Moya's Secret List of things to do and eat in Darwin 

IDEAS AND RESTAURANTS AND ADDING A LITTLE BIT OF SPICE TO YOUR HOLIDAY

This is my answer to having a personalized guide book to Darwin,  so make a cup of tea or have a glass of wine and start to get really excited about coming to The North… I hope  the information will help you have the break of a lifetime! We do not charge or receive a commission for any of these arrangements.  They are purely guest recommendations that have  been successful for many. Our aim is to give you an overview of your choices in our lovely Tropical City

The Airport is approximately 10 minutes to the city   and to all our properties..  If you do not have a hire car arranged from the airport, we will arrange a pick-up  transfer for you.  Taxis are often overwhelmed with lots of arrivals all at the same time  and a transfer is an easy way to get out of the Airport!  Around $65 - $75  depending on your arrival time and if you are delayed through customs. 

We  have many great Guest Comments regarding Darryl Window on 0417 832 836 who has a great hire car/limousine service.  He is friendly, efficient and knows his way around beautiful Darwin.
Be aware that the Airport  Shuttle bus from the airport does go to many hotels and accommodation places and may take a considerable time to arrive at YOUR destination.
 If you arriving by The Ghan, a transfer is essential The railway terminus is 20 minutes from the city and you will probably want to settle in and get your ‘land legs’ back rather than wait for a bus transfer which does take some time after loading bags and waiting for multiple passengers to different hotels.   This same situation applies to Gold and Platinum class and sometimes after a long trip and arriving at Dusk you do not need a ‘mini-tour’ of the hotels in Darwin   Taxis are hard to come by simply because it is a 40 minute round trip and no guaranteed fares.   Ask about our VIP Ghan package when you book..Darryl can be booked also for this trip. Nice to be whisked away!

 CAR HIRE: Jamie at the Airport for Thrifty is known  for his very sharp pencil when it comes to prices for  vehicles.  His number is 0408 010575  If you are thinking of having a car, please let  us know as we can arrange a villa with a car.  We call it our Villa Combo and it comes with a Champagne Lexus RX 330 and works out very economically for this level of class and style.

The first couple of days I would use to acclimatize to the sunny weather, enjoy the fabulous villa or apartment  and make some forays out for the following activities  
If you are travelling to Darwin in the Dry Season May to September,  please note that most of the restaurants that we recommend (being the most popular) are often booked out in advance.  Please try to reserve your seats early to avoid disappointments. I have given phone numbers where possible. We are also happy to make these  arrangements for you if you let us know what you  would like to book. It will save time for you and you can relax.

 The perfect way to chill is a professional and authentic  Chinese Massage in the vibrant Tropical Air It is guaranteed to have you relaxed in no time and the perfect way to unwind after trying to clear the desk.  We have had recommended to us a lady masseur visiting from Taiwan.  She is working at a local Chinese Medicine store training local people in the art of massage,  but does a mobile Chinese Massage on request  We can arrange this for you

All our properties are  in the enviable position of being close to some brand new restaurants, beauty salons and other shopping opportunities  It is the perfect solution to stay in an elegant and boutique residential luxury estate but be able to access some of the facilities of the larger establishments.    Some suggestions for you follow:

 Please note that South Sea Pearls Farms in Australia  and  Paspaley Pearls started in Darwin.  Even if you are not buying pearls, it is fantastic to view the wonderful and beautiful jewellery in the  gorgeous Paspaley retail  showroom in the Smith Street Mall..  Do not be shy -  the staff are friendly and you are more than welcome just to see the wonderful items they make without any obligation to buy.
 Prices are surprising low and seem much more competitive than in the major cities.  
Whilst you are in the Smith Street Mall, you can view Di Croco right next door to Paspaley and see the beautiful crocodile bags, shoes, hats (great for the racing carnival)  and accessories made from this prehistoric creature.. Again something in all price ranges.  Ideal for corporate gifts or  a unique present for a friend

Around the corner opposite the park on Bennett Street to the  Karen Brown Gallery to view her latest Aboriginal Art  show –In the art gallery, casual visitors very welcome to browse   although serious investors should be sure to visit.  

