How to Spend a 12 Hour Layover in Darwin

As we were planning our trip to Indonesia and looking at the cheapest flights we saw that many of them stopped through Darwin in the Northern Territory from Brisbane, Australia. We decided it would be fun to stop there on a layover to see the sights!

We had a lot on our Australian bucket-list and we realized we probably wouldn't have time to go to Darwin otherwise.

Snapshot Itinerary:

  • Take a Jumping Crocodile cruise

  • Walk around Darwin CBD

  • See the views & War memorials of Bicentennial Park

  • Stroll through the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens

  • Eat your fill & relax at Mindil Sunset Markets

Crocodile swimming in Adelaide River towards our boat!

Since we were flying in from Brisbane, we ended up coming in the night before and had to sleep in the airport.

Although not the most comfortable nights sleep, we were able to secure a couple of reclined chairs and save a night's accommodation fee! Sadly, we were rudely awoken by a couple of women who decided to sit on the reclining chairs next to us and talk very loudly about their upcoming trip although there were about 5 people sleeping around them.

There was no denying we were up by 7am at this point and started over to Hertz Rental Car by 7:30. We learned that because Darwin is a remote area, we only get 100km included and we have to pay $.33 per km after that. We were planning on going to the Original Adelaide River Queen Jumping Crocodile cruise that was 65 km just one way so we decided to bite the bullet. It ended up being $18 in extra km charges, but it was worth it for the experience!

We arrived at our cruise location around 9:15am and had some time to kill before the next cruise at 10am. We decided to get a small coffee and water and it cost us $9! Extremely expensive especially taking into consideration we spend $45 each for the cruise.

The cruise started off with the guide telling us not to put our heads or hands out of the boat since the crocodiles can leap into the air to the height of the roof of the boat. This pretty much scared everyone to stay clear of the open sides.

A pretty effective tactic as there’s only been one death in the past 30 years and the story is quite tragic.. A man ended up walking into the river, off the bank, to get one of his fishing hooks and unfortunately walked straight into a crocodile's territory. This crocodile was a favorite among the crocodile tours and was even nicknamed “Michael Jackson”. However, Michael Jackson had to found and shot for his actions later that day. Since then, there hasn't been a death at the river.

The inside of the Jumping Crocodile Cruise boat
Crocodile sighting just next to our boat!

We proceeded to ride in the boat until we would spot a crocodile and our guide would change sides where he would feed the crocodiles. It was a very informative tour and we got to see a range of crocodiles from females, to young males to territorial grown males that weigh over a ton.

A several tonne crocodile jumping to get its raw treat

Some had missing limbs because apparently crocodiles engage in cannibalism and sometimes bite off each other’s arms! By the end of the tour we had a thorough understanding that if you ended up in this river there would be no way you would survive.

Our guide’s best advice was if you ended up in the river, be as still as you possibly can and the croc’s might not get you, but if they don’t, the bull sharks might. This was not a very reassuring statement and I now have no desire to ever go swimming in the Northern Territory or basically anywhere in Australia.

After our cruise, the sun started beating down on us and we quickly jumped into our little car and sped off back toward Darwin’s CBD. The downtown quickly disappointed us as it was more like a large town than a city. It was a Sunday and many things were closed, things that weren’t closed were out of business and dark empty shops stared back at us.

We decided to walk along Bicentennial park, down to the beach and through the World War II memorials. We didn’t even realize Darwin had been such a large part of WWII. It was a relatively small walk and it was so hot we opted to find something else to do.

View from Bicentennial Park

We knew we wanted to end up at Mindil Beach for sunset & the sunset markets so we drove that way. In the meantime we decided to go to the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens to pass the time. This was also a lovely walk, it was very green and shady. There was even a manmade waterfall! Yet, the sun was so harsh, we had to sit in the shade to try to fight away the sun stroke.

Mindil Sunset Markets were much larger than I pictured! There were so many stalls selling art, goods and food. We had a sudden urge to try crocodile due to our morning experience and we soon found a stand that specialized in crocodile tail fillets. The stand was called “Go on…Be Game” and they had buffalo, crocodile, pork and kangaroo. I decided to get the pork with fig apple spread and Chris got the crocodile.

Both were scrumptious and the crocodile was tender. It seemed almost like a mixture between chicken and fish. Mindil was a beautiful beach, but as we had a very long and hot day we decided to head back to the airport to await our flight to Bali.


If you are planning to stay in the Darwin area longer I would suggest going to these National Parks. Both of these places were on our list, but we realized that we wouldn't have the time explore them properly.

If you're short on time, but have more than 12 hours you could also try this tour. It combines the crocodile jumping cruise plus a trip to Litchfield! This was also one that we were looking into, but it was fully booked for our layover day.

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