The tropical port city of Darwin is an ideal base for exploring nature and discovering the Northern Territory’s rich heritage.
Darwin offers once in a lifetime opportunities to spot crocodiles, see birds of prey, marvel at pristine waterfalls and fly over World Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park.
Pre-and-post cruise overland excursions to Australia’s Red Centre to see Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Watarrka (King’s Canyon) are a bucket list drawcard for international travellers, along with luxury wilderness lodges and outback cattle stations.
A rain journey on The Ghan is a great way for train enthusiasts to see the centre of Australia.
Ask the Expert - Why Cruise the Northern Territory?
'Darwin is the home port for expedition cruising along Australia’s northern coastline – the Kimberleys to the west and remote Arnhem Land to the east. These small, intimate cruises take guests to areas only accessible by small ship and visit remote indigenous communities where guests can experience firsthand the world’s oldest living culture.' Tony Clementson Manager Destination Development Top End Region, Tourism Northern Territory.
- Australia’s Gateway Port, Darwin is often the first or last port of call for visiting ships.
- Darwin is warm all year round, with tropical humid days from October to April, during peak cruise season. In expedition cruise season from May to September, dry days are punctuated by cooler nights.
- Central Australia has an arid climate, dry and hot from October to April. May to September brings cool days and cold, clear nights.
- Popular expedition cruise ports of call include the Tiwi Islands, Seven Spirit Bay, and Yirrkala, as well as remote Arnhem Land communities.
- The Darwin Cruise Ship Terminal at Fort Hill Wharf, is adjacent to the Waterfront Precinct and 800m from the city centre.
- Darwin International Airport is just 13km from the cruise ship terminal with regular international and domestic flights.
- Direct flights to Darwin and Alice Springs are available from all major ports in Australia, as well as a variety of touring and accommodation options.
- Time in the Northern Territory is GMT + 9:30.
Must See Destinations
Darwin - Port
Visitors can easily explore Darwin and experience the tropical laid back lifestyle through local food – jackfruit curry, mango smoothies and crocodile jerky are available on market days, and local delicacies such as mud crabs or barramundi can be found on restaurant menus. Shore excursions and the hop-on-hop-off bus visit the Museum & Art Gallery of NT, Darwin Military Museum, and the city centre. Harbour Cruises are also popular, and crocodiles can be seen (from a safe distance) in the city at Crocosaurus Cove, further out at Crocodylus Park, or in the wild on a Jumping Croc cruise.
Kakadu National Park World Heritage Area – Scenic flight excursion/Pre or post destination
250 kilometres from Darwin, Kakadu National Park is one of the world’s great nature reserves. Visitors can cruise on Yellow Water Billabong with 290 bird varieties and wildlife, and learn about Australia’s 50,000 year old Indigenous culture through Kakadu’s rock art galleries. Full day scenic flights are the best way for cruise visitors to experience Kakadu.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park - Pre or post cruise destination
The main attraction is the changing colours of 348 metre high Uluru at sunrise and sunset. Located 440 kilometres west of Alice Springs, tour options include base walks around the red monolith with traditional Anangu guides, camel treks, scenic flights, bicycle rides, and Harley Davidson tours. Also in the park are the massive 36 domes of Kata Tjuta which are over 500 million years old. Accommodation varies from camping to hotels to the luxurious Longitude 131 wilderness camp. Visitors can fly direct to Uluru from all major port cities.
Alice Springs and Central Australia- Pre or post cruise destination
Gateway to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the famous outback city of Alice Springs offers early morning hot-air balloon rides, riverbed camel treks, heli tours and four wheel drive tours into the East and West MacDonnell Ranges. Alice Springs’ vibrant art galleries reflect regional Aboriginal styles. Dinner under the stars with a local indigenous chef is a highlight.
Wilderness Lodges - Pre or post cruise destination
The Northern Territory offers wild bush luxury at several legendary wilderness lodges including Bamurru Plains resort on the edge of a pristine floodplain, and the half a million acre Bullo River cattle station – a spectacular landscape teeming with wildlife. Visitors can experience the world’s oldest living culture at Mt Borradaile with Davidson’s Arnhem Land Safaris.
Must Do Experiences
- Take the Jumping Crocs cruise on the Adelaide River to see these beasts up close
- Discover more about WWII and the Bombing of Darwin
- Take a dip in a natural waterfall in Litchfield National Park
- See the live birds of prey show at Territory Wildlife Park
- Gaze up at your cruise ship from a Darwin Harbour cruise
- Try a craft beer at a Darwin pub with the locals
- Take a scenic flight over Kakadu’s waterfalls and rainforests
- Take an overland adventure and watch the sun rise over iconic Uluru
- Marvel at the ancient red domes of Kata Tjuta
- Listen to the stories and traditions behind Aboriginal rock art
Darwin is considered Australia’s Gateway Port for international cruise ships thanks to a close proximity to Asia and it’s warm tropical climate. Itineraries beginning or ending in Darwin may be arranged directly with the cruise line - try the Carnival and Royal Caribbean groups.
- Visits from Australian circumnavigation cruises from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle
- World Cruises, Grand Voyages and Circle Pacific Voyages
- Cruises between Asia and Australia, including Singapore, Bali, and Indonesia’s spice islands
- Cruises to the South Pacific via Thursday Island, Papua New Guinea and Cairns
Azamara Club Cruises: Azamara Journey
Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Solstice
Cruise & Maritime Voyages: Magellan
Crystal Cruises: Crystal Symphony
Cunard Line: Queen Mary 2
Fred.Olsen Cruises: Black Watch
Holland America Line: Amsterdam, Maasdam
MSC Cruises: MSC Magnifica
Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Star
Oceania Cruises: Insignia, Sirena
Princess Cruises: Dawn Princess, Diamond Princess, Emerald Princess, Golden Princess, Sea Princess, Sun Princess
P&O Cruises: Pacific Dawn, Pacific Eden, Pacific Pearl
Phoenix Reisen: MS Albatross
Regent Seven Seas: Seven Seas Navigator, Seven Seas Voyager
Royal Caribbean International: Legend of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas
Seabourn Cruise Line: Seabourn Alpha, Seabourn Encore, Seabourn Sojourn
Silversea Cruises: Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper
A number of small, luxury expedition cruise ships using Darwin as a home-base to explore the remote Northern Australian coastline from April-October. These smaller vessels can access remote indigenous communities such as Tiwi Islands, Elcho Island and Yirrkala.
APT Cruises: Caledonia Sky
Coral Expeditions: Coral Discoverer, Coral Expeditions 1
Kimberley Expeditions: Reef Prince
Silversea Expeditions: Silver Discoverer