Framed Gallery     on the Stuart Highway is also  an extra-ordinary mix of territory artists, glass and crafts,  fabulous aboriginal art and well-known international - standard artists.    See the stunning Geoff Todd that they have in the window.. Perhaps the new Brett Whitely?

Just opposite Framed on the Stuart Highway is a local secret the Warung BU AMYE    - it serves only lunch and dinner and has authentic Indonesian and Timorese Food.  It is good, very fresh local herbs, large serves, good value and run by a lady (Ibu Amye) who has been in Australia and the NT  for 22 years.  Old style shop, very modest decorations but an interesting change of pace with excellent food.  Just go, no bookings 

A ‘newcomer’  to the restaurant scene is the long awaited Italian Restaurant run by the famous local John Spellman from the Mississippi Queen – His new venture on the corner of Gardiner Street and McMinn Street is Spellman’s Tramontana -  Italian for the North Wind.  It is open for lunch and dinner and offers private facilities on a mezzanine level (ideal for a larger special or corporate function) and a lovely dining room under which has had a great deal of time and effort spent on it Not too expensive and not too formal although it is more suitable for adults.  0889411123

Just a few minutes away at Sky City Casino are three restaurants worthy of consideration.  For fine dining or something a little romantic Evoo has a beautiful verandah overlooking the sea (just for viewing sunsets not for eating)  and has a new menu to celebrate its re-opening after the post Christmas break.  The Dragon Court is a quite wonderful Chinese Restaurant. Ask for a seat in the main dining area to experience the drama of the sizzle dishes and see the mix of multicultural patrons that this restaurant attracts.     The Italian offering is Il Piatto presided over by the Executive Chef himself so wood-fired pizzas, authentic Italian Food and great views over the lawns to the sea.  Call 088943888 for any of these restaurants.

Owners of popular Istanbul Cafe recently launched this gorgeous restaurant onto the Darwin dining scene, and ever since it has been buzzing with enthusiastic diners, Eastern music and live belly dancing on certain nights. With characteristic vibrancy and flair, the owners have pieced together an exuberant Turkish atmosphere to complement their time-honoured Turkish cuisine. The decor is stunning ¬– marble flooring, dazzling chandeliers, artistic friezes and handcrafted cabinets  It is in Knuckey Street in Darwin

Try the newest restaurant Manolis Greek Taverna  in Smith Street up from the mall just near the Commonwealth Bank for really beautiful home style Greek Food. Owned by a well known local Greek family,  It is casual and licenced and quite fantastic.  Meatballs, wonderful seafood pasta, homemade dips to die for.. and deserts are really authentic.  A nice change.. Buy a cute 200ml bottle of Ouzo for a treat to share and wind down Greek Island style
(08) 89 819120 

I would have a brunch (breakfast starts at 9am)  at the Cornucopia Café attached to the Museum and Art Gallery.  The coffee is excellent as is the food and very reasonably priced.  For lunch they do a great Energy salad as well as all the naughty things!   You can arrange a table right on the sea which is both relaxing and very special. Again locally owned by Willie and Linda who are experts after 15 years or more..

Take some time to go through the Northern  Territory Art Gallery and Museum.  It  is on the waterfront and has a very significant art collection both Western and Aboriginal, a maritime museum which is particularly of those boats involved in pearling and south east Asian trade ceramics etc. 

Remember the Telstra Art Awards in August which is hung until October every year.  It is our answer to a showing as significant to Aboriginal Art as the Archibald Prize is to Art  in Sydney.  Paintings are for sale at very reasonable prices and worth seriously considering.  Most artists chosen to exhibit for this prize  reach some great heights.

On display is  a 17 foot crocodile called Sweetheart and lots of exhibitions including a virtual Cyclone Tracy exhibition and a display of the tropical interiors and house facades of the time  which is fascinating even if you  went through it!   The sound of the wind is simply unforgettable.     There is also an interactive children’s room which means that Mum and Dad can have coffee etc undisturbed knowing the children are busy and amused.  There are times advertised for the supervised room on arrival to the Museum.

