By JR on Monday, October 31, 2011
This is not as odd as it sounds. About 20 years ago, an American tourist was taken and eaten by a croc near Darwin. The result was an upsurge in American tourist arrivals. Excitement even of a dangerous kind is a valued commodity
DARWIN has been named as one of the best cities in the world to visit in 2012 by Lonely Planet.
Famous for its monster crocodiles, the Northern Territory capital has a lot more to offer, the travel guide says.
Darwin wasn’t the only surprise entry on the list. While London came in at number one, other lesser-known cities such as Muscat in Oman, Bengaluru in India, Cadiz in Spain and Guimaraes in Portugal also made the cut.
Described as “multicultural, free-wheeling and vibrant”, Darwin received a glowing review.
"With a pumping nocturnal scene, magical markets and restaurants, and world-class wilderness areas just down the road, today Darwin is the triumph of Australia's Top End," the book says. "It's now a hip city to visit rather than just the end of the road for lost souls."
Cities in the top ten list were chosen by Lonely Planet's in-house travel experts, based on topicality, excitement, value and that special X-factor.
Lonely Planet’s Charles Rawlings-Way, one of the authors of the book, admitted that Darwin was an unlikely entry. But he said that Darwin has a lot to offer.
“It is a bit of a surprise for Australians in particular to see Darwin shaping up as a vibrant tourist destination,” Mr Rawlings-Way said.
The city has had a major face-lift in recent times, growing from a town full of fisherman, hippies and “redneck truckers” to a very young and energetic city, he said.
“In the 80s and even 90s it was pretty grim up there and its appeal was limited. Cyclone Tracey levelled the place and taken long time for Darwin to rebuild from that," he said.
"Darwin is gathering pace, it's not somewhere Aussies think of going for a holiday but its position is really interesting in the world."
As well as the famous Mindil Beach Markets, Darwin is close to a host of national parks including Kakadu, and is the closest major Australian city to Asia.
While Lonely Planet recommends a trip to the waterfront precinct and buying indigenous art, it warns travellers about dorms without air-conditioning, monsoonal rain and “over-boozed backpackers”.
If you’re after a bizarre sight then check out the 5m-long, 780kg stuffed saltwater crocodile called Sweetheart” at the NT’s Museum & Art Gallery.
Visitor numbers to the Northern Territory have dropped in recent times, with figures showing tourist arrivals falling by 9.5 per cent during the 12 months to June 2011.
NT Tourism Minister Malarndirri McCarthy said she was pleasantly surprised to see Darwin on the list, but she wasn't surprised people were impressed by the incredible sunsets, the markets, the nature and the historical sites.
"It puts Darwin certainly on the map as one of the best cities," Ms McCarthy said.
Last year Lonely Planet created quite a stir by putting Newcastle in the list, urging travellers to check out its beaches, night-life and art. Sydney and Melbourne have never made the list before as they are "too dull".