Darwin Famil: May 2021
DAY 1 Friday 14 May
No love was lost when I said goodbye to the warm jumpers I was sporting in Sydney and stepped off the plane. Welcome to the tropics! Darwin, we’ve arrived!
During the famil we stayed at the Adina Apartment Darwin Waterfront, which has a direct view of the ocean, Waterfront area, and convention centre. Nestled in the centre of the Precinct, you’re steps away from restaurants, a salt water lagoon (croc and stinger-free) as well as a variety of convenience stores.
Our first sample of distinctive top end cuisine didn’t disappoint. Snapper Rocks, located a couple of minutes from the hotel, has a plethora of local tastes and has a relaxed atmosphere. With dishes such as Crocodile popcorn (yes, croc is delicious) you can see why it’s earned a slew of awards, including Best Contemporary Restaurant NT (Gold Plates 2020).
After our introductory feed we walked over to the convention centre for a site inspection. Opened in 2008, you’d be forgiven thinking it had only been open for a couple of years. The spaces are modern, AV state of the art, location convenient and who can fault communal areas and corridors with views of the Waterfront? The proximity of lagoon just outside the window means, if you were braver than me, you could probably jump in for a quick dip during one of your conference coffee breaks. Not that I’d ever promote that sort behaviour from our delegates – they’ll of course be visiting our valued sponsors and exhibitors during our conferences.
Aside from location and proximity to swimming areas, the versatility of the centre is also very impressive. The auditorium is large enough to cater for conferences up to 1200 delegates with tiered seating but it would also be suitable for smaller meetings. There are also four meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 170 each.
Next on the program was a tour to Mindil Beach Casino Resort, the only five-star beachfront resort in Darwin. The views of the ocean were outstanding and at the time of our visit, it was fully booked. Clearly a lively and upbeat atmosphere – it was as though we’d been transported to a pre covid land where sunshine, a pool bar and live music are all in the realm of possibility.
On the front lawns you’d have a spectacular view for any gala dinners and with 152 hotel rooms.
The beaches in Darwin are undeniably beautiful. Unlike my local Sydney ones, the stark difference is the number of people you’ll find casually bathing in the water: next to none. Therefore, when our Famil group was casually informed that we would be boarding our next mode of transport via the water, did I think I take pause? Yes. Did I think a croc might snap me up from the water? Yep. Was I momentarily dazzled by the stunning sunshine and thoughts of touring the beautiful harbour and push any aforementioned trepidation to the back of my mind? You betcha!
After bravely entering the ankle-deep water and courageously climbing the three steps up to the deck of the Sea Darwin’s boat I was handsomely rewarded with comfortable seat and branded stubby holder containing a drink. I can sincerely attest that when you’ve tackled such dangers, a cold glass of gin tastes that much sweeter.
An Award-winning eco tour and cruise operator, Sea Darwin are available for private group hires. They offer tours to watch turtles, sunset cruises and best of all, they have their own gin! It’s even called ‘Saltie’. https://seadarwin.com/blog/saltie-gin-darwins-own-crocodile-gin!/
After our adventures of the high seas - and thankfully no croc sighting - we headed back to the Waterfront for dinner at Wharf One Food & Wine.
A casual answer to dinner, this would be suitable for a small drinks reception or private function. We sampled the shared platters and some green ant gin – another distinctive taste from the NT. I didn’t get a picture but I had an actual ant in my pour and it was delicious.
DAY 2 – SATURDAY 15 MAY
Thankfully we’d been given the program ahead of time so I came prepared for what was in store today, which called for no less than three outfit changes.
In the morning we set off to Litchfield National Park with Ethical Adventures. Located 1.5 hours outside of Darwin city centre, our Guide, Rob, gave us quite the tour and pointed out lots of interesting (and often hilarious) sights along the way. When we reached the national park, we stopped at two swimming points and while there was no croc spotting (phew!), we did manage to spy some celebrities. The Bondi vet was in town and happened to be at the same swimming area we were in, doing some filming.
Back to the hotel for a quick costume change and then we went to Bass in the Grass, an annual music festival which this year has attracted over 14,000 people to Darwin. We enjoyed the festival scene from the sanctuary of the VIP area, where there were no queues but great views of the stages. Ideal if you want a slightly calmer vibe but still eager to enjoy the atmosphere and music.
To finish off this epic day we travelled back to the convention centre and were treated to their Seven Seasons dinner – a spectacular tasting menu that allows guests to experience the dramatic changes of the Gulumoerrgin seasons and the corresponding impact these changes have on the sights, sounds, landscape and natural habitat.
‘The journey is beyond Aboriginal food, it also includes a visual and sound experience, creating a sensory culture immersion. Guests will leave with a fuller appreciation of the deep connection the Larrakia people have for the land on which the Darwin Convention Centre stands.’
A truly memorable experience.
