Top End tourist enjoying the bloke factor – Image by neilspicys
While the Sydney and Melbourne continue a self-proclaimed tug-of-war for Australia’s best city award, Darwin freewheels into Lonely Planet’s world top ten for “X-Factor”.
We arrived in Darwin after spending a couple of months exploring Australia’s remote northwest and the Northern Territory in a cramped camper van.
Maybe I’d been on the road too long or spent too much time in the bush, but when I’m asked to describe the Darwin vibe, I say cosmopolitan freewheeling flirting with chic.
I’ve had some strange looks from that description, usually from Australians who haven’t been there but know something of its male influence. And who can blame them? While stereotypes can be unfairly sticky, no one can argue with the demographics.
The Male Factor
Dr Dean Carson, head of population studies at Charles Darwin University, said the male vibe is due to the jobs mostly being in male-dominated areas, such as construction, mining and defence. Darwin is the only capital in Oz that has more blokes than women and the same studies showed that women found Darwin too male-orientated.
While Darwin definitely wasn’t the men-in-tight-khaki-shorts “big backwater town” some would have you believe, It wasn’t long before we found that bloke factor when we bumped into our friend Mick on Mitchell street; the beating heart of Darwin’s nocturnal scene.
A few days earlier Mick had taken us on a wonderful warts-and-all trip in Kakadu National Park where we slept in swags (waterproof sleeping bags).
In the bush I’d seen Mick’s sensitive side, but there was no sign of it that night among the young vibrancy of Mitchell Street when he said he was on his way to “Tits out Tuesday” at a local pub. After reminding me it was a “blokes town”, he invited us to tag along, thankfully without any expectations of my tits making an appearance.
We didn’t end up at “Tits out Tuesday”. Mick was just pulling my metaphorical plonker and I remember thinking I’d experienced more male chauvinism in the corporate boardrooms of London than in the bars of Darwin.
Reasons to go to Darwin
Since then, Darwin has tried hard to move away from its bare-footed bush-hatted blokey image. When it comes to the brochure blurb, I agree with the depiction of a modern city with stylish restaurants, world-class markets, the beautiful Mindil beach sunsets and romantic harbour side walks.
There’s definitely much more to Darwin than fellas, but I’m not sure if any amount of superfluous words or fancy phrases will ever erase the bloke factor…. And why try? The Northern Territory’s tourism tag line “mix it up in Darwin” seems about right to me.
Lonely Planet’s in-house travel experts judged the top ten cities on topicality, excitement, value and “x-factor”. I have fond memories of Darwin as a spirited city with its own personality, which gives it that whatever-you-want-to-call-it factor Lonely Planet lovers crave.
Its accolade is well deserved, and male-orientated or not, I vote for it to stay that way.
Darwin is the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory. It’s perched on a peninsula with sea on three sides. It’s harbour, known as the gateway to Asia is bigger than Sydney’s. Its 127,000 population has more than 50 nationalities including the area’s traditional landowners, the Larrakia Aboriginal people.
Darwin enjoys warm weather all year round averaging 20 to 33 degrees centigrade. But “tropical climate” means hot, sweaty and humid in those wet season summer months, particularly in January and February during monsoonal rain. Darwin experiences dramatic electrical storms with spectacular lightening strikes.
You can experience one of the world’s oldest living cultures in and around Darwin on a guided Aboriginal tour. In World War II, Darwin was the front line that defended Australia against the same Japanese force that struck Pearl Harbour. In 1974 Cyclone Tracey struck on Christmas Eve, devastating the city for the second time.
Mitchell Street is the hub of Darwin’s restaurants and pubs. Harbour-side entertainment can be found on the stylish boardwalks of Cullen Bay Marina. Whether you’re tucking into pub grub or sipping fine wine in an award winning restaurant, you can try local fare like mud crabs, Barramundi, buffalo, kangaroo and crocodile.
Things to do
If you want to check out the great bars, restaurants, cultural experiences, attractions and events in the Northern Territory download their free app here.
© Tracey Croke. All rights reserved.
Have you been to Darwin? What impression did it leave on you?