Famous for its legendary and stunning sunsets that turn the whole sky pink, orange and red, is the sunset cruise in Darwin worth doing? With a huge harbour, there are many amazing viewpoints to see the sunset in Darwin such as Cullen Bay, Mindil beach and Fannie Bay, which may make you wonder if it’s worth experiencing it from a boat?
I joined Darwin Harbour Cruises to see what the hype was about and experience a Darwin sunset from the water. Read on to see my review of the Darwin Harbour Sunset Cruise and let me assure you first, it was as incredible as it looks! You can pre-book your sunset cruise here to make sure you don’t miss out!
Best time of year to visit Darwin
Visiting Darwin, in particular for a cruise, is best experienced in the Dry Season between May and October. The temperatures range between 21 and 32 degrees Celsius and the rain and wind are minimal which is perfect for sailing or a cruise on Darwin Harbour.
Although, don’t let the wet season, between November and April, put you off visiting the Top End. The Monsoon season can attract some incredible wildlife and extreme weather you won’t see in any other place in Australia.
What is included on the Darwin Harbour Sunset Cruise?
On this two-and-a-half-hour Darwin sunset cruise, you get to experience uninterrupted views of the sunset from the calm sea Darwin is surrounded by. Pick-up is from Stokes Hill Wharf in Darwin Harbour at 5:30 pm and you are dropped back at around 8:30 pm. Darwin Harbour Cruises do offer transfer from your hotel or Stokes Hill Wharf is a 20-minute walk from Darwin city centre or a short taxi ride.
Unlike other cruise boats, Darwin Harbour Cruises seat you at individual tables indoors or on their large sun deck. There is a fully licensed bar and dinner menu serving cheese or seafood platters.
They also offer a Sunset Dinner Cruise which includes a buffet dinner or a Gaze and Grazes sunset cruise which includes food platters and a complimentary drink.
It’s a no brainer, but no smoking is permitted on any deck.
What to bring on the Sunset Cruise
The day I went on the Darwin sunset cruise it had been very hot so I dressed for this weather. I’d recommend taking:
A hat or cap
Cardigan or light jacket for after sunset
As all food and drinks can be purchased onboard, you don’t need to bring your own.
Darwin Harbour Sunset Cruise full breakdown
When we arrived at Stokes Hill Wharf 30 minutes before our sunset cruise, there was a very large queue already lined up. The entrance is a little slower than normal as the crew personally take you aboard, sits you at your table and takes your drink order which is excellent service, it is not like all other boat tours.
We were seated at the front of the upper deck on a table for two and I was happy to see the tables were really spaced out and not cramped in together. There were around 20 people sitting upstairs and every table had a great view of the water. Once seated, you don’t need to move a lot as the whole night is table service. However, not that the toilets are on the bottom deck.
As the sun sets, the top deck is light by soft festoon lights so you can see your food and it adds to the ambience.
Live commentary on the boat
Once we set off down the harbour, the experienced guide sat at the front of our deck and gave a live commentary on the history of Darwin. As we passed the Government House, parks and churches, the guide told us the stories and history that made Darwin what is today. He was funny and engaging and told stories I had not heard at any of the other tours.
I won’t tell you what I learned from the informative commentary as it is better experienced yourself. But, did you know that despite the name, Charles Darwin has never actually been to Darwin? No, I didn’t know either.
The commentary finished up just before the food arrived and the sun started to set so we could relax, eat and enjoy the view with soft music for the remainder of the cruise which was perfect.
Drinks included in the tour
I was pleasantly surprised that the drinks menu was quite extensive. With a large selection of Australian wine, apart from the champagne which was French of course, and local and international beer and spirits, there was a lot to choose from. We opted for the Tasmania Cuvée sparkling wine which came in an ice bucket with champagne glasses (glass not plastic, great!).
There is also a good selection of soft drinks and iced drinking water waiting for you on your table. The crew are very attentive throughout the night, you did not have to wait long to order another drink or get a water refill.
Our Sunset dinner
The tables were already set with side plates, cutlery and cloth napkins which gave the cruise that touch of luxury. We ordered the cheese board and seafood platter on board, but you can order this in advance if you like too.
The cheese board came with an Australian Brie, Blue, tasty cheese and smokey cheddar, crackers, dried apricots, figs, dates, quince paste and macadamia nuts.
The portion sizes were larger than I expected and everything was fresh.
I’d definitely recommend it, Australian Brie is always a win.
The seafood platter came with fresh prawns, oysters, pickled octopus, feta, olives and dipping sauces. The pickled octopus and fresh prawns were a highlight for me and they brought a bowl of water to clean your hands too. The only slight downside I had was that our table was on the small side to fit the water jug, ice bucket, platters and plates on comfortably but this was easily manageable.
They cater for all guests with a vegan platter, gluten and nut-free amendments to items and lactose-free options.
I particularly liked that the crew timed the dinner to be served once we were out at sea, cruising at a slow pace with uninterrupted views of the sun setting. It was incredibly peaceful and a perfect way to enjoy great food.
The best sunset view
As most people are aware, Darwin is famous for its breathtakingly beautiful sunsets and I had been in awe of it the night before as I ate fish n chips in Cullen Bay. However, the Darwin harbour sunset cruise blew me away as you leave the land behind and cruise into the sunset.
There is something incredibly peaceful about being surrounded only by water reflecting the pink and orange sky. Everywhere you look, you can see the colour of the sunset and you feel like you are in the middle of it.
You may not think you need to get closer to the horizon to appreciate the sunset, but I’d think again. It’s always amazing to have the best seat in the house and Darwin Harbour Cruises have that.
Would I do the Sunset Cruise again?
I would say it was one of the best sunset cruises I have done, mainly for the phenomenal sunset view, but for the food, service and extra touches they provided.
The nice touch that they timed the live commentary to finish as the food was served and positioned the boat for a perfect view of the sunset, made it extra special.
I would love to try one of the dinner cruises next time to sample the hot buffet menu. A sunset dinner? Yes please!
They also offer private functions and weddings which would definitely be on my list if I lived in the Northern Territory. Sunset Cruises for a special event, sign me up!
My time in Darwin was packed with National Parks to explore, hiking achievements and swim spots to tick off. But, Darwin Harbour Cruises offers an attraction where you can just relax, be waited on and soak up the views. I recommend pre-booking your Sunset Cruise is it’s one of the most popular things to do in Darwin!
What to do after you finish the cruise in Stokes Hill Wharf
When we finished the cruise in Stokes Hill Wharf, it was 8:30 pm and it was busy. There are a few restaurants, bars and ice cream parlous to explore into the night so you can continue drinking once you step off the boat.
Or you can opt to ride the Ferris wheel, giving you above Darwin city at night. Then play mini golf put right on the wharf, with 9 themed holes to master. A great way to continue on the fun of the night and I’d recommend both!
Stokes Hill Wharf is also home to The Royal Flying Doctor tourism facility which is closed after dark, but you could time your visit before the sunset cruise. The tours feature two iconic Darwin Doctor stories told through displays, audio-visual experiences and virtual reality.
This article is written by Amii Freeman, our resident writer at Londoner In Sydney.
Hi I’m Amii! I’m from Darlington in the North East of England. I moved from London to Sydney in 2019 for a slower pace and to be by the coast, without having to give up my love of cities. My passion is in film and TV, I screen-write and act as much as I can. In my spare time I love trying new food, exploring new places, kayaking, hiking and cycling.Follow me on Instagram @amiifreeman!