Dar­win all about life­style

The North­ern Ter­ri­tory’s cap­i­tal cap­tures Top End charm in its eater­ies and ac­tiv­i­ties

Tweed Daily News - - LIFE - KIERAN SALSONE

WIN­TER has at­tacked, re­treated, and at­tacked again a few times this year.

Jumpers and jack­ets have been pulled from wardrobes and the clever among us have re­mem­bered the handy art of lay­er­ing.

Those folk with even more clev­er­ness know there’s a place where win­ter doesn’t ex­ist: Dar­win.

It was six de­grees in Bris­bane when I made my way to the air­port. It was 33 de­grees when I landed in the Top End.

The dif­fer­ence was breath­tak­ing and a wel­come respite for my win­ter-loathing joints.

Dar­win is like Cairns but more sun­burnt, like Can­berra but warmer, and like the Sun­look­out shine Coast but more com­pact.

In your first hour in the cen­tral busi­ness district you un­der­stand that peo­ple here aren’t in a hurry.

It is hard to es­cape the over­whelm­ing no­tion that, un­like any other cap­i­tal city in Aus­tralia, Dar­win is about life­style.

Like Welling­ton in New Zealand, there seems to be a pub here for every three peo­ple.

Take a walk down the main drag and you’re flooded with op­tions for sit­ting down with a few mates and hav­ing a meal and beer.

The ac­tion in the CBD is split. Mitchell St be­tween Daly and Ben­nett St is where most of the nightlife, drink­ing, and shop­ping ex­ists, while the wa­ter­front area be­low Sur­vivor’s just down the street is where the more up­mar­ket res­tau­rants and kid-friendly ac­tiv­i­ties can be found.

I was pleas­antly sur­prised to see a large wave pool near Dar­win Con­ven­tion Cen­tre.

Even on a Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon the place was packed with peo­ple en­joy­ing the hu­man­made waves.

If you’re in town on a Thursday or Sun­day, the Mindil Beach Sun­set Mar­kets are a must-do.

Given the rel­a­tively re­laxed am­bi­ence in the CBD, I wasn’t quite pre­pared for the size of the crowd at the mar­kets.

The health food mes­sage has not quite per­vaded ev­ery­thing here yet so the food op­tions are es­pe­cially var­ied and en­tic­ing.

A col­league and I grabbed some of the best laksa I have had in years, sat our­selves on the beach, and ate while watch­ing the sun­set, sur­rounded by hun­dreds of happy peo­ple.

One name that kept pop­ping up in my glances at the tourist info was the Oys­ter Bar.

Be­ing a re­cent con­vert to the glory of oys­ters I made my way down to the wa­ter­front precinct and tried an as­sort­ment of their dif­fer­ent types: nat­u­ral, kilpatrick, chilli cheese and dar­leyfella. All were re­mark­able ex­am­ples of their breed but I am yet to find some­where that can im­prove upon oys­ters as na­ture serves them.

I threw a dart at a tourist map and wound up hav­ing din­ner at the Ducks Nuts on Mitchell St.

It is slightly smaller than most of the pubs I saw along the way but their harissa king­fish tasted ex­actly how lo­cally sourced seafood should.

Given how small Dar­win re­ally is, it should not be hard for you to find some­where on Mitchell St for a feed just by eye­balling the places as you walk past.

I was im­pressed by the gen­eral level of friend­li­ness in the ser­vice staff.

Staff were oblig­ing, per­son­able, and ca­pa­ble at each of the places I vis­ited.

If you are down by the wa­ter­front, it is worth check­ing out both the old Sec­ond World War oil tun­nels and the Deckchair Cin­ema.

The tun­nels are a great way of con­nect­ing with the at­tacks on Aus­tralian soil in 1942.

And the cin­ema has deckchairs, how good is that?

The Thirsty Zac juice bar also earns a men­tion for hav­ing the most en­dear­ing staff mem­ber I have en­coun­tered in a long time.

If you are com­ing to Dar­win, it makes sense to use it as a way­point for fur­ther ad­ven­tures else­where in the Top End.

There is plenty of fish­ing, sight-see­ing, and tourist-fo­cussed things to do if you have brought a fully laden credit card with you, but the real won­ders of the North­ern Ter­ri­tory lie just be­yond places such as Ten­nant Creek and Alice Springs.

The writer trav­elled as a guest of the NATSIAA organisers.

PHO­TOS: THINKSTOCK AND KIERAN SALSONE

PRETTY: Mindil Beach, in Dar­win, at­tracts vis­i­tors to watch the spec­tac­u­lar sun­sets; above right, Sec­ond World War tun­nels and, bot­tom right, the The Mindil Mar­kets draw a crowd.

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