Gateway to the Top End

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by MagdaDH_AlexH on December 11, 2010

Darwin Airport is located approximately 12km from the Darwin Central Business District. The airport has military roots (as many things in Darwin) and it still shares runways with the RAAF base Darwin. It is the tenth busiest airport in Australia and it serves close to two million passengers per year. Considering the physical isolation of Darwin within Australia and the primarily tourist attraction character and low frequencies of the trains service, the airport is Darwin's main transport hub and provides an absolutely vital connection to the rest of Australia as well as Asia.

Darwin offers connections to all major Australian cities, with busiest being routes to Brisbane and Melbourne as well as flights to South-East Asia, with Singapore being by far the busiest route, followed by Bali. The main operators from Darwin are Qantas and its no-frills subsidiary Jeststar, as well as Virgin Blue and Tiger Airlines. Darwin is also an important hub for Airnorth, which serves smaller destinations in northern Australia from Broome to Gold Coast.

The terminal building is fairly small and functional, with a ground-level departures' hall where check-in desks, ticket desks and basic cafe and bar concession are located. The tourist information, car hire desks and luggage lockers (human operated, 7 AUD per locker at 2010 prices) are also located at the ground level. The hall is often filled with people who have just arrived and are saving a night's accommodation by napping at the airport or those that are departing on one of the night-time flights and are waiting. Large part of it is carpeted and there are seats and electricity sockets where people plug in their chargers, sleep in their sleeping bags, eat and drink and kill time in various ways, and the general impression is of adventurous and relaxed camaraderie.

The Airport Resort – a complex of hotels and holiday apartments with restaurants and pools is five minutes' walk from the terminal, most of it through pleasantly landscaped park, dotted with information boards and examples of indigenous art. The pool facilities are apparently only for the hotel's guests, but it appears there is plenty of sneaky dipping (and even those who want to work completely by the rules can still have a Chinese meal (they do a take-away) or have a drink. This might be an attractive option for those having to wait for a long time at Darwin Airport and needing to save money as there is no cheap public transport from the airport to the city. The airport shuttle costs (at the time of writing in 2010) 12 AUD single or 22 AUD return and even for two people travelling together it might be cheaper to take a taxi (and it almost certainly be cheaper for three).

The air-side area in Darwin has a slightly better choice of food and drink places than the land-side departures (though mostly pub and fast food concessions, and they are not open all the time). There are also showers and some very basic shopping. It is also possible to go through the security and come back again onto the land-side.

The arrival and departure process in Darwin is reasonably quick (as in many smaller airports) and fairly cheerful (as the tropical chilled-out attitudes spread to all walks of life). The number and variety of people that pass through the airport is surprisingly large, and people watching can be fun as well as the only entertainment available for those who need to or choose to wait here for a few hours. The terminal building, albeit small, is functional and the surroundings are accessible on foot: there is even a hotel with a walking distance for those on a stopover. As far as small airports go, Darwin isn't bad at all, although it should really acquire a normal public transport connection and not just an overpriced shuttle.
Darwin Airport Resort at Darwin International Airport
1 Henry Wrigley Drive
Darwin, Marrara, Northern Territory, 0812
61 (08) 8920 3333

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