I have travelled to many countries outside of work with my family, but over the last couple of years I have got into a bit of a Bali rut, flying at least half a dozen times to this easy to get to, value for money and enchanting place. However, this time we needed to mix it up a bit, after all, traveling is about experiencing new places, I booked flights to a destination in my own country – Darwin. I had never been before and it has always been on my list. After all, if you never never go, you’ll never never know, right? Here is my summary of our travels to our most northern capital:
PRE TRAVEL – I spoke to the kids about heading to a tropical destination and showed them Darwin on a map. They voted for pool time and I wanted relaxation, so we chose Sky City Resort based on its amazing pool areas. I also reached out to an ex-colleague who is a Darwin local and he gave me some great tips. With newly purchased sun-smart swimwear for the kids, pool games and some poolside wear for me, we were all packed into one lightweight wheelie bag. Finally, with flights booked and the car booked in at Andrew’s Airport Parking, we were ready to go.
AT THE AIRPORT – We arrived early (as I like to do) and by instruction of ground staff, we checked in our trusty travel stroller with our bags and swapped it for an airport one. With time on our hands we were able to stop for a coffee and babycinno at the book shop, which serves the best coffee in Melbourne domestic departures, the give-away being the number of crew there. One quick toilet stop and it was time to board.
FLIGHT – The QANTAS crew were fantastic, we were given pillows and blankets, plus activity packs for my kids. The food on board included vegemite and cheese scrolls that were a hit with the kids. later into the flight the crew’s walkthrough with juice and biscuits was timed perfectly as the kids were becoming restless. Content, the kids had a little doze, and before we knew it we were landing in Darwin. On the return flight my daughter was sick. I had a sick bag ready for this. I always recommend you keep them open and near when you are travelling with kids. There is no warning, Just “mum, I’m going to be…”
TRANSPORT- We claimed our stroller from oversized baggage and our bag from the carousel and headed outside to a taxi rank. Being September, it was hot and dry with a lovely breeze. When arriving somewhere new I always like to ask locals for tips and taxi drivers are a great source of information, so I asked away. The driver was really laid back and full of local knowledge. After I laughed off his first suggestion of the pubs in Mitchell Street he went onto suggest the markets and Crocosaurus Cove. All up, the drive cost about $25 dollars – the local advice was free!
ACCOMMODATION – When we arrived at SkyCity Darwin, the entrance was very understated and dated, but certainly tropical. We were assisted with our bags and went to check in, which was manned by polite, but not overly friendly or effective staff, e.g. minimal explanation of the hotel’s facilities. Fortunately, our experience improved with our room that boasted a view of the stunning beach, although unfortunately it was off-limits due to deadly jellyfish. Lucky for us we had two amazing pools to choose from, an infinity and lagoon pool –kids were in heaven! Dining options within the resort were limited to an average buffet (although the kids loved the chocolate fountain) and a really lovely Italian restaurant. The Pistachio ice cream was delish.
MINDIL MARKET- Everyone tells you to check out Mindil Markets when you go to Darwin. It certainly is a unique experience, but I am not sure it lived up to my heightened expectations. The market is right on the beach, where you grab your food from the stalls and find a spot to eat on the sand. I had fresh oysters and some Chinese food. I was picturing it to be a bit more theatrical, with people cooking in front of you, flaming woks, multitude of fresh food smells, etc. Unfortunately, most food was pre-made and sitting in bain-maries. What was lost in the theatre of food was made up by the patrons who created a relaxed, eclectic vibe, with lots of backpackers intermingling with local, hi-vis wearing workers. The convenience of being next to our accommodation was also a plus.
SUNSET- I love the sun so much that I named my son Sol (latin for sun). Sunsets always mesmerise me and Darwin did not disappoint. I have never seen a sunset so red and then so purple, which put it on par with my previous favourite in Jamaica with its oranges and reds. Having this view from our hotel, restaurants and pool was pretty special.
CROCOSAURUS COVE – One day we headed into town, Mitchell Street reminded me a lot like Asia. There were chain coffee shops in between rows of big open bars and pubs. In the middle of all that was Crocosaurus Cove. There we saw some of the largest saltwater crocodiles on the planet, with aquarium style viewing enabling you to see them up close, which was pretty mind boggling. My children also had the unforgettable opportunity to hold a baby croc. This is a must see and I would recommend going in the morning before it gets too hot.
Darwin was a great little holiday and I’m glad we had the chance to experience the Northern Territory and explore more of our wonderful country. I would have liked to see more of the amazing surroundings, like Litchfield National Park, however traveling solo with the kids this time I opted to stay close to the hotel. Overall, I believe it’s important to learn about other cultures, but it’s also vital to understand and experience your own country. Also travelling domestically is so much easier and quicker than going though international procedures. Although the total cost was a lot more expensive than Bali, I’m glad we did something different this time.