My recommendation for hotels and apartments in Darwin

Many (most) Kimberley cruises start or finish in Darwin. If your cruise starts in Darwin you will be staying at least one night prior. If your cruise finishes in Darwin then you can book your flight home on that day of arrival (usually for an afternoon flight) but I recommend at least a day or two in the NT capital.

There are two parts of the city that I recommend; the Waterfront precinct and the CBD. The two are a 5 minute drive (10-12 minute walk) apart. 

Aerial view of Darwin

The Waterfront area of Darwin was developed in the 1990s and is quieter and much less raucous than the CBD with all the pubs and clubs that Darwin is famous for. If you have ever seen the TV show, ‘Territory Cops’ you know what I mean. There are some lovely restaurants and a good Irish pub that has a nice outdoor sitting area. The hotels are ‘ok’ so the cost definitely reflects the location; good for one/two night stays. 

There is much more choice in the main part of Darwin – waterfront hotels along the Esplanade, good value apartments and the Hilton Darwin which is probably the best hotel in the CBD.

If you are finishing a cruise in Darwin then you will almost certainly dis-embarking around 8-9am. Check in time at hotels is always around mid-afternoon. If your room is ready upon your arrival in the morning then most hotels will happily let you in straight away but during the high season in Darwin that is unlikely. They will keep your luggage and take your mobile number and call you when your room is ready. Note the only way to guarantee immediate access to your room in the morning would be by paying for the night before and I’m sure you would agree this would be a complete waste of money. 

To be honest you will have come off a cruise and probably would have had a shower and breakfast already so spending a morning in Darwin before accessing your room is not a huge issue. But note my point about the Executive rooms at the Darwin Hilton further down if you want one workaround.

Note that hotel prices in Darwin seem to fluctuate quite a bit. Hotels around the world like to call this ‘dynamic pricing’ which really means, “we’ll charge whatever we can depending on how busy it is”. Therefore our specific recommendations vary as they are based on which property is offering a reasonable deal at the time. Suffice to say I would happily stay in any of these properties listed below (and in most cases I have):

Oaks Elan

The only hotel in Darwin that I haven’t seen myself personally but my colleagues have and the reports are very positive; really nice, modern and spacious rooms. the harbour view options are really nice.  We have found Oaks Elan to be a more reasonably priced option than many similar standard and located hotels in Darwin.. Here you have 1 and 2 bedroom apartments; facilities including an outdoor pool, gym and a restaurant open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Mantra Pandanas

We stayed here a good few years ago. Good location; close enough to the main part of town but a block or two away from the night noise of the Mitchell Street pubs. They have nice apartments, although I was not as keen on the hotel rooms. As with the Oaks Elan above they have all the facilities you would expect and we find they are really good value for a one or two night stay.

Ramada Suites by Wyndham Zen Quarter Darwin

This property is a few blocks away from Michell and Smith Streets. It really is just a few minutes walk from the CBD even though it is on a very quiet side street with a nondescript entrance. But inside is a range of spacious and well appointed apartments, some with water views. With facilities including a washing machine this is a good option especially if you are halfway through your adventure (perhaps switching from cruise to tour).

Mantra on the Esplanade

Interesting situation with this property. I have always liked it and I like the location of hotels on the esplanade. More to the point many of my clients over the years have liked it. Midway through 2020 Mantra announced that it was closing the hotel and converting the property to residential apartments. All our existing bookings at that time were cancelled and we had to re-locate our guests to different hotels. Then, just as suddenly, Mantra backtracked and started taking bookings again but this time with the restaurant and bar permanently closed. 

Vibe & Adina Apartments

These hotels are located in the waterfront precinct which is a nice quiet part of Darwin with great restaurants. The hotels are ok, clean and comfortable. A minor point; be aware that the shower is usually inside the bathtub which is nowadays quite old fashioned.

H on Smith Hotel 

Another well located hotel and usually priced very reasonably. But in my view the lead in room type, (H Queen) is a bit pokey. Upgrade to the King room. Very nice pool area.

