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Darwin is the country’s smallest capital city but in spite of that, this is a place that gives visitors all kinds of options for leisure and adventure. Some of the best vacation opportunities in the region though are found a little ways from the city itself, so picking up a car hire in Darwin is key to getting the most of your time in the Northern Territory. With the freedom to use Darwin as a base for your adventures, all kinds of different opportunities open up to intrepid explorers. From the wild diversity of Kakadu to the barren sands of the Outback, road trippers from Darwin have some truly special experiences ahead of them.
Without a set of wheels however, you won’t be getting far. Hunting through dozens of different car rental websites isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, but fortunately there’s a better option. AirportRentals.com.au collects all the best deals from a wide range of rental suppliers and lets you see them all in one place.
The entire process of booking a cheap car hire from Darwin Airport is extremely straightforward on AirportRentals.com.au. Just throw a few details into the search boxes, like when you need the hire and your planned pick up/drop off times, and hit the big yellow Search button. Then comes the easy bit. You’ll be presented with a list of rental deals and you just have to pick the one you think is best! It’s also possible to filter down your choices by rental brand, transmission, vehicle type, etc. Once you’ve made your pick, the actual booking part of the process will be done in just a few minutes.
You’ve got a lot to choose from when it comes to car rental suppliers at Gold Coast Airport. All the car hire companies near the airport work out of in-terminal rental desks, meaning that picking up your rental is a cinch. As well as top names in car hire like Avis, Thrifty and Budget, you can also pick from smaller brands like Redspot, a local Aussie provider, or Firefly which works out of the Hertz desk.
Darwin Airport underwent a major overhaul in 2015 with more space for both domestic and international travellers - there’s only one terminal for domestic and international services, which makes it easier to find your way to the right rental depot. Free WiFi is available throughout the airport - all you have to do to access it is connect to the DarwinAirport network on your device. You can find ATMs all around the airport, so there’s no need to worry about not having enough cash on hand, and there are even change machines on the ground floor near Giancarlo Café and Bar.
When it comes to basic road rules, driving in Darwin and the Northern Territory in general isn’t too different from hitting the road anywhere else Australia but there are one or two things to look out for when you’re driving out of Darwin. One important thing to remember is that the weather can get pretty extreme in the tropics of the Northern Territory, so always drive to the conditions, never attempt to cross flooded roads or bridges unless you’re 100% certain of the water depth and road condition, and check the weather forecast before you set out. Also, there’s a chance you’ll come across wildlife crossing the road, especially at dawn, dusk and night - keep an eye out to avoid accidents. Just to make sure the basics are covered: if you’re not from Australia, you should know that everyone here drives on the left hand side of the road. It’s not really a big deal once you get your head around intersections - as long as you’re paying attention you should be fine. For more advice on navigating Aussie roads, you can check out our Australia driving guide.
Darwin Airport really isn’t that far at all from the city centre and it’s pretty easy to navigate from the airport into the CBD. Head out of the airport on Charles Eaton Drive, cut across west on Osgood Drive, then take a left on Bagot Road. This will take you straight to Stuart Highway (1) which can bring you the rest of the way into the city.
As we mentioned just before, the road rules in the Northern Territory are pretty much the same as those you’ll encounter everywhere else in Australia. In built up areas the default speed limit is 50 km/h, but this may vary - always keep an eye out for speed signs. There is one section of the Stuart Highway which is totally de-restricted when it comes to speed, so drivers can use their own judgement to limit their speed. Elsewhere outside of built up areas, the limit is usually 110 km/h - again, keep a lookout for signs to let you know when you’re entering these zones. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05% - though if you’re on a learner/provisional licence or don’t have a NT driver licence, the limit is absolutely zero. Essentially, you should be totally alcohol free if you’re planning to drive on Northern Territory roads.
When you pick up your car hire from Darwin Airport, you should be able to head on your merry way without having to worry about fuel for a while, as car rentals generally come with a full tank. But when your trip is wrapping up and you’re getting ready to turn over the keys to your rental vehicle, you’ll need to find a service station near Darwin Airport to fill up, because it’s standard for all rental suppliers to require you to return the car with a full fuel tank. BP on Bagot Road is relatively close to the airport as is United Petroleum on Bagot Road and Coles Express Casuarina on the corner of Dripstone and Trower Roads.
While you’ll probably want to stick around Darwin for at least a day or two to explore the city, don’t forget that there are dozens of mind-blowing destinations within road trip reach, so get out your map, check out a few itineraries and set a course for adventure.
