The last time we were in Darwin we didn’t stay at the Darwin FreeSpirit Resort & Holiday Park, so when our Ambassadors were heading in that direction, we were super excited to hear what they thought…massive thanks to Our Big Lap for this ripper review…
Darwin was one of those places that we were itching to get to. A city by the ocean, a great food scene, world famous markets, shops and fishing. We had high expectations. Darwin promised a lot – but boy did she deliver! So much so we had one child in tears when it was time to leave and a mum and dad feeling much the same way…
Our home away from home in Darwin was the Darwin FreeSpirit Resort and Holiday Park and from the moment you arrive you begin to understand that this is no humble caravan park. Darwin FreeSpirit is a resort in every sense of the word. From the lush tropical gardens and palm tree-lined avenue that welcomes you to the park, to the friendly and efficient reception staff that have you checked in and on your way in no time at all, to the resort pool and poolside bar and bistro, the Darwin FreeSpirit is the kind of place that beckons you to stay a while longer to relax and enjoy your beautiful surrounds.
The landscaped tropical gardens that welcome you when you arrive at FreeSpirit are continued throughout the park and are complimented by lush grassy sites; most of which have you park your van at a 45 degree angle to the road which creates a lovely sense of space and privacy from your neighbours. From our time at Darwin FreeSpirit we can see why the park is popular with families, but it really does have sites and facilities to have every type of traveller covered: we saw lots of families and travellers making use of the great indoor camp kitchen facilities which included lounge areas, televisions, high chairs and dining areas. All the little things that make travelling with kids just that bit easier – especially around meal time. We found the amenities exceptionally clean and the laundry areas were numerous.
Although we were in Darwin at the so called ‘cool’ time of year it was HOT! Thankfully we had not one but three options when it came to cooling off at Darwin FreeSpirit with the park offering guests the choice of three pools: the main resort pool (our favourite) and two smaller pools which offer a lovely little oasis to sneak off to for a few minutes of rest and relaxation. The main resort pool was the heart and hub of the park and it was the kind of place we could have happily lazed our days away at. The pool itself was perfect for our little kids (aged 4 and 2) as it was a large lagoon-style pool that very gently sloped from shallow to 1.3m deep. There was plenty of room for our kids to be able to wade and splash about with a sense of freedom they don’t tend to have in a normal pool where even the shallow end is too deep for them to stand up by themselves. The resort pool is beautifully landscaped and includes a large lawn area which, when not in use for functions, can be enjoyed by guests and is a great place to while away the afternoon if you don’t want to sit directly beside the pool. Bringing the resort experience together was Elements Poolside Bar and Bistro which has you covered from your morning coffee all the way through to your afternoon happy hour drinks and 50 cent wings, and onto dinner by the pool while the kids splash about. The poolside dining menu is massive and really well priced, offering daily specials and catering to the fussiest of eaters. The dining area is large, but it was a popular place to be each night so if you are planning to dine poolside be sure to make a reservation to avoid disappointment. There is also live music each afternoon by the pool as the sun sets and the bar has a tempting cocktail list and plenty of ice-cold drinks (did someone say jugs of Pimms?)
Now of course the kids can’t swim all day long but the good news is Darwin FreeSpirit has your kids’ entertainment needs covered with a huge jumping pillow complete with shade sails and a kids’ activity program – K!DZ KORNER – which operates five days a week during the peak season. For Ava this was her first chance to participate in kids’ activities that were not set up by mum (boring!) and she had a ball studying the timetable, choosing the activities she wanted to do and then getting to meet and mingle with other kids – something she has been craving on our trip. From art and craft to cookie decorating, face painting, outdoor games, kids’ discos, movie nights and much more there is something that appeals to kids of all ages, and maybe just a few too many things making it hard to tear the kids away to actually go and explore Darwin! Speaking of which, at some point you do really need to venture out and see what Darwin has to offer!
Darwin city is an easy 15-minute drive from the FreeSpirit along the Stuart Highway and is surely, tropical heat and humidity aside, one of the most livable and interesting cities in Australia. The road infrastructure is fantastic, there is no traffic, parking is plentiful, the city and attractions are all easily accessible, the restaurants are fantastic, the people are friendly, the lifestyle is laidback. There really is so much to love about Darwin. Some of our favourite things to do in the CBD were lunch and a swim at the lagoon and wave pool at the Darwin Waterfront precinct. From here you can walk across the road to see the WWII Oil Storage Tunnels to get a glimpse into life in Darwin during WWII. We all had a ball feeding the fish at Aquascene but make sure you check the daily feeding times as this varies according to the daily high tides. There are also plenty of great vantage points to take in the beautiful Darwin Harbour including Stokes Hill Wharf, and there are plenty of parks along the foreshore where you can set up a picnic or just spend some time taking it all in under the welcoming shade of a tree. If like us there is a fisherman (or fisherpeople!) in your family Darwin has much to offer both those with a boat and those without. We don’t have a boat but still enjoyed some sensational land-based fishing and feasted on a bounty of mud crabs we were able to catch a mere 10 minutes north of the CDB. There are at least two fishing tackle shops within 5 minutes of Darwin FreeSpirit so be sure to call in and get some advice from the locals to improve your chances.
The dry season is also market season with a day or night market in or around Darwin scheduled almost every day of the week. The most famous of these is the Mindil Night Markets which happens at Mindil Beach every Thursday and Sunday night. This really is a Darwin institution that is not to be missed – food from all corners of the globe, postcard sunsets over the ocean, entertainers, stalls… arrive early and hungry, take your picnic rug or chairs and enjoy the atmosphere! When it is time to stock up on groceries, or like us, buy some new clothes and shoes for the kids who seemed to have grown more in the last three months than the past year, a quick five-minute drive south from the FreeSpirit will have you in the heart of Palmerston where you will find everything you need. There is even a fantastic and free water park (including racing waterslides) at Palmerston so some cooperation and great behaviour from the kids while shopping can be repaid with a trip to the waterpark on the way home!
On the stretch of the Stuart Highway around the FreeSpirit we also found all of the other shops we needed – fishing tackle, caravan spares, hardware… you name it, you can probably buy it within a five minute drive of the FreeSpirit. The Darwin FreeSpirit is an exceptional resort and holiday park in every way, but it was definitely the pool and poolside bar and dining which set it apart from any other holiday park we have stayed at.
There were times as we sat by the pool sipping a drink as the sun set and the musician played where it honestly felt like we could have been thousands of miles away on a South Pacific island. The staff and management of the Darwin FreeSpirit work tirelessly to offer something a bit different to what you might experience at other caravan parks and it really gives you the feeling of having a holiday within your holiday. If you are going to travel to Darwin make sure you allow yourself at least one week so you can see and experience all that Darwin has to offer, but also so you can allow yourself and your family some downtime to sit back, relax and soak in all that the Darwin FreeSpirit Resort and Holiday Park has to offer too! Our other tip is book early if you can. The word is out on Darwin FreeSpirit Resort and Holiday Park and we don’t want you to miss out!
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