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Kakadu & Top End

Kakadu Highlights

Darwin Beaches

Darwin has beautiful beaches, some of which are right in the city. Sadly, most visitors are completely unaware of what we have to offer. Below you will find a few ideas about how to make the most out of some of the wonderful beaches that are well worth visiting while you are in Darwin

Crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish — it's too dangerous! While that's what many people think, why not look at the facts?

Most people overestimate the risk of unfamiliar things and underrate the risk of familiar ones. The link is to an article in one of our newsletters. The relevant bit on risk should be at the top of the page if you click the link.)

The reality is that, during the dry season, swimming at a beach in Darwin is safer than crossing a city street or swimming at most southern beaches.

Visiting during the Wet? If you don't like chlorine filled pools and want a swim during the wet season, consider Lake Alexander.

Now for the beaches.

Mindil Beach

Dining on the lawn behind the stalls at Mindil Markets Mindil Market

The Mindil Beach Markets, held every Thursday and Sunday evening during the dry season are well known and one of Darwin's biggest tourist attractions.

Few people realise that there is an excellent beach behind the markets. Unlike the markets, the beach is there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Swimming is almost perfect during the dry season — a water temperature that most visitors find ideal.

Dining on the beach on a market evening Mindil Beach as seen from the nearby Darwin High School hill Relaxing on Mindil Beach in the late afternoon

Vesteys Beach

Vesteys Beach

A few hundred metres away on the other side of the Darwin High School hill is Vesteys Beach. At one end is the Darwin Ski Club and the NT Museum (well worth a visit at any time). At the other are the Darwin Sailing Club and Darwin Trailer Boat Club. All three welcome visitors and all three offer a great place to have a meal while watching the sun set over Darwin Harbour.

Between the Ski Club and the clubs at the other end is Vesteys Lake Park. Vesteys Beach is even larger than Mindil.

Fannie Bay Beach

Looking along Fannie Bay beach toward the city Looking along Fannie Bay beach toward Dudley Point

Follow the cycle path up the hill past the Fannie Bay Gaol Museum and you get to the East Point Reserve, the first part of which is bordered by Fannie Bay Beach. At times it's almost deserted. During the weekends, the shores are lined with local people having a break from their normal routine.

East Point still contains many World War II sites and the Darwin Military Museum which has displays covering much of Darwin's history during World War II. The museum exhibits include the Defence of Darwin Experience, "an immersive, interactive, multimedia experience which extends beyond the physical walls of the precinct 'hub'."

Cycle path? Darwin has an outstanding set of bicycle paths. It's flat, the paths are off the roads, so a bicycle can be an ideal, and cheap, way to get around. Bicycles are readily available for hire in Darwin city. The Trip Advisor Darwin Bike Hire page has information about some of them.

This map shows all the main paths in Darwin and Palmerston. If you want to get to Nightcliff or Casuarina Beach, a bicycle is a good way to go.

Aerial view of Lake Alexander WWII gun turret at Est Point

Lake Alexander on East Point is one of the places where you can swim all year long. The photo at far right shows an aerial view of the lake with Fannie Bay Beach on the left. The Lake Alexander page on TripAdvisor shows that most visitors rate it very highly.

The near photo shows the largest of the WWII gun turrets at East Point. The East Point page on TripAdvisor shows that this is another site that most visitors rate very highly.

Nightcliff Beach

Nightcliff Beach Picnickers on the rocks at Nightcliff Beach

The final two beaches are out in the suburbs. Nightcliff Beach is the smallest of the five. It sits below the cliffs of Nightcliff, near the Nightcliff Swimming Pool and Nightcliff Jetty. Running behind the beach for about 7 km is the walking and cycle path along the Nightcliff Foreshore. This is one of the most popular places for local people go to for a walk in the late afternoon or early morning. At low tide, it is also a popular spot for picnics on the rocks as shown in the first photo. At high tide, those rocks are submerged.

Rapid Creek footbridge Cycle path sign at Rapid Creek footbridge Nightcliff foreshore foot and cycle path

The photos at left show the Nightcliff cycle and footpath at one of the few times when there is no one using it, an information sign and the footbridge over Rapid Creek at a high tide.

You can find out a bit more about the area on the Wikipedia Nightcliff page.

Casuarina Beach

Swimming and walking dogs at Casuarina beach Swimming and walking dogs at Casuarina beach

A foot bridge leads from the Nightcliff Foreshore path over Rapid Creek and into the Casuarina Coastal Reserve. Casuarina Beach, extends all the way from Rapid Creek to Lee Point and then to Buffalo Creek (a great place for birdwatching). This is Darwin's longest beach, about 8 kilometres from one end to the other.

The first section of the beach from Rapid Creek to Dripstone Cliffs is dog friendly and one of the most popular places in Darwin. Every afternoon, you will find dozens of people walking themselves and their dogs along the beach. Dripstone Cliffs is popular among locals as a place to have a picnic dinner while watching the sun set over Darwin Harbour.

Dripstone Cliffs, a popular picnic spot at Casuarina beach Dripstone Cliffs, a popular picnic spot at Casuarina beach

Just beyond the cliffs is Dripstone Park, another picnic area. At the end of Dripstone Park is the clubhouse for the Darwin Surf Lifesaving Club. The final car park is about 500 m further on. Another 500 m on a walking track brings you to the free beach where bathers are optional.

Also at that car park is one of the ends of the Casuarina Mangrove Boardwalk. For those feeling more energetic, there is a second boardwalk near Sandy Creek, site of one of the World War II watch posts. If you do the full walk, you can still see traces of the old log road that troops used during the war to get to the beach.

Google Earth view of Casuarina Beach Fishing near a high tide at the mouth of Buffalo Creek, January

Further along, you reach Lee Point, where another small park is accessible by vehicle. The beach finally ends at Buffalo Creek. For those who enjoy cycling, there is a good mountain bike track that runs from Casuarina Beach to Lee Point.

The area near Buffalo Creek is an excellent location for birdwatching. This report from someone who did some birdwatching near Darwin mentions their experience at Buffalo Creek. We include a visit to the area near Buffalo Creek on our Kakadu and Top End birdwatching tour.

Casuarina Beach, nearly empty Casuarina Beach, nearly as crowded as it gets

As the pictures at left show, sometimes you can have this marvellous beach nearly to yourself. Even when it's relatively crowded, there are far fewer people than you would find at popular beaches near larger cities.

If you are planning a visit to Darwin, give our beaches a chance. They are among the best beaches in Australia.

Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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