Hilton Darwin (not to be confused with the Doubletree by Hilton hotels on the Esplanade)

Downtown hotel overlooking the harbour (although not all rooms have harbour views) this is arguably the best hotel in Darwin especially as it was recently refurbished. It has a super central location and is therefore within walking distance to shops and restaurants. The rooms have either King or twin (double beds) some with harbour views. 

There are also the higher priced Executive rooms which, while actually smaller than the normal rooms, do usually include complimentary breakfast plus access to the Executive business lounge which is located on the tenth floor where you can enjoy complimentary pre-dinner drinks, and canapés. Access to the lounge is usually granted around 11am for new guests so if you are dis-embarking at Darwin this is an option to consider.

Doubletree by Hilton Darwin Esplanade and Hilton Garden Inn

It used to really irritate coach and taxi drivers in Darwin that there were two Doubletree by Hilton hotels in Darwin. There was so much confusion that both hotels had prominent signs in their lobbies empathising which specific Doubletree by Hilton they were. But it didn’t matter too much if you ended up at the wrong one – the two hotels are next door to each other!

At last the Hilton group has renamed one of these as the Hilton Garden Inn along with a much needed refresh.

I like the Esplanade in Darwin. Surprisingly there are virtually no shops, restaurants or bars on the Esplanade; so at night it is almost tranquil. But you are just a 5 minute walk away from all the bustle and noise of Mitchell Street so arguably you have the best of both worlds.

Both of these properties are rated at 4* although to be honest they were both looking their age. The Hilton Garden Inn has had a refurbishment and the Doubletree is about to have one in late 2023. The guests at either hotel can use the facilities of both properties. This is a particular advantage for the Hilton Garden guests who can use the pool at the Doubletree which is supposedly the largest hotel pool in the city.

Mindil Beach Casino Resort (formerly Sky City)

This is a beautiful resort within 30 acres of tropical gardens with the best Italian restaurant in darwin; il Piatto. In fact if you are after a resort style accommodation option in Darwin then this is probably your best choice with well appointed rooms, a lovely infinity pool, several bars and restaurants and even complimentary guest laundry.  Mindil Beach itself is home to a wonderful (and quite famous) sunset market every Thursday and Sunday evening (during the dry season) so guests at the resort can easily walk to and from it. 

Of course it is also a casino and entertainment centre so not to everyone’s taste and the resort is about 5-10 minutes drive from the CBD.

Where to book your Darwin accommodation

Well of course for starters we can book this accommodation for you and if you are taking advantage of our two free night offer then we do need to book the accommodation for you.

Otherwise there are plenty of options to book hotels in Australia nowadays. The big US owned online accommodation engines such as Expedia, and Wotif are all very popular. Booking hotels via these platforms is incredibly straight-forward and the information they supply about room types and facilities is extensive. And all these platforms allow you to read the reviews of previous guests as well.

Most hotels say they want you to book directly with them, either by phone or using their own website. So it’s good theory that you use the search engines but then book directly with the specific hotel. Trouble is that in practice this theory seems hit and miss. In my experience hotel staff often prefer you book via a third party. The exception is smaller, family owned properties where the owner/manager is likely to answer the phone.

One booking engine that has less profile that the others in Australia is Agoda and we have found more and more of our passengers are using them.

Click HERE to see my recommendation for hotels and resorts in Broome.

Of course there are many more hotels in Broome and Darwin but these are my preferences. Another consideration is AIRBNB – more and more we see clients choosing privately owned accommodation.

About Jenny

I’m an expert in small ship cruising in the Kimberley and have completed four cruises on different vessels along this spectacular coastline. With a family I now work part-time so if you would like to have a chat with me about Kimberley cruising at a time that suits you book in a call here  and I will call you then.

Cruises in the Kimberley are not ‘one size fits all’ scenario; there are different ships and itineraries each offering their own special elements.  If you would like some general information to start your research then download my free guide to Kimberley cruising here.   I have also written some really interesting blogs (if I do say so myself) click here to have read.

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