One day three ways: Darwin

PENNY-PINCH

Flying to Darwin is costly but the compact city is easily explored on foot and several attractions are free. On Saturday, after a free beginner's tai-chi session on Darwin's waterfront (7am, travelnt.com/en/darwin-and-surrounds/events/free-beginners-tai-chi) reward yourself with a crepe and a mango smoothie ($14) at Parap village market (parapvillage.com.au). Stroll to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (artsandmuseums.nt.gov.au, open 10am-5pm weekends, free) in Fannie Bay. For lunch grab a toasted salmon bagel and latte ($15.50) under the frangipanis at Four Birds cafe (32 Smith Street) before taking in the new Waterfront Precinct (waterfront.nt.gov.au, free events at weekends). In the evening catch an outdoor movie ($16), dinner ($14 from local caterers) and a glass of wine ($7) at Deckchair Cinema (7.30pm, deckchaircinema.com). Stay at Value Inn, on Mitchell Street ($115 a room,valueinn.com.au).

TOTAL: $185.50

EASY DOES IT

For breakfast, linger over a bacon, egg, mushroom and spinach pizza ($20) and cappuccino ($4.50) at Il Lido on Darwin's waterfront (Sunday brunch from 9.30am). This wouldn't be the NT without monster reptiles so next slither over to Crocosaurus Cove (adults $32, free shows included, crocosauruscove.com), on Mitchell Street. Then enjoy a harbour cruise ($25 adults, seadarwin.com). On return take in fishfeeding at Aquascene (aquascene.com.au, 28 Doctors Gully Road, times vary, $15). Towards sunset (Thursdays and Sundays) join the multicultural jamboree of food and knick-knack stalls at Mindil Beach market. But save room for oysters with lemongrass, ginger, sweet basil and chilli ($19.50) and wild barramundi tikka ($23 with rice) at Jimmy Shu's Hanuman restaurant (93 Mitchell Street, hanuman.com.au). For late-night sangria (jugs $30) visit Viva La Vida (vivalavidadarwin.com.au). Stay at Hilton Esplanade ($299 double, Darwin.hilton.com)

TOTAL: $468

SPLASH OUT

Darwin's high-end accommodation and dining options are fast improving. For breakfast swim out from your Sky City lagoon room (king $520 a night,skycitydarwin.com.au) to Cove Restaurant. The chorizo cocotte ($19) and crumpets with spiced pear jam ($14) provide enlivening preparation for a floatplane adventure to Litchfield National Park, which includes landing on a billabong, speeding by airboat through croc-laden wetland channels and helicoptering above it all ($695, including lunch, outbackfloatplanes.com.au). In the afternoon get even closer to giant saltwater crocodiles in the Cage of Death ($160, crocosauruscove .com) before recovering at Sky City's Lagoon Day Spa (one-hour massage, $110). Then take a champagne sunset sail ($95,saildarwin.com.au) before an alfresco dinner of crocodile tail "wrestled by chef on beach" ($20), seared venison backstrap ($44) and a 2009 Cape Mentelle cab sav ($185) at Pee Wees at the Point (peewees.com.au).

TOTAL: $1862

The writer was a guest of Tourism NT.

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