Also for those who love a breakfast, the Roma Bar in Cavenagh Street was where Nicole Kidman had a  breakfast visit when in Darwin.  It is true that Nicole is a vegetarian and so had the vege breakfast made for her which was an omelette made with whites only.. Now you are up to date!  And yes,  she was with Keith. AND they were really very pleasant people and lovely to the staff.  (That’s the great thing about a small tropical town, everyone knows everything !)     The Roma Bar  is a bit of an institution,  with people like Gough Whitlam in his heyday and a great mix of theatre and lawyers and business people congregating for great coffee. It is very casual,  a little run down but if it was in Paris it would be very ‘faconable’  on the Left Bank The food is hot, is home-made and will fill you up ready for a day of exploration. And you can have fresh local  fruit, pancakes, there is a great choice.

Another lovely place for breakfast is YOTS at Cullen Bay.  No need to book unless Cup Weekend or Super Car Week  Open for  breakfast  until 11am and then lunch and dinner   If Evan is cooking as he often does on Sunday -  watch out.. The full breakfast will leave you gasping for air (and full until dinner) and the Eggs Benedict are worth a try..  Again right on the sea but with an air-conditioned area which is nice as the weather can feel a little warm after a very good coffee or three

For those who need a little extra help with either Child-care babysitting so you can relax, or if you have an elderly parent or someone on holidays with you that does require a carer or some excellent company, Paula is your lady.  She is a mature, well presented and very well known Darwin lady who has vast experience in caring.  Her off-sider Bernie is a wonderful lady as well, and with exceptional experience.  Paula helped me with my own mother some years ago.  Mum had Alzheimer’s, lived with us and on occasion we had P aula come over.  Mum  loved Paula and really enjoyed  her visits.    Our guests who have had her for one reason or another, recommend her highly – This might just give you a little break away that you badly need.  Her email is   jannpaula.chelseas@yahoo.com.au  and her phone number is 08 89457774 or 0418 898870   

While we are on the subject of care, there is a perfect place to hire all sorts of aids and mobility aids called “Keep Moving”  08 89475122.  They are extremely helpful and if you speak to them about your requirements prior to arriving, then we can have the required item waiting for you in your accommodation.

There is a bus (One open air and one air conditioned) called the Tour Tub.  For approximately $30 you hop aboard and it does a circle going from one attraction to another.  You can pick this up in the city or  at the Museum and go to the next point of interest and so on getting on and off as the spirit takes you.       They go from the City to  the Museum up to the Gunnery and War Museum at East Point and down to the Wharf  All the attractions close to town.   The other thing that I think you would like would be the underground oil tunnels from the War which is deep under Government house.   You access this area via Kitchener Drive and you will see the new convention centre as well.    This is the area in which  Nicole Kidman was filmed for the movie “Australia”    This movie is a must see before coming to Darwin.  It is much more Top End than Hollywood!

For those who would like a swim without ‘Sweetheart’  the crocodile, we have a new beach called City Beach which is salt water and protected from four legged  intruders, AND  a wave pool (like a smaller Wet and Wild Water Park) in the parklands near the convention centre.  Nice place for a picnic and ideal if you have kiddlie winks. All that energy is sure to be put to good use!   As most of our properties are within a short distance, it means you can enjoy peace and quiet from YOUR accommodation but enjoy the ‘let your hair down’ style of the fun park when it suits you.

After visiting the wharf precinct, visit the  Indo Pacific Marine facility which has all the tropical fish and corals from the salt water – a very good exhibition run by a very knowledgeable local  man John and his wife Helen  who serves complimentary  fresh tropical  fruit in season to his guests.
He also has a small café attached with some tropical light lunches.  Of note is that Indo Pacific Marine has an evening Coral Viewing for the fluorescent corals that sparkle and glow at night. We call it CORALS BY CANDLELIGHT        If there is a minimum of 6 bookings for the evening (and they do not have to be all from your group)  John the owner and a great  Chef has a wonderful Darwin fresh seafood dinner on tables on  the lawns, fresh wild Barramundi  – something a little different and VERY tropical   This happens year round so fantastic for the storm chasers as well!  Special dietary needs will be catered for with some advance notice.   You can call on 08 89 811294
 The Paspaley Pearling Exhibition is right next door so a great little interlude right at the edge of the ocean. 

