Sunsets over Darwin

Darwin sunsets

In Paris it’s the Eiffel Tower that is the most photographed attraction; in Rome it’s the Colosseum; in Copenhagen it’s The Little Mermaid. However, in Darwin there is no iconic landmark that everyone photographs in such numbers. Instead there is an event that would give any of the above a close run in the “most photographed” stakes. The Darwin sunsets are an attraction in themselves and are different each day.

I am no meteorologist so cannot explain why they are so stunning and so regular. All I know is that of the 20 days I was in the Northern Territory’s capital, Darwin, there were 18 fabulous sunsets including the one that was the backdrop for my daughter’s wedding (more of that in a moment).

D-Sunsets 014 D-Sunsets 011 D-Sunsets 008

Darwin is also blessed with many parks along it’s coastline ideal for a picnic and some sunset watching. East Point Reserve is one such place with plenty of palms, mangroves and rocks to form great silhouettes in any photographs.

Darwin sunsets, NT
A sunset from East Point Reserve

Being a port there are lot of boats, from cargo vessels to small pleasure craft, moored offshore to provide interest in any pictures you take. There are a number of traditional luggers once used by pearl fishers now taking people on sunset cruises. Luck sometimes brings one of these into the frame at just the right moment which gives a stunning photograph like the this one.

Darwin sunsets - lugger

Sunset watching is something of a Darwin institution. Thursday night in the dry season Darwinians will take a picnic to Mindil Beach around five o’clock when the Mindil Beach Market opens. Street food and crafts are the main emphasis of the market with entertainers playing the crowds gathering in the park and on the beach. Hundreds of people sit on the beach with their “tinnies” and food waiting for the sun to touch the horizon before sinking rapidly out of sight. Another Darwin sunset over they then all head for the market which carries on until 11:00pm.

Darwin sunsets - beach
Sunset watching Darwin style
Darwin sunsets - market
The setting sun casts a warm glow over the trader’s stalls at Mindil Beach Market

The Darwin sunsets are so reliable during the dry season that brides organise their weddings around them so that they can be used as backdrops for the official photographs. On my last weekend in Darwin I saw two bridal parties sharing the same west facing coastal parkland. My own daughter’s wedding on a boat the previous week had used the sunset as backdrop with captain turning the boat to face the west.

Darwin is in the tropics so although the sunsets are intense and colourful everything happens rapidly. Wedding parties have to have the official photographs completed in a short space of time. Sunset photographers need to plan ahead and find a location before earlier in the day. Knowing where the sun will be at a certain time helps a great deal. I use a handy little app called LightTrac that shows where the sun will be at sunset (and sunrise) as well as at any other given time.

Often the sky will give no indication of what is to come. The clouds, if there are any, are washed out or pale pastel colours.

Darwin sunsets - mangroves
Mangroves at East Point Reserve and a sky that gives no indication of what is to come

Then suddenly as if someone has turned a dimmer switch the intense colours, typical of Darwin sunsets, appear.

Darwin sunsets - East Point
Taken 2 minutes later and a few hundred metres from the last location

After the sun disappears the sky can still be as dramatic with the “blue period”.

Darwin sunsets - blue
Dramatic sky after sunset

Finally, a couple of my favourite sunset shots. The first photograph was taken on a night that promised little until the last minute. The sky turned blood red. The colours were reminiscent of the Australian Aboriginal Flag which is red and black with a gold disc.

Darwin sunsets - simple
A sunset in the colours of the Australian Aboriginal Flag
Darwin sunsets - harbour
Sunset over Darwin harbour

Many of the mainstream guidebooks devote little space to Darwin. Most see it as a base to explore the Northern Territory’s Top End. Darwin has more to offer than most guidebooks would lead you to believe. Not least of these are the stunning sunsets.

For more on what to do in Darwin and the surrounding area apart from watching sunsets visit

I will be writing more about the Northern Territory and Darwin in future posts. If you would like to know when these appear then sign up to be notified in the sidebar or like the Travel Unpacked Facebook page

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