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Holiday Guides for Oceania - Cook Islands

Darwin Holiday

Darwin seems somewhat isolated from the rest of Australia - and as such it blends traditional Aussie sights and pastimes with a significant Asian culture.

The Australian city of Darwin is a multicultural, cosmopolitan, tropical location in the country's northern territory.

Darwin is a relatively small city, with a population of just around 110,000, and is situated on Australia's far northern coastline, on the edge of the Timor Sea.

The city is actually closer to the Indonesian capital Jakarta than it is to Sydney and is heavily influenced by Asian culture. Known as the "multicultural capital of Australia", Darwin has a mixed population, which includes large numbers of indigenous Australians, Asians and Europeans.

The harbour was first sighted by John Lort Stokes of the HMS Beagle in 1839 and named after the naturalist Charles Darwin, who had accompanied him on an earlier expedition. A small settlement was established in 1869 at Port Darwin as a trading post and the discovery of gold at Pine Creek a decade later caused the colony to boom.

Darwin was attacked during World War II by Japanese planes and was hit by a huge cyclone in 1974, destroying large parts of the city. The town has been largely rebuilt since the 1970s with materials that will survive strong winds.

Since the mid 1990s, Darwin has been both exploiting its status as the nation's commercial gateway to Asia and making a concerted effort to attract tourists.

The port of Darwin is vital for live animal exports and minerals from Australia and has a sizeable harbour, which features retail outlets and entertainment venues, a large wave pool and a safe swimming lagoon.

Darwin's major attractions include the Indo-Pacific Marine & Australian Pearling Exhibition, which features a large aquarium, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, offering a comprehensive history of the area, the Chinese Temple, the Botanic Gardens and the old Admiralty House.

Nearby Litchfield Park, the East Point Reserve, the Military Museum, and the Aboriginal-owned Bathurst and Melville islands are all worth a visit during longer stays in the area. Families and nature lovers will enjoy Crocodylus Park and breeding complex, which has a small zoo and offers the chance to feed and pet baby crocs.

Food in Darwin tends to be multicultural and of a high standard, with a growing number of pleasant outdoor eateries springing up for visitors. Mitchell Street is the city's main strip for drinking, dining and nightclubbing and is lined with lively bars and clubs.

Sports fans will delight in the range on offer to watch in Darwin, including cricket, Australian-rules football, rugby league and V8 Supercars, while shoppers should head for the numerous markets for Asian handicrafts, books, knick-knacks and New Age products.

All flights arrive into Darwin Airport and the city can also be reached by rail from Alice and Adelaide. Accommodation is gradually becoming more plentiful and there is a wide selection on offer, from upscale hotels to backpacker hostels.

Darwin has a tropical climate, occasionally suffering from storms and cyclones. The best time to visit is during the dry season between May and September, when the weather tends to be sunny and warm and humidity is low.