There's some colour in the building at ground level, but beyond that, it's a fairly unimpressive apartment tower from the outside. But it's on the inside that it works, with expansive views over the city and out over the wharves and ships and colour of the waters around Darwin Harbour.
Oaks Elan is on the northern edge of the CBD, and while some prefer to be even closer to the water or to the markets at Mindil and Parap, there's a revival of sorts under way in Darwin's city centre, with an emphasis on events, preening the parklands and renewing the waterfront.
The reception area is adjacent to the restaurant, which doubles as the hotel lounge. There is undercover parking on site, a modestly equipped gymnasium and a pool for laps or a splash. In this climate, the pool's a good facility, but during our winter visit it was in the shade for most of the day.
The options here are hotel rooms or one- or two-bedroom apartments. Ours was a one-bedroom harbour view apartment and it was fine for a couple, with a big-enough bathroom that also had a washer and dryer. There was also a kitchen/lounge area with TV, but the highlight was the balcony, with a table and a couple of chairs to enjoy the warm Darwin winter, with views of the black kites (the feathered ones) riding the afternoon thermals, views over the city to the harbour and the spectacular deeply-coloured sunsets.
The apartment has a basic kitchen set-up, the supermarkets aren't far away and Darwin's markets can also supply everything needed for cooking in that kitchen. The OAK (Original Australian Kitchen) restaurant on site makes good coffee, has a bar and snacks and is open for meals from 6am to 9pm; it's also available for room service. At the Waterfront, Chows has excellent fusion food, and in the city, at Hanuman, the seafood is excellent, although on our visit the service was appalling.
Darwin's centre is a five-minute walk, but stretch your legs a little further, past the Supreme Court and Parliament House (they call it the Wedding Cake, one look and you'll see why, although that defies its clever architecture) to the Waterfront area for the massive Wave Lagoon, which is free of crocs and other NT headline-grabbers, but could be a little tricky during the electrical storms of the wet season. The Waterfront is also strong for parklands, complete with playground and public art, and for its restaurants. Take transport to reach the intriguing NT Museum and Art Gallery and from there head to the Darwin Sailing Club for sundowners. Beyond the Wave Lagoon, Darwin's public pools are excellent and cheap, particularly at Parap and Nightcliff, where a single entry is just $4 for adults.
For Darwin accommodation, some prefer Parap for the pool and the Saturday markets, our Uber driver thought the more up-market Cullen Bay was the go, and if you include Yots Greek Tavern on scene there, the argument is a good one. But for a clean, efficient apartment with friendly reception and big city views in a CBD location, put Oaks Elan on your list.
Rooms from $209 a night; 31-33 Woods Street, Darwin NT 0800. Phone 1300 542 502, see oakshotels.com
The sunsets and harbour views from a warm and breezy Darwin balcony.
Getting to and from those harbour views – very slow lift service to the upper levels of this tall (for Darwin) building.
Jim Darby was a guest of Oaks Elan Darwin.