For sea-food while you are in the area,  you could try Crustaceans on the Wharf. It is positioned overlooking Darwin Harbour and casual with a good menu.   We do get good reports from our guests  although the restaurant is not as acclaimed as Hanuman (08)89818658   The wharf also has an area of diverse food outlets similar to a the Street Markets of Newton Circus in Singapore and offers  Thai, Indian, Ice-cream and good old fashioned  Fish and Chips which makes for light casual breezy sea dining. On Sundays it is a local hide-out so you can see lots of people enjoying the virtues of cheap dining right on the Ocean with amazing sunsets and breezes.  . 

 You can also visit “The Office” in Cavenagh Street, in Darwin which is a sister property to Cornucopia Café..  Good coffee, this is a trendy central position (Ideal after you have stocked up on provisions at Woolworths, just close by)  Geoff Todd paintings and hard edge finishes make this an interesting architectural arty stop.  

 If you are going to visit our beautiful Parliament House on the Esplanade, just near the Government House and the Supreme Court with its exceptional Aboriginal mosaic tile floor mural,  there is a very nice café. Very Rumpole and great service and food as suits our learned friends. And surprisingly well priced!

You could have  afternoon tea in town at Duck’s Nuts in Mitchell Street Darwin, next door to the Cinema.  Duck’s Nuts  has an Austrian Pastry Chef (Kurt) and excellent  coffee.   A new secret:  Duck’s Nuts have attracted a new breakfast chef CHRIS with an excellent resume and breakfast is now a real feature.  I tried his potato and rosemary frittata and it was very, very good And yes I did succumb to the beautiful  Eggs Benedict, but if I am to believe local folk-lore, no calories in anything in the tropics. Chris was from the Saltwater Café, famous in Adelaide now we are lucky to have him here..            Please note if you need a birthday cake or a wedding cake, this is the place to go.  Cakes are VERY reasonably priced and can be done at fairly short notice.  I had a cake made for a guest for a 12 year old son with a red painted Ferrari picture on it for $45 and it was the perfect cake.   Kurt is on (08)89415033

Hire a car and head off to Berry Springs – a natural spring and the Territory Wildlife Park – there is a train to take you around should you not want to walk too far. See the beautiful aviary and the tree-top walk, the aquarium with crocodiles and enormous barras floating above you,  and the kangaroos, dingoes and buffaloe.  You can take a quick side trip from there  into Darwin River Dam, great for a picnic lunch but no swimming or water sports, just a view of the magnificent dam and the reason that Darwin never runs out of water.   Our dam is currently 100.8% full.

Then travel a few more miles ‘down the track’  and spend the evening at Rum Jungle Bungalows,  located at  the Gateway to Litchfield National Park.  Accommodation in the park area  can be a bit lack-lustre so we recommend using Rum Jungle as a worthy affordable base.   Sue Mornane,  the owner of these quaint, eclectic  tropical cabins (6 in total)  is a local historian and she has wonderful ‘secret’ places that most tourists do not find.    She will give you a mud map of the best of them  and away you go!! Her guests always see fantastic things.  Her number is 89760555 www.rumjunglebungalows.com.au

Do the bed and breakfast package which is very reasonably priced    Sue  makes wonderful coffee in the middle of the jungle so a great good value  place to know about..  And right next door is the Butterfly Farm.    View the butterflies, but with Rum Jungle next door, you do not need to stay.     Spend the day in Litchfield Park at the fantastic  waterfalls and termite mounds etc.
Return to Rum Jungle for another night. 

