Darwin, the Northern Territory's capital city, is without doubt Australia's most relaxed. It has a small population of just over 116,000 and a relatively young one, with a median age of just 31.
Source: Flickr | Alberto ....
The main centre for business and government in the 'Top End', Darwin is closer to Asia than to any of Australia's major capital cities and has strong diplomatic, cultural and economic ties with the region.
Darwin is a vibrant and multicultural city that is home to more than 100 nationalities, which is evident in its culture, food and lifestyle. It also has a large indigenous population and many Australian defence personnel and their families who are based there.
Source: Flickr | Alexandre Lavrov
The city is surrounded by some of Australia’s most stunning national parks, rainforests, reserves and springs, including Kakadu, which is also Australia’s largest, making it incredibly popular with tourist and residents alike. Darwin residents love the outdoors and make the most of year-round warmth and balmy nights, although the distinct 'wet' and 'dry' seasons can take a bit of getting used to.
Darwin's relative remoteness means it is expensive to live in, but the unique lifestyle offered by this cultural melting pot in the middle of some of Australia's most beautiful natural environments offsets the cost.
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Darwin has a growing population, a solid and diverse economy and a wide range of employment opportunities. The unemployment rate in Darwin is very low – 3.24% compared to the Australian average of around 6%.
While Darwin is a hub for industries such as oil, gas and defence, the Northern Territory in general is booming, with many multi-million dollar developments coming online in the region. It's currently Australia's number one performing economy and has vast employment opportunities now and into the future.
There is high demand for skills in all trades and professions including hospitality and tourism, health, management and administration. The Northern Territory Government has a Skilled Occupation Priority List with more than 200 professions that have a shortage of workers and is actively seeking skilled migrants to relocate to this prosperous region.
Cost of living
Darwin's small population and an vast freight distances mean the cost of living is comparatively high. Groceries and restaurants are more expensive than Sydney, but the lower cost of rent, services and some locally-sourced produce mean that Darwin residents have higher local buying power.
A cappuccino costs about $4.80, a movie ticket will set you back $20, a monthly travel card $57.50, a mid-range bottle of wine $20 and monthly internet connection about $77.43.
Darwin's cuisine is a fantastic fusion Asian influences, Australian barbecue, and traditional European and it also has a number of Greek, Indian and Chinese eateries. You'll always find fresh seafood, including the famous Northern Territory Barramundi and Darwin has lots of evening and weekend markets with a plethora of food stands. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant in Darwin will cost about $25, while a meal for two at a mid-range place can be $115-$150.
Source: Flickr | Grant Williamson
The main supermarkets are Woolworths and Coles, but there are quite a few independent grocery stores and the markets sell fresh and locally-sourced produce which can save you money by buying grower direct.
The median rental price for houses in Darwin Sydney is $590 per week, while apartments cheaper than in Sydney, at $480. The good news is that more apartments are being built and rental prices look to continue dropping.
You may be required to show proof of income and rental history prior to securing
a lease, so it's best to arrive for a viewing prepared. Utility bills (heat, water electricity etc) are expensive and will set you back about $343.42 for a small household, compared to a national average of $215.95.
Many houses in Darwin are traditional elevated homes with louvered windows and ceiling fans to enable tropical breezes to flow through. Large outdoor living areas, verandas, decking and swimming pools are also common and gardens are lush, tropical paradises.
Source: Flickr | Geoff Whalan
Darwin’s house prices have been dropping recently; the median house price is currently $639,042 and the median price for a unit is now $408,904. However, a luxury apartment recently sold for $1.4 million, breaking all previous records.
Darwin and its suburbs spread out roughly in a triangular shape, with the older ones in the south west, separated from the newer northern ones by Darwin International Airport and Royal Australian Air Force Base.
Palmerston is a satellite city 20km south of Darwin that is growing rapidly, as are rural areas like Howard Springs, Humpty Doo and Berry Springs. The most expensive residential areas are on the coast in suburbs such as Larrakeyah and Brinkin, while inner northern suburbs like Millner and Coconut Grove are home to lower-income households.
Most suburbs are relatively close to the CBD so commuting isn't really a factor and you can bag a big house and block for your money, although there are plenty of inner city apartments if you prefer to be closer to nightlife and entertainment.
Family Friendly: Rosebery, near Palmerston, is great for bringing up kids and has plenty of green open spaces, shops, good schools and quiet, friendly neighbourhoods.
Hip and Trendy: Darwin CBD is nowhere near as busy as other inner city suburbs but here is you will find the best restaurants, bars and cafes.
Upmarket: Bayview is one of Darwin's most sought after addresses. It's five minutes from the CBD and features an enviable marina with stunning views.
Up and Coming: Karama is gradually being redeveloped and public housing being sold. It has bigger than average blocks and better prices and is still close to the city.
Cost of moving to Darwin
The cost of moving to Darwin is an important element you should factor into your budget. These costs are based on estimates for moving a 20 foot sized shipping container (roughly the contents of an average three-bedroom house).
Schools and education
The Northern Territory's education system provides a variety of choices in public and private schooling with options from preschool to tertiary level, in line with Australian recognised standards.
Government schools are free to the children of Australian citizens and permanent residents, although you may be asked to pay voluntary school fees and extras for special excursions and performances.
Universities in Darwin
A range of tertiary education is are available at facilities such as Charles Darwin University and Yirara College and there are also numerous private training organisations.
Tertiary education costs vary according to course, university and if you are an Australian resident or not. Non-Australian residents can pay as much as $30,000 a year for university study, although there are Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges that offer shorter diploma courses with a more commercial focus.
Ranking against the world
Source: Flickr | Geoff Whalan
Darwin is unlike any other place on earth but probably has more in common with Broome in Western Australia in terms of remoteness and lifestyle. It's relatively expensive to live there with many prices close to those of New york and higher than Sydney but that's the cost of isolation and adventure.
A day in the life
Living in Darwin is all about relaxation and the outdoors; it's the gateway to the outback, has classic oceanside living, big, airy houses and green open spaces.
While there is limited nightlife, shopping and dining as you'd expect in a city its size, Darwin is extraordinarily multicultural and Territorians are famed for being open, welcoming and friendly.
The Top End is what some might term the 'real Australia' and its relative remoteness creates a unique culture and lifestyle that embraces both relaxation and adventure, including the ubiquitous crocodile.