Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Family Friendly Things to do in Darwin

If you are looking for a family friendly tropical holiday, then Darwin may just have what you are looking for.

It is hot, relaxed and is a great change of pace from other Australian capital cities.  Its laid-back approach makes it very family friendly.  I also love that everything is close together, it is flat and easy to walk around and it has lots of free or cheap parking in the main part of Darwin.    

Nothing says 'tropical' like a frangipani
I've just returned from visiting my sister in Darwin with my two boys and my Mum.  It was a last minute kind of visit and we spent a fun week in the sun, kept cool with lots of swimming and just generally enjoyed the best Darwin has to offer.  It is my fourth time in Darwin and I've discovered my favourite places to beat the heat and keep the kidlets entertained.  

Swimming with my boys!
Here are some of our favourite kid-friendly things to do in Darwin:

Wave lagoon 

The Wave Lagoon is on the Darwin waterfront and the main attraction is the large wave pool. Inflatable tubes and body boards are provided free of charge to bob about in the waves or to try your luck catching a wave.  There is also a small baby pool perfect for the little ones, JJ loved walking around the pool while standing in the middle of tube and floating on a body board.

The wave pool is graduated in depth and my four year old was able to negotiate the waves with a body board in the shallow end by the end of our first visit.  

Banana lounges and umbrellas are available and you can come and go as may times as you like once you have paid.  It is great value, especially if you are staying on the Waterfront where you could use it several times throughout the day.  By the way, if you do need to stay in a hotel I would try to stay somewhere on the Waterfront - it is beautiful and central.

You can get 2 free hours of undercover parking in Kitchener Drive.  It costs $2 per hour for the 3rd and 4th hour.  You can also get close on-street parking for $2 an hour.  Parking is free on the weekend.
It's safe, stinger and croc free and caters for a wide variety of ages.  It is open daily from 10am to 6 pm.
15 years and over $7
Under 15yrs $7
Under 2 yrs  Free
Family (2 adults, 3 children)  $18

Leanyer Recreation Park

We love this place.  It has 3 giant water slides (including one that uses a double inflatable tube), a big lagoon, baby pools, an awesome wet play area with smaller water slides, water guns etc and and a dry playground under full shade.  It also had well utilised BBQ's, a skate park and basketball ring, so again it caters for a wide range of ages.

The only downside is that the water parts are not open on a Monday or a Tuesday during the school term.  It is open Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm.  The dry playground is open everyday.  And the best bit, it is absolutely free!  Amazing. It is a heap of fun and a perfect place to spend a couple of hours every day if you want to!

Where: 215 Vanderlin Dve Leanyer NT
Cost:  Free!
  •                          A view of the Leanyer Recreation Park from the top of the water slides

Deckchair Cinema

We went and saw 'The Boxtrolls' at the outdoor Deckchair Cinema. Although I didn't love the movie I did love the cinema.  The movie started at 7.30pm and as we got their early we got to enjoy watching the sunset over the water. 

Movie with a view

Different hot food options are available every night from 6.30pm and table and chairs are provided to eat at.  Don't feel shy about taking your own food though, when we were there families were bringing in a wide range of food, with one family even making up roast chicken rolls production line style!  You can't bring alcohol in but you can buy wine and beer from the kiosk. 

MJ loved running around before the movie started, playing with some of the other kids.  The stage under the screen was well utilised by kids 'performing' before the movie started.  You then get to kick back in a deck chair and watch a movie under the stars. They even provide insect repellent and cushions. The chairs are comfy and the view is great.

I was able to take JJ and didn't feel self conscious about bringing a 10-month-old to a movie. When he got a bit restless in the dark, I moved to the back in the light and I could easily keep him entertained and still see the movie.

The cinema is open from April to November.  Parking is free after 6pm.  You can get their via the Damoe Rd Walkway from the Esplanade or by road from the end of Kitchener Drive in the Waterfront precinct.

Litchfield National Park

If you are in Darwin you have to make the almost two hour drive down to Litchfield National Park. It is quintessential north Australia with waterfalls, rock pools and walking trails.  On this visit we swam at Wangi Falls and then relaxed in the Buley Rockholes.  Florence Falls is also beautiful but it is harder to access the water with young kids.  Litchfield is a must-see!

