Our original plans saw us heading to Kakadu from Katherine but due to school holidays, we had to book our accommodation in Darwin in advance, which meant the extra few days we’d taken here and there meant we had to rejig some timelines, which was no biggie, we just spent an extra day in Katherine and headed straight to Darwin for a week at Freespirit. We’d heard that Freespirit was awesome if you had kids and at $60 a night, it was a few dollars cheaper than a lot of the parks around. It was a great base to explore Darwin although if we had our time again, it sounds like the Big4 Howard Springs was a lot more kid friendly for younger kids. Freespirit had three pools (although we only used one) and other than a jumping pillow, there wasn’t much more by way of play equipment, whereas Howard Springs had a waterpark and big playground.
Still, we had power and most importantly air conditioning, which ran day and night due to the unseasonably high humidity that we’d come into. Quite a noticeable difference from Katherine, the days sat between 32 and 35 degrees, with up to 85% humidity some days! But we ventured out anyway and our first full day was spent exploring the Darwin Museum and Art Gallery which kept the girls interested – for the most part – and best of all was free!
With great animal exhibits and the history of Cyclone Tracey, Miss A had had just about enough by the time we got to Sweatheart the big 6m+ croc!
That afternoon, we caught up with a family we’d been crossing paths with and spent four hours at the Leanyer waterpark, one of the best waterparks we’d been to and again, it was free!! The kids had a ball and Miss B even tried out the big twisty slides! We were so engrossed in our six hour catch up that we didn’t even take a pic!
The following day we decided to check out the historic Oil Tunnels which were built to story oil in anticipation of an attack during the war. They were never completed on time and by all accounts, a comedy of errors in project management and construction and ultimately were a waste of public money.
It was then time for lunch and a swim and we decided to do this down at the Darwin waterfront and the wave pool that was there. The girls loved the wave pool and for a family, it’s quite affordable at only $18. A few hours were spent there and when we arrived back at the caravan park, we decided to hit the pool before dinner.
A jumping croc tour was on the agenda for the next day and after seeing a few freshwater crocodiles, we were looking forward to seeing some of their saltwater cousins. We headed out to the Adelaide River Cruises which is the home of three-legged Brutus and his arch rival Dominator. There are three tours that do croc jumping cruises, but we wanted to see Brutus and Dominator, one because they are two of the biggest crocs int he river at 6m long, and also because they’d been featured in the NT News as a result of their territory feud. Dominator, the younger male, had been fighting to expand his territory and they’d been both sporting new wounds in recent times.
Our introduction to a crocodile was walking down a very wobbly gangway onto an unlevelled pontoon to get onto the boat. As we walked down, Miss B leading the way, we could see a crocodile making its way over to the ramp. Even from a distance you could see that it was big, and by the time he’d gotten within a meter of the gangway, I wasn’t the only one thinking ‘F*&k this!’. I literally picked up Miss B and three her into the boat as myself and a few others behind me scrambled on board. Turns out the big croc was Dominator, coming over to say hi as the official welcoming party.
We were lucky to sit right near the captain of the boat. Not only did this mean we could ask lots of questions, it also meant that we were literally there when he was feeding them which meant we were within touching distance of the crocs.
Dominator was a prehistoric monster, but so impressive to look at.
We came across a few females with beautiful colours on their backs. And an interesting male that had lost all the colour from his back after being caught in a fence. All the pigment had been stripped from his back and he was left with a bit white stipe down his back.
We say a mother croc and a tiny baby about 30cm long.
And of course we saw the three-legged old man of the river, Brutus who was about 80 years old.
The cruise was definitely worth doing! We stopped in for lunch at the Humpty Doo pub before heading to the Mindil Markets where we enjoyed the sunset with thousands of others. Still, despite being crowded and busy, we made our way through the stalls and found some food for dinner before finishing up at around 9pm!
The next day, we headed out of town to Berry Springs for a laidback morning in another gorgeous thermal pool. Berry Springs was warm and spacious so you didn’t have to compete with the many tourists that were around. There were a couple of big lung pools and a little waterfall pool where you could hide behind the waterfall.
A quick trip to the Mango Farm afterwards to buy an ice cream and we were headed back to camp to chill out for the afternoon.
The next day we caught up with a friend of mine from school and spent a few hours at the botanical gardens to let the kids play. We then headed to the ski club for lunch before spending a few hours exploring the military museum and getting our heads around the involvement of Darwin during WW2. With a great multimedia interpretative centre and memorabilia located in and around what had originally been a bunker watchtower, it was quite easy to kill a few hours taking it all in.
Our last day was spent back down at Mindil beach experiencing the annual Beer Can Regatta. It was a hot day but we had a great time checking out the various entrants to the regatta and again the markets.
To cool down, we headed to the Palmerston waterpark, another free park with a huge speed slide and a waterpark. Miss B loved the speed slide, but Miss A was upset that she was too short to ride it! Still, it was a good afternoon.
And that was Darwin done and dusted. As Corey and the girls chilled out, I went and did some grocery shopping and then it was time to go. We really enjoyed Darwin and probably could have spent another week there exploring the town a little more.
The next morning, we packed up to go and I went to put some movies on a USB stick for the girls to use in the car but discovered that my laptop had stopped working. Given I’d been up until late the night before using it, I couldn’t work out why and after googling solutions, I couldn’t find anything that was resolving the issue and making it work. So I rang a Mac technician and she advised that without a proper diagnosis, there wasn’t too much more I could do, so the call was made to drop the laptop off to the techie out at Humpty Doo and then head out to Litchfield, swinging by to pick it up on the way through to Kakadu. For $70, the issue could be diagnosed and an agreement was made that if the issue was the motherboard, then the data would be backed up and I’d need to look at a new laptop, but if it was something more economically viable, then she would fix it. Nothing like a good drama to start the day!
Have you ever been to Darwin? Has your laptop or phone died when you’ve been away travelling?