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Outdoor Darwin

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Darwin, Australia's northernmost capital city, is a melting pot of people and cultures. It has a relaxed outdoor lifestyle and enjoys warm weather all year round. Sitting on a peninsula with sea on three sides, it became a harbour port in 1869. Its population grew with the discovery of gold at Pine Creek in 1871.

World War II put Darwin on the map as a major allied military base for troops fighting the Japanese in the Pacific.

The city made world news in 1974 when it was devastated by Cyclone Tracy. The town was evacuated, but almost without exception, everyone returned. Its population of 100,000, made up of 50 nationalities (with many culinary and cultural benefits), wouldn't live anywhere else.

One of the best places to savour Darwin is the Mindil Beach sunset markets. They began in 1987 with a few Asian food stalls, but are now the Territory's number one tourist spot. The market is recognised by the National Trust as an icon of national significance. Mindil Beach is sacred Larrakia land and contains a burial area and visitors are asked to show respect.

The market has the food of five continents, a huge range of art and craftwork, crocodile, kangaroo and barramundi products, indigenous and bush art, clothing, pottery and even didgeridoos. You can book a tour, indulge in a massage, have your palm read or discover your future with a tarot reading. Buskers and performing artists entertain as the sun sets over the ocean.

Parap Market operates every Saturday morning. It takes over the Parap Shopping Village just 10 minutes from the CBD.

It's a good idea to lay claim to a table under a shady tree if you intend to sample some of the delicious food on offer. It's good for breakfast and there are plenty of exotic dishes to choose from for lunch. The colourful marketplace is busy but relaxed and local arts as craftspeople display their creations.

If you're at East Point Reserve on a Saturday, you will come across a happy group sitting on a rock, sipping a cold beer as the sun sets. Darwin Rocksitters was started by a group of journalists in 1974. With Darwin's seven-metre tides, the rock is a metre underwater at high tide, ensuring only the hardiest of drinkers earn the right to become a rocksitter. They've raised loads of money for charity and have set a few records for the world's longest rock-sit!

Deckchair Cinema, operated by the Darwin Film Society, screens films often unavailable to local audiences. The outdoor setting, on the edge of Darwin Harbour, is stunning. Reflecting lights from moored and passing ships and beautiful sunsets add to the atmosphere.

Films run every night during the dry season, ranging from family favourites to festivals and foreign films. Snacks, beer and wine are available for patrons as they settle into 250 deckchairs or 100 straight-backed chairs.

Feathers Sanctuary is a unique bed and breakfast combining first class accommodation with the beauty of native wildlife. It is an extravagant development of Indonesian-style huts and aviaries of magnificently coloured tropical birds. A cooling plunge-pool is provided for guests and there is a waterhole for the birds.

The huts have teak furniture, sliding corrugated iron wall sections hiding a private outdoor shower, decks overlooking rolling lawns, polished concrete floors and comfortable beds. Fresh flowers and a breakfast hamper (as well as a bottle of wine for later) are provided and the owners welcome guests and accompany them as they feed their feathered visitors. Some of the birds have been rescued, other just arrive as they know they have found a haven.


The capital of the Northern Territory


Mindil Sunset Beach Market is open on Thursdays between 5-10pm and on Sundays between 4-9pm. 2008 season is April 24-October 30.

Darwin Film Society Deckchair Cinema costs $13 for adults and $6 for children. The box office and kiosk open at 6.30pm. They have some cushions available, but suggest you take your own along for comfort.

Parap Markets are open every Saturday between 8am-2pm.

Feathers Sanctuary huts start at $200 a night.

Virgin Blue has flights to Darwin.

Melbourne $169
Brisbane $199
Sydney $235
Adelaide $255
Perth $290

There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares are one way on the Net. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at March 6, 2008, and are subject to change.

Prices correct at March 6, 2008

For further information:

Feathers Sanctuary
49A Freshwater Road
Darwin 0810
Ph: (08) 8985 2144 or 0408 895 512

Deckchair Cinema
Jervois Road off Kitchener Drive
Wharf Precinct
Darwin 0801
Program information: (08) 8981 0700
Ph: (08) 8941 4377
Fax: (08) 8981 9755

Parap Markets
Parap Shopping Centre
8am-2pm Saturdays year round

Virgin Blue
Ph: 13 6789

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