On the Saturday morning after flying into Darwin the night before, I received a text from Anthony, a friend of a friend; a Darwin local who was keen to show me around the city. We arranged to meet up that afternoon. Anthony drove me out to East Point and across to the Charles Darwin National Park for the impressive views of the city. He then casually suggested lunch and said the thing to do in Darwin on a Saturday was to head to the Parap Village Market.
Many Darwin suburbs have their self-designated day to host a community market – with stalls selling everything from scented candles to tourist paraphernalia and of course cuisine mainly from Asia. Anthony believes that because of Darwin’s close proximity and similar climate to Asia - that markets, akin to those found in our northern neighbour are also popular in the Territory’s capital.
And popular they are with both locals and tourists alike. They feel like the beating heart of the city, where friends gather to peruse the latest merchandise and to catch up on the weekly gossip. But we were there for the food, which is prepared fresh by ex-pats representing most south-east Asian nations. My friend recommended we head to one particular Indonesian stand and I’m so glad we did; the chicken dish I selected was delicious and extremely good value.
Based on my positive Parap Market experience, I decided to venture to the famed Mindil Beach Markets on the following Sunday night. I heard anecdotally that these were the best markets to visit – so off I trotted from Mitchell Street in the heart of Darwin’s CBD, through the Skycity Casino to Mindil Beach.
My first glimpse of the markets wasn’t actually the stalls themselves, it was the throngs of people sitting on Mindil Beach chatting, laughing and look out to the west as the sun was sinking behind the waterline. It appeared that the majority of the city’s population had gathered to socialise and appreciate the cooling temperatures. It would also be remiss of me not to mention that out of all of coastlines surrounding Darwin, I thought Mindil Beach to be the most beautiful. This was an idyllic tropical beach worthy of extra attention.
I strolled along the waterline until I reached the crowds, where I worked my way through the crowds and into the markets themselves. There’s a distinct energy here – it’s part carnival, part picnic, part celebration – but it’s entirely enticing. This is where everyone comes together to celebrate the end of the weekend and look forward to the week ahead.
I meandered from food stall to food stall, browsed through the jewellery stands, lingered a bit longer at the various clothing options and admired didgeridoo players. But it’s the atmosphere that is the exciting part of Mindil – it’s just so congenial. It’s hard not to feel relaxed and comfortable in this environment.