Words by Bev Malzard
Once considered the wild west, Darwin was a haven for dodgy people who needed to disappear and a town with a drinking culture to set galactic records.
Today, the top end city has expanded from its glory pub days where a slab of steak, three eggs and chips was regular fare. International cuisine is now well and truly on the menu in some great restaurants, while the place to really get your spicy fix is the markets.
If you’re hanging out for a flat white made by a topknot-wearing chappie with tats and a goatee, a laksa or a tropical smoothie, Parap Market is where the locals throng to every Saturday morning. Fruit and vegies that you’ve only seen in Asia are on sale, and while you tuck into a curry or roti, shut your eyes and taste the spice accompanied by the light aroma of patchouli – yes, this is where the new breed hippie has been reinvented!
The main place to hit just before sunset is Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. This is Darwin’s most popular tourist spot so arrive early and bag a spot on the beach when the markets operate between April and the end of October (the dry season). Munch a kangaroo sausage from the Roadkill Café, listen to the poetry readings, watch a dance troupe or pick up a few Aboriginal arts and Asian crafts. Don’t panic if you miss the magnificent sunset, there’ll be another one tomorrow.
Another favourite sunset-watching spot is from the less-than-posh yacht club, the Darwin Trailer Boat Club. The city’s oldest club (1954) started out as a modified caravan on the beach and now serves cold beer and fantastic food from the bistro.
Or why not sashay on to a yacht or a restored pearling lugger for a sunset cruise on the harbour, accompanied by a glass of sparkling wine to set the mood?
While you can still find a decent steak and chips or an authentic burger in Darwin, here’s the lowdown on where to find the best eats in town:
Pee Wee’s at the Point; Little Miss Korea (for Barramundi Bibimbap), Alfonsinos, Char Restaurant, Hanuman and Il Lido - but as in any town, sometimes you just have to follow your nose and take a leap of faith.
The big hotels have fantastic restaurants and clever clogs chefs. Darwin’s signature dishes include amazing prawns from the Gulf, but you have to seek out a Penang Crocodile Curry or Chili Mud Crab before you leave!
The best pubs are The Precinct and Lola’s Pergola, though there are many other watering holes of various persuasions. Some local pubs will serve you a family meal with surf’n’turf as the special, and if you are nostalgic for the 80s there’s always the ‘parmie’ washed down with a cold beer. Bottoms up!
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