Australia's only tropical capital, Darwin gazes out confidently across the Timor Sea. It's closer to Bali than Bondi, and many from the southern states still see it as some frontier outpost or jumping-off point for Kakadu National Park.
But Darwin is a surprisingly affluent, cosmopolitan, youthful and multicultural city, thanks in part to an economic boom fuelled by the mining industry and tourism. It's a city on the move but there's a small-town feel and a laconic, relaxed vibe that fits easily with the tropical climate. Here non-Aboriginal meets Aboriginal (Larrakia), urban meets remote, and industry meets idleness.
Darwin has plenty to offer the traveller. Boats bob around the harbour, chairs and tables spill out of streetside restaurants and bars, museums celebrate the city's past, and galleries showcase the region's rich Indigenous art. Darwin's cosmopolitan mix − more than 50 nationalities are seamlessly represented here − is typified by the wonderful markets held throughout the dry season.
Nature is well and truly part of Darwin's backyard − the famous national parks of Kakadu and Litchfield are only a few hours' drive away and the unique Tiwi Islands a boat-ride away. For locals the perfect weekend is going fishing for barra in a tinny with an esky full of cold beer.