6 Excellent Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do In Darwin

Eating ants, pole dancing, and much more.

My silhouette, in front of an incredible Darwin sunset.

I’d never thought of Darwin as a place for a holiday and now that I’ve been, I’m ashamed of myself. Darwin really turned it up; it’s one of the most fun, educational and quintessential Australia holidays I’ve ever been on.

There are endless things to do in Darwin. I was only there for 4 days, and let’s just say it wasn’t enough. Whether it’s checking out their amazing art gallery and museum, going to the Mindil Sunset Markets or simply riding an electric scooter through the fairy-lit palm trees on a balmy night – it’s a pretty special place to be.

Here are 6 things to do in Darwin that you’d never expect to exist, or be so damn fun.

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Throb Nightclub / Facebook

Watch an awesome drag show

Throb Nightclub has been around for over 20 years, making history as Darwin’s only gay nightclub. Everyone knows Throb, especially its sexy midnight drag show that happens every Friday and Saturday night without fail. We were told by almost every local that we had to go and check it out before we left and damn, I’m glad we listened. We were graced with the presence of queens Tiwi Island, Shaniqua and Sista Girl, as they twirled around in their knee-length stiletto boots and latex, accompanied by The Tomcats, male dancers with assless chaps and Magic Mike-esc dance moves. We drank fireball, we danced on poles and it was fabulous.

The ants that were sprinkled on top of the dessert.

Eat a green ant’s nest for dessert

Darwin has no shortage of incredible restaurants that challenge the idea of modern Australian cooking and offer up something new. One in particular, Phat Mango, offers up an incredibly seasonal and sustainable approach, utilising Australian ingredients in ways I’d never seen before. Perhaps the most challenging was their Ants Nest dessert, which was a combination of dark chocolate, fruit curd, and green ants. The ants were fried and although they still looked very much like, they tasted sour, reminiscent of sour grape nerds. It was actually an extremely delicious dessert. Would recommend. 
How to book: You can go try some green ants for yourself. Book a table at Phat Mango here.

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Mindil Beach Sunset Markets / Facebook

Give the sunset a round of applause

At the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, people go for good food, live music, handmade jewellery and of course, the amazing sunset. The sunset happens at 6:29pm on the dot every night and the beach packs out with tourists and locals. As the sun hits the water, the entire beach erupts into applause. It’s a pretty incredible atmosphere.

Sing out loud to Missy Higgins

Darwin is home to one of the most iconic Australian music festivals BASSINTHEGRASS. With tickets already on sale for next year, BASS’s lineup, activities, food and sunset beach setting didn’t disappoint. Missy Higgins headlined—an unforgettable moment—with over 20,000 people singing Scar at the top of their lungs. I have video evidence to prove it. 

How to book: You can get tickets for BASSINTHEGRASS 2022 here right now.

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Saltwater Cultural Tours / Facebook

Experience a local Welcome to Country

Aboriginal Cultural Guide Trent Lee showed us some cultural traditions and gave us an official Welcome to Country upon the local shore of Larrakia Peoples land and waters. We learnt that the way to introduce yourself to the land is to grab some of your armpit sweat on your hands and wash it off with the ocean water so that you become one with the natural land and acquaint yourself with it. We also ate damper with jam and cream and learnt how to throw spears, all with the early morning amber-coloured beach background. It was a truly special experience.
How to book: You can experience your own through Saltwater Cultural Tours.

Me with Otis, the croc.

Meet & eat crocodiles

Bit different to a meet and greet. We went on Top End Safari Camp’s crocodile tour, where we became acquainted with multiple crocodiles, out in the wild doing their thing. We met Otis, Bone-Cruncher and Sally the crocodiles and we were shown how their eggs are hunted and sold, so that they can be used for their leather. We were also introduced to a collection of injured crocodiles that are being nursed back to health on-site. It turns out that crocodiles are truly overwhelming in size and speed, but it was pretty incredible to see a creature that is so iconically Australian. Somewhat ironically, every restaurant in Darwin has something with crocodile on the menu. At Snapper Rocks, we ate some salt ‘n’ pepper crocodile, which is absolutely delicious. I’m not sure how I feel about this full circle; caring for crocs, appreciating how incredible they are, but then using their skin for handbags and eating them for dinner…but it was a true Australian experience.
How to book: You can book your own croc safari here, and a table at Snapper rocks here.

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Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

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Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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