This is one of the best places in the nation to get a taste of what life what like on this continent millions of years ago. Kakadu National Park is absolutely brimming with life of all kinds, partly due to how many different kinds of environments sit side by side inside this enormous park. More than 280 kinds of birds call Kakadu home, not to mention the dozens of mammal and reptile species that roam the park, making this a wildlife lover’s nirvana. There’s a fair bit of human heritage here too, as aboriginal Australians have lived in the area for at least 40,000 years and there’s plenty of prehistoric sites remaining for visitors to discover.
Prepare yourself for a long haul trip into the centre of Australia to discover some of the country’s most iconic and awe-inspiring landscapes. After passing through the city of Katherine it won’t be long before you’re driving through the red sands of the Outback. From odd little highlights like the UFO Capital of Australia to the ancient sandstone bulk of Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) there’s plenty of amazing highlights along the way to break up the long peaceful stretches of isolation and alien landscapes.
If you’re up for a bit of adventure and aren’t afraid to leave the beaten track, a trip from Darwin to Broome could be just the thing. Although you don’t have to take a 4WD vehicle on this trip, it’ll definitely open up some amazing opportunities that you won’t be able to take advantage of otherwise. For example, Purnululu National Park, with its wild vistas and spectacular striped sandstone range (known as the Bungle Bungles) is only accessible by 4WD. Then there’s the Gibb River Road, which is legendary for its natural beauty and extreme remoteness. Don’t forget to bring a lot of extra water and a few cans of spare petrol with you - in the case of an emergency, it could well save your life.
If you head east instead of west from Darwin, you can end up traversing Overlander’s Way, following in the footsteps of some of Australia’s original European pioneers. This trip gives you a great overview of what Australia can offer, ranging from urban attractions, tropical wilderness, dusty Outback, the sparkling waters of the Coral Sea and colourful sea life of the Great Barrier Reef. Whether you finish up your trip in Townsville, Cairns, or want to keep exploring even further afield, a journey from Darwin to the east coast will leave you with all kinds of stories to make your friends jealous.
Sure, this section isn’t quite as fascinating as cool road trip destinations, but regardless you might find some helpful info here, so give it a quick glance over at least. All the car hire suppliers near Darwin Airport are located in-terminal, which makes picking up your rental and heading on your way a cinch. Car rental brands with desks at Darwin Airport include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Redspot, Thrifty. You can find Auto Europe at one of other rental depots (check with your supplier which one exactly), Apollo and Firefly can be found at the Hertz desk and Keddy by Europcar operates out of (you guessed it!) the Europcar desk.
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As great as it is to strike out for distant destinations and explore all sorts of exciting places, sometimes your schedule just doesn’t allow for it. When you’re just in town for a flying visit or purely for business, securing accommodation near Darwin Airport can make your trip a whole lot easier. Last place you’d expect leprechauns to be hiding out is tropical Darwin, nevertheless The Leprechaun Resort is a great little place just one kilometre from the airport that has a reputation for providing fantastic rooms at very reasonable prices. For those who are travelling on a tight budget, the Hi Way Inn Motel is also just one kilometre from Darwin Airport and offers very basic, but clean rooms at bargain prices.
It might be tempting to drive right out of Darwin the minute you fly in, with all the epic road trip potential around the city, but Darwin itself has a lot in store for visitors, especially if you’re in town for one of the city’s many events. Movie buffs who head to Darwin in January won’t want to miss Flickerfest, Australia’s top showcase for short filmmaking. Even if you’re not a huge film aficionado, Flickerfest is good fun - and if you’re not really into the film that’s playing, don’t worry: another one will take its place in just a few minutes.
If you’re planning to be around in May, consider booking tickets to the biggest music event in the Northern Territory: BASSINTHEGRASS. It kicked off in 2003 as a result of a campaign promise that actually went through, and has since grown into a thriving, Big Day Out style festival. The lineup obviously varies year by year, but they always manage to pull an awesome selection of artists.
Those who are keen to feed their creative side should try to plan their Darwin trip around the Darwin Fringe Festival, a ten day community arts event that celebrates exciting work that might otherwise never see the light of day. Ranging across music, film, art, film and more, the Darwin Fringe will give you a taste for what creativity can do when it’s let off the leash.
If you pride yourself on your greenfingers, then getting along to the Tropical Garden Fair while you’re in Darwin is a must. Go hands on with workshops, garner some garden advice, take a squiz at the stunning floral displays or buy a few plants that strike your fancy - how you enjoy the Fair is up to you, but don’t forget to sample some of the local crafts, food and drink while you’re there.
Cities like Melbourne and Sydney are more well known for their restaurants, but Darwin has actually gained a bit of an underground reputation as a foodie destination. The city has matured into a cosmopolitan place that can cater for both those who are searching for new and exciting flavours, and those who just want something cheap and tasty.
