Darwin Delights

Nine years ago, Darwin seemed like a big country town. Like a lot of places, in has undergone a massive boom, so we were really interested to see the changes.

First job when we got to Darwin though was to get the power steering on the truck repaired. Just outside of Jabiru, one of the belts had disintegrated. The truck was still drivable, but Mike needed nothing short of super-human strength to manoeuvre the rig around corners. We actually cut short our stay in Mary River, because we couldn’t contemplate driving down 4WD dirt tracks with no powered steering.

Howard Springs Caravan ParkThe staff at our new home Howard Springs BIG4 gave us a tip on a local guy who could help us out. A shopping trip later for a replacement belt, and everything was ready for the mechanic. He ended up replacing all four belts as they all had taken a beating and were looking like they had seen better days.

Our first Darwin delight was the Aquascene Fish Feeding at Doctors Gully. This little gem is a Darwin institution on every family’s itinerary. A local started feeding fish here at high tide years ago, and now every high tide, the place is inundated with a massive quantity and variety of fish, eager for a free feed. You can walk down the boat ramp and literally hand feed fish, some of them practically jumping out of the water in the frenzy.

Kids feeding fish at AquasceneHand feeding fish at AquasceneThis experience was a real hit with the kids. After hand feeding on the ramp, both Coby and Rhys were happy to sit back on the wharf and throw in titbits of bread to some of the bigger fish hanging back from the main crowd. It was a great opportunity to see some monsters in action just a meter or two away.

They also have a little pond containing a couple of mudcrabs, stingrays, barra and baitfish (ultimately food for everything else – but they chose to swim in). Entry in Doctors Gully includes bread for feeding. It is definitely popular, and something the family can enjoy doing together. You can visit their website to check tide and opening times here.

After several days at Howard Springs, we ventured a little closer into Darwin, and stayed at Saddle Court (Ph 08 8927 0894). There are only a few sites, but it is quiet and away from the flight path. They also do short term caravan storage at very reasonable prices, and the owners are the friendliest and most hospitable people you could meet.

One morning, we all woke up early so we could drop Mike off for a half day fishing with Fish Darwin, which you can read all about on Mikes Page. While he was enjoying his fun in the sun, the kids and I visited the Rossiter Street Playgroup Centre at Rapid Creek. Not only did we have a really fun morning playing, we also managed to rope in some very willing children and mums to help celebrate Coby’s fifth birthday. Yes, it was a day early, but you have to take advantage of a good situation. That night we went to the famous Mindil Markets, to admire the arts and crafts, and sample the extraordinary culinary delights available, all this while watching the sun set over the water.Mindil Beach sunset

Birthday Croc TimeBelairs lagoon MaleThe best activities we saved for Coby’s big day. We spent a fabulous morning at Darwin Crocodylus Park. We discovered the crocodiles were not the only highlight, as the park also contains a zoo with all sorts of interesting and exotic native and non-native species, including lions, primates, turtles and wallaroos. The croc show was fantastic, as we got to see them in action and participate in feeding them. To read more about our visit, click here.

We lunched at Leanyer Recreation Park, which is a gem of a place within Darwin. We loved this place so much; we actually visited it three times during our stay. It is a water park with an aqua park for the littlies, three big slides for the bigger kids and a huge pool with areas and depths for kids of all ages. Best thing about it, it all FREE. There is also BBQs, picnic tables, shade and a massive playground. If only every major city had a place like this to go.

Alas, our arrangements for Coby’s special birthday dinner did not go to plan. It’s not often I write anything negative about an experience we have had, but this one was so appalling, I just have to warn my fellow travelling families. We planned to go to Darwin Trailer Boat Club for dinner. As usual, we checked it all out in the internet before we finalised our plans. First thing, we found out their prices were greatly inflated from what was advertised online. It must have been a while since they have updated. Secondly, they refused to honour our ‘Kids Eat Free’ voucher we had picked up at the tourist info office. When Mike politely queried the manager, he simply asked if we were members (we weren’t) and suggested we could leave, turning on his heel without a backward glance or chance for further discussion. In all our travels and experiences, I have never witnessed such rudeness and lack of professionalism, especially from a manager in hospitality. You have been warned.

Cake TimeBy this stage it was too late to book anything else, so Coby’s special night was spent eating takeout pizza in the caravan. Our little princess didn’t seem to mind, as pizza is a favourite. But this soured what was almost the perfect day.

Putting that one bad experience behind us, we absolutely loved Darwin. It is almost a different place compared to nine years ago, so much bigger and with so much more. But we have been here long enough so it’s off to explore the remaining parts of the top end before heading across to Queensland.

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