DARWIN

A session in Darwin contrasts the old-school, laidback way of northern Australia with a series of up and coming late-night cocktail bars of immense chic.

Words Tim McGlone Cinematography Minh Thang

DARWIN

A session in Darwin contrasts the old-school, laidback way of northern Australia with a series of up and coming late-night cocktail bars of immense chic.

Words Tim McGlone Imagery Minh Thang

“People walk slower in Darwin. That’s the big thing.”

So says Dom, owner of an eponymously named bar in the northern suburb of Nightcliff, when asked to describe the vibe in Australia’s northernmost state capital. 

And he’s right, people do cruise about the streets a little more leisurely than in the southern cities, making it easy to feel a sense of ease and relaxation. You can feel it at the laidback pubs in the city centre and surrounding islands (both river and ocean) where the beer is cold and everyone talks to each other. Or at the markets that run from late afternoon until evening, where people stroll about in balmy weather and talk about the sunset.

But there’s also a new side to Darwin popping up; a thriving metropolitan scene of delicious food, speakeasy-themed bars and laneway cocktail joints with DJs and poetry nights. It’s not the Darwin you’ve heard of, but part of a new nightlife that seems to incorporate the best of the old and the new. And its one that you need to come and see.

Here’s get lost’s guide to a night out in Darwin in 2022:

Watch the full video

Heli Pub Crawl

Yes, you read that right. Darwinians sure do things differently.

It’s a pub crawl, with the difference being you’re ‘crawling’ along at 180kph in a helicopter a few thousand feet in the air over mango farms, savannahs, creeks and billabongs.

The chopper stops along the way at three truly outback pubs so you can quench your thirst and spin a few yarns with the locals, like modern day crocodile whisperer ‘King’ Kai Hansen on the ramshackle Goat Island Lodge – literally an island in the middle of croc infested Adelaide River.

The highlight is arguably landing on the majestic Crab Claw Island, where you step out onto the palm-tree laden beach, up the stairs and to the beer garden where an ice-cold Great Northern awaits – it might just be the most badass beer you ever have.

Airborne Solutions – 557 Stuart Highway, Winnellie

Darwin Ski Club

There’s sunsets, and then there’s Darwin sunsets. And the best place to see the unique haze of yellow and red of the Top End is the iconic Darwin Ski Club, situated perfectly on the edge of the picturesque Fannie Bay.

In true Darwin style, stroll slowly with a cold beer in the lush, green beer garden and take in the sounds of the Ski Club, which will likely comprise of two things: a talented band playing catchy folk music on stage, and a round of applause that greets the end of every sunset, a quirky trait probably unique to Darwin.

20 Conacher St, Fannie Bay

Little Miss Korea

Getting hungry? Darwin’s proximity to Asia means there are no shortage of excellent food options around the city, and the best of these is Little Miss Korea – the brainchild of Head Chef Chung Jae Lee.

Lee was brought up in the hustle and bustle of Mapo District, Seoul, the birthplace of Korean Barbeque. Inside a slightly industrial setting in the city centre, cook your own Korean Barbeque just to your liking, or have Lee and his chefs prepare one of his recommendations: six-hour slow-cooked beef cheeks, sweetly glazed pork belly or one of several delicious kinds of Bibimbap.

Graffiti Laneway, Austin Lane, Darwin City

Little Miss Korea

Getting hungry? Darwin’s proximity to Asia means there are no shortage of excellent food options around the city, and the best of these is Little Miss Korea – the brainchild of Head Chef Chung Jae Lee.

Lee was brought up in the hustle and bustle of Mapo District, Seoul, the birthplace of Korean Barbeque. Inside a slightly industrial setting in the city centre, cook your own Korean Barbeque just to your liking, or have Lee and his chefs prepare one of his recommendations: six-hour slow-cooked beef cheeks, sweetly glazed pork belly or one of several delicious kinds of Bibimbap.

Graffiti Laneway, Austin Lane, Darwin City

Charlie’s of Darwin

Head next door to Charlie’s of Darwin, where you’ll find yourself starting to move a bit faster.

Charlie’s is an upmarket gin and cocktail bar where plush leather upholstery and quirky art fills the interior, and a leafy garden terrace with Japanese style lanterns lies out the back. As well as producing a delicious gin made almost completely from local ingredients, Charlie’s is famed for its cocktails; sweet tooths will unite over the Freeman Sour – 12-year-old Canadian Club combined with maple syrup, rosemary, lemon juice, aquafaba and topped with a flamed marshmallow. Drool.

Graffiti Laneway, Austin Lane, Darwin City

Hanky Panky Lounge

It’s time for a little hanky panky. And more cocktails.

Around the corner from Charlie's, on one of Darwin’s busiest streets, is a nondescript black door which hides one of this city’s best-kept secrets. Inside is a dimly lit, lushly furnished New York-style speakeasy bar, with smartly dressed bartenders who really know what they’re doing.

This is the sort of place you might dive into a DNM, or whisper sweet nothings over candlelight to that someone special, while sipping one of several extravagant cocktails that are on an impressively extensive list.

There’s the bar’s namesake, the Hanky Panky, which is gin, sweet vermouth, Fernet-Branca and orange slice served on ice, or the truly over-the-top (and truly delicious) take on a Daiquiri: pampero blanco rum, grapefruit oleo saccharum, lime and topped with a perfume-infused flavour blaster bubble, which is mandatory to kiss.

3/32 Mitchell St, Darwin City

Dom's

With a few cocktails under your belt, it’s time to find a vibe. Get in an Uber and follow the neon-pink signage that says ‘Dom’s’ – a chic bar and creative hub located in an arcade laneway in the northern suburb of Nightcliff. When get lost visited there was a poetry slam taking place, and champagne tuk-tuk rides from the bar and down to the nearby waterfront.

Grab the hand of that someone special you found at Hanky Panky and bring them here for a boogie – DJs are regulars on Saturday nights here, throwing down cool tunes that often result in the dancefloor spilling out into the adjacent laneway.

Shop 7/60 Aralia St, Nightcliff

Dom's

With a few cocktails under your belt, it’s time to find a vibe. Get in an Uber and follow the neon-pink signage that says ‘Dom’s’ – a chic bar and creative hub located in an arcade laneway in the northern suburb of Nightcliff. When get lost visited there was a poetry slam taking place, and champagne tuk-tuk rides from the bar and down to the nearby waterfront.

Grab the hand of that someone special you found at Hanky Panky and bring them here for a boogie – DJs are regulars on Saturday nights here, throwing down cool tunes that often result in the dancefloor spilling out into the adjacent laneway.

Shop 7/60 Aralia St, Nightcliff

MIDNIGHT

Babylon

With drinks now flowing like the rivers of Babylon, flow downtown yourself to the bar Babylon, where boogying into the night is a given. This place fills up, with the quirky, but unpretentious booths and couches that fill the venue making it feel as if you’re at a really, really good house party.

Be sure to dance the night away here, burning the calories of all those beers and cocktails so that you don’t have to get up early for a workout the next morning

Graffiti Laneway, Austin Lane, Darwin City

EPILOGUE

Sunday

The famed Mindil Market is the place to take it easy the next day, and to debrief with your mates on what tf took place the night before.

Darwin’s laidback nature is arguably most evident here. Stroll around the dozens of stalls selling a mixture of clothes, food and other products.

The perfect hangover cure can be found here in the form of the market’s famed, fresh mango smoothies.

Mindil Beach

get in the know Melbourne is actually a shorter flight to Darwin than from Sydney ... how weird is that?

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