Hilton Darwin, Darwin, the Northern Territory
The 236-room hotel has held this city-centre position for years: old Darwin hands will remember the Hilton Darwin as a Crowne Plaza. The hotel is just behind the mall, and should you feel the need to swim with crocs, the croc hotpot of Crocosaurus Cove is just a few steps away.
The hotel enjoyed a much-needed $10-million refit about 18 months ago, including a refresh of the huge lobby. It's cool and airy, but more Indigenous art wouldn't go astray to steer the cavernous space away from sterility. The ground-floor restaurant merges into the lobby's public bar, which is popular with locals. All the bedrooms and corridors were refurbished, with the addition of an executive lounge on the 20th floor and a smart gym on the 10th floor.
The hotel stays on the "neutral functional" page, rather than pushing the envelope. My room has metallic wallpapers, a vast, very comfortable bed and good workspace. In the slender bathroom, there are no cotton buds, toothbrushes, make-up removal pads or any of the bathroom ephemera that I'd expect, given it's a Hilton, and given the price tag. All incidentals are on request. While you're at it, ask for harbour views, and sign up to the Hilton's Honours program for free Wi-Fi.
The open-air pool is on the 10th floor, with smart sun loungers and a shady cabana, but the changing room is tiny and ill-equipped. The executive lounge serves a continental breakfast and cocktails: outside these hours, it's accessed by key. You'll find an espresso machine, snacks, cold drinks including alcohol, (free) Wi-Fi and a TV lounge: it's a cool retreat in the no-man's land between check-out and my flight's departure.
Breakfast is a busy affair until all the suits depart, then the leisure travellers kick back with the NT News for some spicy headlines and croc updates over pots of leaf tea and coffee. The raucous juicer gets a stiff workout, providing fresh vegetable and fruit juices, while the bain-marie serves standard hotel breakfast fare – eggs, bacon, pastries. At lunch and dinnertime, the space morphs into Mitchell's Grill, with a buffet displaying local, sustainably sourced fish, and a chef char-grilling sirloins and rib-eyes. The Hilton club sandwich is an old, faithful friend on the bar and room service menus.
Darwin's waterfront area has a paddling beach, wave pool and a swath of shade. Make dinner plans for one of the restaurants along Stokes Hill Wharf or wander down Mitchell Street to see Darwin's favourite star chef, Jimmy Shu, at Hanuman. Want to head out of town in a new direction? Book an Indigenous art day trip to the Tiwi Islands (see www.sealinknt.com.au).
With its prime city location and five stars, the Darwin Hilton is a solid choice. For the best rates, time your visit for the beginning or end of the dry season.
HIGHLIGHT The pool on the 10th floor, a haven from the heat below.
LOWLIGHT Hotel staff who can't give you directions within their workplace.
Hilton Darwin, 32 Mitchell Street, Darwin. Rooms from $199 a night on weekends, rising to $299 midweek during peak dry season (May-October). Rooms drop to $129 in the wet season (November-April). Phone (08) 8982 0000. See Darwin.hilton.com
The writer was a guest of the Hilton Darwin, Sealink NT and Northern Territory Tourism.