Wangi Falls

The Museum and Art Gallery of Darwin 

I've taken both secondary school groups and my younger boys to the museum and I've enjoyed it every time. The Cyclone Tracey exhibit is excellent and the range of indigenous art is fantastic. Sweetheart the Crocodile is a favourite of the kids and there is also a small hands-on discovery centre for kids to play and explore.  MJ also loved the Maritime display and the natural sciences exhibit.  

It is located at 19 Conacher St, The Gardens, Darwin and is open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm and on the weekends 10am-5pm.

Sweetheart the croc

Casuarina Beach 

Here you'll find sandstone rocks and a beautiful sandy beach.  We couldn't swim as it was stinger season and you always need to be careful about the crocs, (which makes me curious about how the Darwin Life Saving Club practice their surf skills), but it has a beautiful sandy expanse and it is perfect for beautiful morning walks and sand play. Just be aware that you may hit the nudist beach if you head a couple of kilometres up the beach! There is also a walking path along the top of the beach.  It is located at the end of Trower Rd

Perfect for morning walks.

Mindil Beach Sunset Market

I know I have mentioned sunsets a few times, but can you really have too many on holiday? We went to the Thursday night market and enjoyed a fruit smoothie while watching the sunset on the beach.  We then watched some street theatre and walked around the market.  It has an excellent range of different food and is a great night out.

Smoothie, sand and sunset

Eating Out.

We only ate out a few times but I found each of them to be very family-friendly. 

Seafood on Cullen Bay.  This is a more expensive option but the buffet experience is fun and it provides lots of choice to meet everyone's taste.  The chocolate fountain is definitely the kid's favourite!  Make sure you sit outside so you can enjoy the excellent beach location and accompanying sunset.

Darwin Sailing Club.  This is another waterfront location but with a far more relaxed setting.  It has a fairly classic bistro menu and also has a playground and grass area for the kids to play.  You will again be rewarded with an amazing sunset with your meal.

Rawgasm Cafe.  This is a fairly new raw, paleo cafe.  It has a small menu but I enjoyed a green smoothie (in obligatory mason jar) and a paleo pizza with the base made from coconut flour. Mum had the paleo pancakes which were excellent.  It is located opposite the playground in the Smith Street Mall which you can see from the restaurant.

Have you been to Darwin? Where are your favourite places to visit in Darwin?

Linking up with I Blog On Tuesdays at Essentially Jess - (a former Territorian!)

Keep smiling


  1. Darwin really is a great place and there are so many free and cheap things to do with the kids there. Before I began my current adventure I proudly called Darwin home as well. Glad you had such a lovely time there, you made me a little homesick.

    Leaving some fairy wishes and butterfly kisses from #teamIBOT

    1. My sister loves it up there too, I don't know if we'll ever get her back to Melbourne!

  2. You know I've never been to Darwin and I'd like to because my parents met there. They were both working away from their homes in a bank there. Mum was from a NSW country town and Dad from a Qld country town. The only problem I would have with Darwin is the heat. Me and heat don't mix well at all! I barely survive living in Brisbane - and that is with aircon and a pool! That wave pool looks like fun and the open air deck chair cinema looks great (if it weren't so hot!!) ;-)

    1. It seems most people from Darwin arrived from somewhere else, it is a highly transient place! The heat actually wasn't too bad for this time of year, in the shade or with a breeze it was quite comfortable, hot, but comfortable!

  3. I've never been to Darwin but it is definitely on my want to visit list.

    PS That is such a gorgeous photo of you swimming with your two boys. Cute baby teeth!

    1. Thanks, it is my favourite photo at the moment! Keep Darwin on the list, it is a great place to visit.

  4. This is great, am going to pin it for another day when I'm ready to plan a trip to Darwin with the kids.

    1. Thanks Malinda, I'd definitely recommend that you keep it on your list of places to visit :)

  5. Wow these things look great! I love the deck chair cinema - perfect for kids too! I've never been to Darwin but it's definitely on my list! Looks like you guys had a great time :-)