Being treated like a VIP continued on Sunday morning with our first activity. A few steps from our hotel. Waiting for us in the Darwin Convention Centre Porte Cochere was our private helicopter.
The short orientation flight over Darwin was a great opportunity to put distances into prospectus for clients and give a great view of Darwin.
Our host was Nautilus Aviation, a company with over 25 years’ experience. They can tailor specific packages for your delegates and one of the most popular tours they do is Heli Fishing which is we were told is popular with both the guys and the girls. If time is short they can pick you up as the sunrises, from the DCC Porte Cochere for your scenic flight or Heli Fishing tour and deliver you back to the front door of the DCC before the first conference session. What better way to combine work and pleasure and a great way to start the day watching the sunrise from your private helicopter.
East Point Reserve is a nature reserve and the largest park in the Darwin area and our next stop. The area is home to a large selection of wildlife and the best way to see this vast area is by Segway. Jim from Segway Tours NT took us along the tracks over boardwalks and out to a platform over the mangroves. During our tour, we saw wallabies and even a dingo. This activity could easily be included in an early morning activity, a sunset tour or partner program.
At the entrance to the East Point Reserve is the Darwin Military Museum and the Defence of Darwin Experience. The museum provides a powerful and interactive experience of Darwin on the 19 February 1942. A great venue to be included in a partner program, welcome reception or during free time to showcase the history of the bombing of Darwin and the part Darwin placed in WWII.
Lunch was hosted by the Darwin Trailer Boat Club. What a stunning view when you walk out to the terrace. The teal blue ocean and golden sands are the star of the show here. Imagine an evening function on the terrace and this beautiful view topped by the famous Darwin tropical sun set. Function catering is casual with platters served to the table. If you have a free Sunday afternoon it is also a great place for a relaxed lunch with a stunning view.
Crocosaurus Cove is ideally located right in the centre of town, making it very quick and easy for transfers for your delegates. Here we had a very up close and personal experience with the infamous Northern Territory Saltwater Crocodiles. For a bit of royal romance, check out William and Kate. The venue can accommodate up to 1,000 delegates for a cocktail function and to add to the excitement of your function why not put your Chairman or CEO in the cage of death.
Sunday night in Darwin is Mindil Beach’s iconic Sunset Market night. We had our own VIP area at the market under the palms, right next to a pathway to the beach for sunset – a perfect location. If your conference has a Sunday night in the program then this is a must do. Darwin Convention Centre is able to provide off-site catering in your VIP area at the markets, enabling you to include this F & B option in your master account if you are having your conference at the Centre and you will be guaranteed the standard of F & B and the service continues from your conference venue to the markets. Having your own VIP area allows you a great base to enjoy cocktails and canapes and after walking around the markets you can bring any market food you purchase back to your private table to enjoy. As well as a variety of international food stalls the market also has an array of arts and crafts stalls. A great place to get that local gift to take back home. During our visit the sun set about 6.30 pm and so you want to make sure you are on the beach to watch this most stunning sunset. A local tip is stay on the beach for at least 10 minutes after sunset to see the most amazing oranges and red colouring in in the darkened sky. The markets are open during the dry season from late April to October.
If we didn’t have enough to eat at the markets with a combination of the DCC cocktails and canapes and market stall food our next stop was The Loading Bay – Little Miss Korea. The NT and DCC girls certainly didn’t want us to go home hungry.
On Monday, we were treated to breakfast at Parliament House, Speakers Corner Cafe. Our long table was out on the balcony overlooking the bay. Another opportunity to be in awe of the beautiful colour of the water. The Parliamentarians certainly have a great view. The café is managed by Karen Sheldon Catering and we were fortunate to have Karen onsite to tell us about her story and her company mission to “Close the Gap” working with Indigenous people in their Future Stars Indigenous Employment Program. As well as breakfasts Karen and your team can also cater for large cocktail functions and dinners inside Parliament or out on the lawn.
Our next and final stop on our famil was the Royal Flying Doctors and Bombing of Darwin Tourist Facility on Stokes Hill Wharf, which is located on the Waterfront in front of the Convention Centre.
This centre is very interactive and provides a great history lesson on the Flying Doctors and the Bombing of Darwin and the facility actually sits right on the Wharf that was actually bombed in 1942. The facility can accommodate welcome receptions and small gala dinners. A perfect stop for a cocktail function on the way to or return from your sunset boat cruise.
Staying at the Vibe in the Waterfront Precinct is the perfect location to each morning rise before dawn and walk down to the wharf to watch the sunrise. On the way back make sure you have time for a quick dip in the lagoon. In May, the water temperature is only 26 degrees, which the locals think is too cold for swimming, but to those visiting for work or pleasure it is tropical.
A huge thank you to Darwin Convention Centre and Business Events Northern Territory for hosting us on a truly outstanding and unbelievable Famil.