­bour­cruises.com.au. PARK OF PLENTY: A full-day out­ing with Dar­win Day Tours al­lows pas­sen­gers to ven­ture in­side the bound­ary of Kakadu Na­tional Park to dis­cover in­dige­nous rock art, learn more about the orig­i­nal res­i­dents, and cruise Yel­low Wa­ter Bil­l­abong, home to more than 250 bird species as well as a le­gion of crocodiles. More: dar­win­day­tours.com.au. TUR­TLE EN­COUN­TERS: June-Au­gust marks the breed­ing sea­son for Top End tur­tles; Sea Dar­win op­er­ates a Tur­tle Tracks cruise that ven­tures into By­noe Har­bour in time to spy the sunset be­fore guides li­aise with on-site re­searchers to find fe­males lay­ing eggs and hatch­lings scram­bling to the wa­ter. More: seadar­win.com. LONG DAY’S JOUR­NEY: Dar­win Day Tours has a full-day Kather­ine Gorge trip with a cruise through a canyon, where steep rock walls rise 70m, plus a visit to the Ade­laide River War Ceme­tery and a dip at Edith Falls. More: dar­win­day­tours.com.au.

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