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Tropical Spice - How to eat and drink your way through Darwin

Every city has its eat streets and Darwin is no exception. Thanks to its continuing foodie culture explosion, you can spread your edible adventures right across the Top End’s spectacular landscape, from the city to the sea. 

Airnorth Magazine - December 2018/January 2019

Words and photography by: Jac Taylor

It’s a city named after the father of evolution, but even Charles Darwin may have been gobsmacked by the sheer rate at which our northern capital’s foodie scene has evolved. This melting pot of a city has had ingredients thrown in that could have clashed terribly, sitting as it does on the cusp of Asia, yet squarely in the cradle of Aboriginal home lands, and with a fascinating heritage of European settlement to boot. Yet somehow it all blends rather wondrously to produce a destination where you can have a breakfast laksa at the Nightcliff or Parap Village Markets, a classic lunch of wild barra and local bush pepper by the sea, and end the day with tropical cocktails and haute cuisine lit by the city’s famously vibrant sunsets. Choose your culinary adventure any way you like; here are five top ways to eat your way through the Top End food scene.    


1. On the Waterfront

Darwin’s favourite playground has that resort feeling, yet it’s open to all — just across the Skybridge from Smith Street. Catch the breeze in the Wave Lagoon until 6pm then prepare for a stroll along the boardwalk to choose a spot to eat, or spread out your evening into a moveable feast. Local favourites include the always full-to-heaving CHOW! – ostensibly Vietnamese, but spanning a raft of Asian flavours – or the more formal, special-occasion-friendly Antiquity Greek Restaurant. Hot Tamale has a popular tequila bar full of colourful tipples and a lengthy Mexican menu, while the more sedate and stylish Oyster Bar has become something of a tradition here, pairing oysters with sundowners.   

2. Café culture

The steamy weather doesn't preclude a steaming cup of coffee (or local chai). The city’s coffee culture is just about set to boil over with hipster-grade cafes popping up in alleyways. Don’t feel self-conscious about ordering your morning joe just the way you like it, but open your mind to a cool new favourite, since many cafes offer iced lattes, short blacks or macchiatos on ice and a dozen other ways to caffeinate in the heat. Visit Alley Cats Patisserie to see their cold-drip coffee set-up, or try a house iced tea made with local berries and plant life, and pair it with waffles topped with Japanese fried chicken and Sriracha — or head to The Rabbithole for a fresh salmon breakfast bowl.    


3. Wharf life

Stokes Hill Wharf is easily accessible via a walk around the wide, arcing bay next to the Waterfront precinct, and is Darwin’s main jumping-off point for cruising its fascinating coast. You can shell out (pun intended) for the pearl lugger sunset cruise or be thriftier and try a super-fun fish and chips sunset cruise, but don’t ignore the wharf itself. Every day and night, alongside the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s enjoyable visitor centre, an incredibly casual, alfresco dining area catches the through-breeze from the open water, fed by two arcades’ worth of walk-up food stores, including a bar and two fancier seafood restaurant options: Crustaceans on the Wharf and The Jetty.


4. Big sky beaches

The crocs and stingers of Darwin’s beaches may make swimming a dicey option, but that keeps this stretch of coastline pristine for locals and visitors to enjoy the stunning, wide vistas. The Sandbar at nearby SKYCITY casino makes a mean cocktail. Up the coast just a touch, the much-loved Darwin Trailer Boat Club serves a mean pub lunch, and in the evening Pee Wee’s at the Point up at East Point gets a gold star as the city’s best-known special-occasion fine dining. 


5. City beat

The central area of Darwin shouldn’t be overlooked, as its arcades and alleys now feature some hideaways more than worth their salt. Little Miss Korea has got urban chic down to perfection, using its spot in a well-known graffitied alleyway as a feature rather than a detraction, and celeb chef Chung Jae Lee’s expertise more than matches the décor in terms of style. Just around the corner, PM Eat & Drink also keeps it hip, and the seafood super fresh – this is the place to sample Darwin’s famed fish, simply prepared in share plates best enjoyed with a glass of wine or two. 

Airnorth flies to Darwin daily across the Airnorth network. For more information, head to



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