Darwin Delights

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Darwin harbour overlooks the Arafura Sea, a symphony in blue.

It’s been over a decade since Lyndsay headed north, not north to Alaska but north to Darwin!  Taking  a position as a choral teacher with the Northern Territory Music School turned out to be her perfect job and so she stayed.  Over the years, we’ve traveled to Darwin many times to visit her, discovering and savoring much of what the Northern Territory has to offer along the way. We’ve marveled at waterfalls,  gorges, billabongs and ages old rock art. We’ve been up close and personal with way too many crocodiles and luxuriated in hot springs at Mataranka under the dappled light of paperbark and palm trees. We’ve visited museums, learning more about Darwin’s wartime experiences and the horror of Cyclone Tracy, pretended to surf in the wave pool at the Waterfront and so much more.

Quite simply, Darwin is a delightful place to visit especially in July.  It is always wonderfully sunny and warm, perfect for outdoor pursuits. On our latest trip, we focused on simple pleasures. Admiring Lyndsay and Reece’s new home in the Northern Suburbs and becoming acquainted with  Hannibal, their Siberian husky was paramount. As you know, I love a good beach walk, but it’s always so much more fun with a puppy, especially a big puppy.

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We loved the dog exercise area of the Casuarina Coastal Reserve. The beach just seemed to go for ever and we could see Lee Point in the distance. At the right time of year, turtles hatch here too.

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Reece and Hannibal were having a ball.  Hannibal was very careful in the water. He only wanted to get his feet wet and avoided getting his body fur wet.

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Of course, Hannibal enjoys his creature comforts. The front seat is his domain. Lyndsay, Kenn and I were quite content to be out of the slobber zone in the back seat.

Having bought an older home, Lyndsay and Reece have lots of renovation plans and have begun with the landscaping. This involved serious wilderness clearing and fun with a bobcat or two. The result, a stylish productive garden overlooking the park.  As I savored my morning coffee on the back deck shaded by the gum trees, I noticed that a cricket match was in progress on the oval in the distance. Not the Australian team in training for its upcoming tour to Bangladesh unfortunately but a local team trying to escape the heat of the day by starting early.

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The cricket match is in progress on the other side of the park.

As we were based in the Northern Suburbs, we reacquainted ourselves with the foreshore at Nightcliff. Since our last visit, a new cafe has been built next to the Swimming Pool and has proved  very popular with locals and visitors alike.

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The pool has large sails which keep the water temperature at a pleasant temperature all year round.  Not only is the pool pristine, but what a view! We enjoyed a leisurely swim before adjourning to the cafe for refreshment

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Such a lovely view from the cafe as well. The bean bags looked comfy and I noticed that mums and bubs tended to cluster there.

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Breakfast was delicious. Loved my smashed avocado with poached eggs while Kenn’s breakfast tart almost gave me menu envy. The coffee was very good as well.
We walked along the cycle path to the Nightcliff Jetty and all around were vistas of the sea and the foreshore shaped by big tides.

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Can you believe that we are in a capital city?
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view from the jetty

Lyndsay and Reece were also keen to show us one of their favourite wilderness/camping spots, Tjuwaliyn or the Douglas-Daley Hot Springs Park. This proved to be a great 4WD adventure. The park is located about two hours drive south of Darwin and of course our first stop was the Douglas River.   Here, fringed by sandy beaches, the river splits into two branches for a couple of hundred metres, forming a series of quiet, crystal clear pools.

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Even though it was a public holiday and there were lots of visitors at the Springs, you still felt that you had the place to yourself

In one branch, hot springs heat the water while the water in the other branch is cold. Where the branches come together, the waters mingle. So with a bit of exploration, you can find your perfect temperature.

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The hot spring side of the river is very shallow so wallowing is the order of the day

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The water on the other side is cold but wonderfully refreshing after soaking in the hot water and I was content to float in the shady coolness.
We loved our hot and cold spa treatment. And relaxing under the tall shady trees for a shade bake.

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Perfect positioning: a few steps either side for hot and cold running water. What more could you ask for?

But the park has more to offer than the hot springs. We also visited Butterfly Gorge, further upstream from the Springs. We initially walked alongside the river to where the it widens into a big pool.

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It looked heavenly but ….you never know where a croc may lurk!

According to Lyndsay and Reece, you can usually walk around a big rocky outcrop to explore deeper into the gorge but alas we couldn’t. We didn’t think that this part of the river was absolutely, 100% crocodile free so  were reluctant to wade around to the beach. We retraced our steps and completed the much harder climb to the lookout instead.

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This walk was not what I would describe as picturesque! I was watching for snakes as I negotiated my way between the rocks.

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But the view from the top was worth it!

Back in the Ranger and the home comforts of Darwin beckoned but Lyndsay and Reece had another experience for us to savour: dinner at the Adelaide River Pub. The annual Rosella festival was on; bush food not birds. Having never tasted rosellas, I ate a few while an oldtimer at the bar shared his mother’s recipe for rosella jelly which he maintained was better than cranberry sauce! It might well be, but it would have been a labour of love. You would have to pick an awful lot of rosellas to have enough petals with which to make sauce.

Only in the territory do you come across unique memorabilia. Taking pride of place in the bar was the buffalo who had such a memorable role in ‘Crocodile Dundee”. It was stuffed of course!

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Apparently he had lived to a ripe old age at the back of the pub!

And the meal brought another surprise. The chef was obviously keen to ensure that no-one left his establishment hungry. For example,  Kenn’s chicken schnitzel was shaped like a map of Australia and covered his whole plate burying a massive mound of vegetables. While he made some valiant inroads, Kenn had to admit defeat at the Western Australian/ Territory border. Yep, everything’s big in the outback.

Back in Darwin, we continued to reacquaint ourselves with the city centre. The walk along the Esplanade is not to be missed. The gardens and lookout near the war memorial are especially lovely.

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the War Memorial

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Looking out to sea
But there is always something new! This time we spotted two young men setting up a stall selling french crepes.

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Just the thing for brunch
And we visited Lameroo Beach accessed via a track which branches from the main Esplanade path.

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The path is shaded by some coastal rainforest

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Loved the colours of the rocks which fringed the beach. There was no-one else there and this was in the middle of Darwin City!

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Can never get enough of these colours! 

A visit to Darwin has always included fabulous dinners out. On this trip, our culinary highlight was dinner at the Exotic North Indian Restaurant at Cullen Bay. Seated at a table overlooking the pier, we enjoyed some of the best Indian food I have tasted anywhere. Service was really excellent and the prices reasonable.

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There’s something magical about dining outdoors with good company and listening to the sound of waves lapping at your feet and looking at yachts silhouetted against the city lights

All too soon, it was time to catch the dreaded ‘red-eye’ back to Brisbane. This time, following a family dinner at home, we all went to the 8pm session of the Deck Chair Cinema. Luckily, ‘Monsieur Chocolat’ was showing, a powerful yet moving French film. It finished with more than enough time to make our farewells and get to the airport. It was a great way to fill in time before a 12.30 flight!

It was wonderful catching up with Lyndsay and Reece and we’re already planning for our next Darwin adventure. Familiar places can be so rewarding to visit.

 

 

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