Residents of Australia’s southern and eastern states might reasonably regard August as the grimmest month on the calendar. It rains a lot. The cold weather has been dragging on for months. And it seems like everyone’s in a low-energy slump.

But not in Darwin. August falls in the middle of the Top End’s dry season, and a late-winter trip to Darwin comes with the promise of a succession of hot August nights. It’s also a highpoint on Darwin’s cultural calendar, with the Darwin Festival occurring annually in August. 

This year’s Darwin Festival will play out over two and a half weeks, from Thursday 4th – Sunday 21st August. A program of live music, dance, theatre, and stand-up comedy will take over a handful of venues in the Darwin CBD. 

A trip to Darwin in August is a supreme proposition. We’ve devised an itinerary that lets you enjoy the sights and surrounds of the NT capital while seizing upon Darwin Festival’s world-class events program.

Darwin Festival

Most of the Darwin Festival action is split between the Darwin Convention Centre and Darwin Entertainment Centre, as well as the Sunset Stage in the aptly named hub, Festival Park. All three venues are within walking distance of the Darwin Waterfront Precinct, a bustling area of restaurants and water-based recreation in the heart of town.

“There is so much going on [during Darwin Festival],” NT singer-songwriter Emily Wurramara told Rolling Stone Australia. “It’s such a beautiful way to experience the Northern Territory.”

We recommend you plan your Darwin holiday around the Festival events you’d like to attend. This year’s festival launch event is Buŋgul, a free, open-air concert in the Darwin Amphitheatre, situated within the Darwin Botanic Gardens. Buŋgul will draw attention to the traditional Indigenous songs, dances and paintings that inspired Dr G. Yunupingu’s final album, Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow). The performance was conceived in partnership with the Yunupiŋu family and will feature the Darwin Symphony Orchestra.

British singer-songwriter Arlo Parks – responsible for one of 2021’s most promising debuts, Collapsed in Sunbeams – is coming to Darwin as part of her debut Australian tour. Brisbane electro-party act Confidence Man will spruik their ecstatic new album, TILT, on the Sunset Stage during the final weekend of the festival.

The festival program also includes Waŋa, an exploration of grief and joy from the NT Dance Company; the 16th Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair; the National Indigenous Music Awards, featuring performances from Thelma Plum and King Stingray; and loads more to be announced.

Where to stay

Cocktail at the Mindil Beach Casino Resort pool
Credit: Tourism NT/Taylah Nilsson

You’ll want a comfortable spot to rest your head during your stay in Darwin. We’d recommend making a booking at the Mindil Beach Casino Resort. The luxury beachside resort offers premium accommodation and amenities, including multiple bars and restaurants, swimming pools, spas and fitness areas.

The resort’s adults-only Infinity Pool is something to behold – it’s equal parts beachside leisure location and summer club and cocktail bar. Suffice to say, you could easily while away a couple of days without leaving the resort.

Heli Pub Crawl

Credit: Tourism NT/Helen Orr

If you’ve spoken to anyone who’s recently returned from a trip to Darwin, you’ve doubtless heard of Darwin’s heli pub crawl. No deception – it’s a bona fide pub crawl conducted by helicopter. 

You’ll want to set aside a whole day for the heli pub crawl, which takes you to five pubs in seven hours. Groups spend approximately one hour at each pub, including the secluded Crab Claw Island Resort and the Goat Island Lodge, located 65 kilometres south of the Darwin CBD. 

Between stops, the chopper window gives you an unbeatable view of Darwin Harbour and coastline and the surrounding savannahs, billabongs and creeks. Experiencing a heli pub crawl is an excellent introduction to Darwin and an equally great way to cap off a trip.

Litchfield National Park & Florence Falls

It’s to time to get out of town. Hire a car and hit the road 100 kilometres south-west of Darwin. Here you’ll find Litchfield National Park, home to Top End favourites Florence Falls, Wangi Falls and Buley Rockhole.

Florence Falls includes two waterfalls cascading over native brown rock into a refreshing plunge pool. The Florence Falls lookout offers views of the plunge pool, monsoon forest and open valley over Litchfield National Park.

Buley Rockhole is a short distance from Florence Falls and comprises several ancient rock pools. August is prime time for swimming in the open rock pools. “It’s free, you don’t need to pay, and that’s like your Wet’n’Wild natural waterpark right there for you,” NT rapper J-MILLA told Rolling Stone Australia.

Mindil Beach Sunset Market

The Mindil Beach Sunset Market is on every Thursday and Sunday night during the dry season. The dining options are vast – but don’t just take our word for it. “There’s many types of foods,” gushed the Darwin-born J-MILLA. “From Asian to your traditional Aboriginal types of foods to fish and chips.”

Once you’ve settled on your preferred cuisine, take a walk down to the ocean shore where you can raise a glass to your excellent life choices while enjoying the Darwin sunset. The market also includes local arts and craft stalls and entertainment from magicians and busking musicians. 

The Mindil Beach Sunset Market is an ideal place to visit before a Darwin Festival performance. But don’t worry if you’re not there on a Thursday or Sunday evening – the festival hub, Festival Park, located on the corner of Smith St and Harry Chan Ave, is also a buzzing locale of pop up stalls all festival long.