Australia's northernmost state capital, Darwin, is well known as the gateway to the Top End's national parks, but there's plenty to do in the city itself, and even more in its immediate surroundings. Museums and galleries shed light on Darwin's fascinating history, while colourful weekend markets provide endless hours of shopping and snacking. The nearby wetlands and monsoon forests are great for spotting crocs, and many of the locals consider Litchfield National Park to have just as much to offer as the more famous Kakadu.
You might not expect to find a cosmopolitan and vibrant city in such a remote corner of Australia, but Darwin is just that. More than 50 nationalities - including the area's traditional custodians, the Larrakia Aboriginal people - are represented in a city that exudes a confident and relaxed air. Founded in the 19th century when gold was discovered at nearby Pine Creek, Darwin has bounced back from both Japanese bombing during the Second World War and almost total devastation at the hands of Cyclone Tracey in 1974. Yet projects like the multi-million-dollar waterfront development at Darwin Harbour and a huge number of parks, markets, museums and galleries are testament to the city's revival.
Try a jackfruit curry or sample crocodile jerky at the much-loved Mindil Beach Sunset Market from May to October. Catch a film beneath the stars with a drink from the bar at the Deckchair Cinema from April to November. Dine beside the harbour at Cullen Bay Marina. Or charter your own yacht and see the city from the water.
Litchfield National Park, traditionally home to the Wagait Aboriginal people, is the closest national park to Darwin and is easily accessible from the city. Monsoon forests, towering termite mounds and unusual rock formations are typical sights in a park that encloses much of the spectacular Tabletop Range, a wide sandstone plateau fringed by cliffs. Powerful waterfalls cascade off the plateau during the wet season, forming crystal-clear rock pools perfect for swimming.
The Mary River Region is a wetland habitat full of birds and other wildlife is another popular and easy excursion from Darwin, an hour's drive away. Saltwater crocodiles and other flora and fauna can be seen on scenic cruises through the billabongs, but it's the world-class fishing that the Mary River floodplain is really best known for, with a wide range of charters offering anglers the chance to catch barramundi and other tropical species.