Hanuman Restaurant specialises in mouth watering asian fusion cuisine, and in particular has garnered a lot of praise for its oysters with kaffir lime and chilli-coriander sauce. PeeWee’s at the Point has oceanview dining and food that’s to die for, but it does come with a fairly substantial price tag. If you’d like to get a delicious meal inside you without emptying your wallet, Chow! A Taste of South East Asia is a brilliant choice. These guys do amazing asian dishes that are fantastic value for money - just be aware that it can be quite busy, depending on the time of the week.
Darwin isn’t really well known for its wine, thanks to a climate that’s too tropical to be vineyard friendly, but of course you can always cool off with a refreshing vino or a cold beer that’s been produced in one of the many regions of Australia that do specialise in this area.
Darwin is Australia’s most northerly city and, like most of the country’s other major centres, is set on the ocean with a harbour handy. There are a number of well loved national parks to either side of the city (notably Kakadu to the east and Litchfield to the west), while to the south lies the great Australian Outback.
Darwin may not be able to compete with a place like Melbourne in the culture stakes, but it’s far from a cultural wasteland. The Darwin Symphony Orchestra caters to those with a taste for classical music, while the Darwin Theatre Company is a professional company which provides high quality entertainment when you’re keen for a night out at the theater. The Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery is a great spot to go for an insight into the city’s history, but it also has an impressive collection of aboriginal art.
Darwinians are a pretty multiethnic bunch with significant Chinese, Greek and Italian communities. It’s also the city with the biggest proportion of Indigenous Australians, with around 10% of the population identifying as Aboriginal.
Even if you’re not going to be able to line up your Darwin visit with one of the city’s many events, there’s still plenty to get stuck into all year round. Whether you’re wanting to sit back and forget about your worries, come face to face with some of the most terrifying creatures on earth or you’re after something in between, Darwin has the perfect entertainment opportunity for you.
One of the advantages to Darwin’s tropical setting is its long balmy evenings - and one of the best ways to make the most of the warm weather is to catch a film at the waterfront Deckchair Cinema. Enjoy a lazy evening watching the sun go down before sitting down to a movie under the stars. You can even pack a picnic dinner (no BYO alcohol though) or just take advantage of the onsite food vendors. The Deckchair Cinema puts on quite a variety of films, from local Aussie flicks to family movies and foreign films - check up on what’s screening next before you head along, and don’t forget to bring along a pillow or two to make those deck chairs a bit more comfy.
Speaking of Darwin’s waterfront attractions, the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets definitely need to make it onto your travel plans while you’re in the city. Running every Thursday and Sunday night during the dry season, the Sunset Markets not only offer the usual things you’d expect to find at an outdoor market like a great range of delicious ethnic foods, clothes and jewelry, but also street performers, magicians, musicians and live theatre. You don’t even have to buy anything to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the markets.
Aquariums are a pretty common feature in most big cities, but Darwin’s Indo Pacific Marine Aquarium offers something far more special than your average collection of fish tanks. This marine exhibition has managed to recreate a fully functioning coral reef ecosystem which maintains itself with little to no human input. Everything from filtration to feeding takes place naturally which means visitors get an astonishingly genuine close-up look at how a tropical reef really works. One of the best things about Indo Pacific Marine is the fact that they offer night tours, giving you the chance to see what happens amongst the coral when the sun goes down - a totally unique opportunity.
The closest you can get these days to the terrifying meat-eating dinosaurs of the distant past are Australia’s deadly saltwater crocodiles, and Crocosaurus Cove will let you get right up next to these toothy beasts. How close you get really depends on you. Dangle some croc bait and watch young crocodiles leap up to snatch it, hold a baby saltie or - for the ultimate thrill - descend into the Cage of Death to come face to face with some of the world’s biggest saltwater crocs. And even though crocodiles are obviously the star attraction here, Crocosaurus Cove also features 70 other reptile species found in the Top End.
If all you’re after is a place to cool off and unwind, try Berry Springs Nature Park, about 45 minutes south of Darwin. Shady picnic spots, tree ringed swimming pools, woodlands walks - this little beauty has the lot. There are even historic ruins to explore, relics from World War II. Be aware that swimming might not be an option during the wet season, but as most visitors will be heading to Darwin during the dry season anyway, this isn’t likely to be a concern.
When you hire a car in Darwin, it more or less cuts out the need to muck around with public transport, but there is a chance that for one reason or another you might want to opt for alternative transport while you’re in town. Buslink operates a number of bus services around Darwin and the wider Northern Territory - this is the main way of getting around without a car, bar cycling.
Darwin has what’s called a tropical savannah climate which essentially means that it’s pretty warm all year around (with average highs in the low 30s) but there’s two very distinct seasons - the dry and the wet. The dry season is most popular time for visitors to come to Darwin, thanks to the absence of tropical cyclones and monsoon rains which are a regular feature of the wet season.
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