 In Batchelor village, there is a great little tavern with big country steaks and a great cook in the kitchen.   The old-fashioned kind, hot fresh food and great chips (and they are those special tropical kind with no calories! And yes, you can have some vegetarian options as well.

 You can book Tess from NT Indigenous Tours from here for her tour of Litchfield as well.  She will pick you up..

Next day early off to  Katherine to do the early morning Gorge Trip. (must be in Katherine at 8.30am to get on the 9am boat. Can be too hot later in the day)  Most of our guests prefer not to stay in Katherine.   

On the way back visit the Adelaide River War Cemetery which is fantastic, very beautiful gardens and an amazing insight into the invasion of Northern Australia.
Unbelievably Darwin and surrounds was bombed more heavily than Pearl Harbour (and by the same Squadron Leader who led that attack)  A part of Australia’s history that is not well known.  If you see or have seen the MUST SEE movie “Australia”, the scenes of the bombing of Darwin are not  exaggerated, they are not even the half of it. In fact the whole movie is a fair representation – and of  our men – very Hugh Jackman (I said that for my husband !) and our life up here in the North.     Make the time to see this epic movie before arriving, you will have a great feel and a better understanding of the tropics, its adventures, hardships and delights.
 Have Lunch at the Adelaide River Pub with fresh barramundi and chips.   Back to the cool of Rum Jungle or carry on back to Darwin.

Something a little special and a great deal different is the Kakadu Culture Camp run by the inimitable traditional owner Jenny Hunter and her partner Andy Ralph.  What a trip! Awarded just recently by the prestigious Australian Gourmet Traveller,  this trip is one which really brings home over a few days the different ways in which our Aboriginal Culture has evolved and survived.  Voted by Australian Gourmet Traveller readers and presented in Sydney on 27 May 2010, Kakadu Culture Camp claimed victory in theIndigenous category for providing Australian travellers with an outstanding local holiday experience. It is a trip that does challenge and inform so worth considering.  www.kakaduculturecamp.com

 This is a brief idea of things to do but I am more than happy to help you with even more..     There is so much to do up here including having a well-earned break   The locals are a pretty friendly bunch, everyone feels that they have places that must be seen,  so do not be shy to just ask a local. We think it is the relaxed tropical air that makes the difference.  If you come up all stressed and hyper, a day or so in Manyana Land will see you as chilled as if  you have been away for weeks.

HAIRDRESSER:    ROBBIE FROM IDIOM HAIR STUDIO  IN  GREGORY STREET PARAP JUST AROUND FROM PARAP DAY SPA  A 3 minutes taxi from the city   He is a very good stylist with London training, has worked in some of the best salons in Australia and more than able to give you a tropical hair  make-over  Rumour has it that he used to do Deborah Hutton’s hair (08) 89810890  His mobile is 0458758863

Hairdresser:  TINA FROM UZURI (African for beautiful) at the Darwin Entertainment Centre Mitchell Street.  89816263  She does make-up for weddings as well at your apartment or villa or at her studio.

DOCTOR:      STUART PARK SURGERY close to the city  in Westralia Street, Stuart Park and only a few minutes from Moonshadow.   (08) 89 812907 Call  Dee and they will do their best to fit you in ASAP

DENTIST:      DR. EUPENE     close to the city  at 61 Smith Street  (08)  89 819149   

OptometristDR. COLIN RUBIN mid-city in Cavenagh Street, a fantastic range of frames, and an outstanding eye-man..Has a real touch with objects in eyes which can happen. The shop can do small repairs as well but consider a new look, His shop is amazing, and  stunning new unique frames could be a real momento of a tropical journey 89815330

PHOTOGRAPHER:     DAVID HANCOCK from Skyscans is wonderful and is responsible for the beautiful wedding magazine “All about Weddings”  he is available by email davidhancock88@gmail.com or on 0419884388

WEDDING CELEBRANT  DAVID HART on  0418830410 or digby@hartcelebrations.com   Hart to Heart does all manner of weddings from the quiet elopements to the seaside extravaganzas and is extremely pleasant.