The complete guide to moving to Darwin

Updated: May 21, 2018

With a population of just over 116,000 Darwin, Australia’s Northern Territory’s capital city is one of Australia’s most relaxed. Darwin is home to over 100 different nationalities who live there, including Australian defence personnel and a large indigenous population. As a result, Darwin is very much a multicultural and vibrant city, which is evident in both the lifestyle and the culinary culture. The relative remoteness of Darwin means that cost of living is slightly higher, (think more Brisbane than Cairns) but the isolation, natural beauty and the uniqueness which comes from residing in a cultural melting pot offsets the cost.

Setting up home

Life in Darwin is focussed on enjoying the great outdoors and the relaxing way of life. House designs work harmoniously with the elements with ceiling fans and louvre windows in place to enable Darwin’s tropical breeze to flow through. Outdoor areas are manicured into lush tropical paradises and verandas, decking and swimming pools are all commonplace - but so are the crocodiles, so be careful!

To rent or buy

Most of the suburbs are relatively close to Darwin’s Central Business District (CBD) and as a result, it makes choosing where to set up a base that little bit easier as you don’t need to take commuting into consideration when choosing an area to settle down in.

However, having said that choosing a place to live is a big deal and we suggest you get to know each of the areas before committing to purchasing a property to ensure that you pick the locale which is right for you.

Each area in Darwin has its own vibe and some of the most prominent include:

  • Darwin Central Business District
    Whilst not as busy as many other inner-city suburbs, Darwin’s CBD is the most hip and trendy and offers some of the best cafes, bars and restaurants.
  • Rosebery
    Situated near Palmerston, Rosebery is the most family-friendly of the areas as it has plenty of friendly neighbourhoods which are filled with open green spaces, good schools and plenty of shops.
  • Bayview
    Located five minutes from Darwin’s CBD with stunning views and an enviable marina; Bayview is Darwin’s most sought-after address.

The suburbs within Darwin are relatively spread out and each area fluctuates in terms of affordability. The most expensive, in terms of both rent and purchasing, can be found on coastal suburbs such as Brinkin, or Larrakeyah. But as you move inland away from the coast, the inner suburbs will present more property for your money, with the most affordable areas being Coconut Grove and Millner.

Rental prices in Darwin vary, with the average cost hovering around $590 per week for a house and $480 per week for an apartment. Many young professionals relocate to Darwin to develop their careers and as a result, property is always available. As more properties are being built the rental prices continue to drop, with rental prices currently residing at a 12% low compared with previous years.

If you do decide to rent a property in Darwin you may be required to provide proof of income together with any supporting documentation you have relevant to the rental application, in order to obtain your lease. These documents could be previous utility bills, rental history or character references--so it’s best to have your paperwork prepared prior to visits so that if you find a property you’d like to live in, you can act fast.

If you’re looking to purchase a property, the past few years have very much made Darwin a buyers market. The median house price has recently dropped to $480,000 which is significantly down from the $500,000-$600,000 average that the same properties were worth just a year or so ago. This means that you may not only be able to obtain your desired property at an affordable rate but depending on market growth there’s a high probability of healthy growth with investment.

If it’s your first time purchasing a property, the Northern Territory Government offer a First Home Owner Grant (FHOG) which grants up to $26,000 on properties that have never been sold or lived in previously, as a place of residence. However, if the home has previously had occupants and is not new, the Government offers a different incentive, called the First Home Owners Discount; which gives property buyers a reduction on stamp duty.


Due to the size of Darwin’s population, the cost of living is comparatively high when it comes to dining out in restaurants or purchasing groceries. However, the lower cost of locally-sourced produce, rent and services mean that the residents of Darwin have greater amounts of buying power. When it comes to choosing energy suppliers, however, your options in Darwin are more limited than they are in other areas of Australia. This is because in the Northern Territory consumers are not covered by the National Energy Retail Rules or by the National Energy Retail Law but by their own, similar, territory laws. As a result comparison websites such as iSelect, Compare The Market or the Australian Government’s ‘Energy Made Easy’ are not available in Darwin.

In prior years the government-owned Power and Water Corporation was responsible for supplying energy to masses of electricity customers across the Northern Territory. However, in 2014 it was split into three corporations: Jacana Energy, Power and Water, and Territory Generation. Although, more energy providers are starting to develop and Rimfire Energy, which used to be a commercial energy supplier, has recently started selling to residential customers. Because of the lack of substantial competition, there is a certain level of ambiguity in terms of pricing, and therefore we recommend that you call the suppliers directly in order to obtain the best service for your individual requirements.

Getting around

Darwin is a breeze when it comes to manoeuvring around the city. Not only is there minimal traffic and next to no parking issues, but the public transport situation is also easy to navigate. Darwin’s public transport options connect all of the major attractions of Darwin as well as the suburbs, including Casuarina and Palmerston. The transport options available in Darwin are:

Run by a company called Darwinbus the public buses in and around Darwin are affordable, with a single $3 ticket granting 3 hours of travel on any bus route. All of the buses are comfortable and wheelchair accessible - the only exception to this is the minibus service to Cullen Bay. The timetables for the various bus services can be found here.

Uber doesn’t operate within Australia’s Northern Territory however, taxis are plentiful in Darwin and can be located at taxis ranks, hailed from the streets or pre-booked online or via telephone.


The Ferry service operates daily and is run by Sea Cat Ferries. There are two routes, both of which depart from Darwin Harbour with one ferry travelling to the Tiwi Islands, and the other travelling between Darwin Harbour and Mandorah and Cullen Bay.

Thanks to Darwin’s fantastic weather, bike-riding is one of the most popular modes of transport in Darwin. The main bike routes travel from the Stuart Highway, along the coastline and into the city centre and there are over 70 kilometres of bicycle paths to ride-along meaning the city is well equipped for a set of wheels.

However, the most dominant mode of transport around Darwin is the humble car.

Getting a driving licence

In order to obtain your driver's licence, you will need to become a customer of the Motor Vehicle Registry (MVR). In order to do so, you will need to provide evidence of both your residency in the Northern Territory and your identity. You will need to present at least three documents to verify this, a full list of accepted documents can be found on the Northern Territory's government website however, the following documents are the most commonly used:

  • Australian birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Credit or debit card with a signature and embossed name
  • Medicare card or other concession card issued by the Australian Government
  • Australia Post Keypass identity card

Once you are registered with the MVR and have obtained your licence you are required to hold it for at least six months prior to taking your practical test, then if you pass this test you can upgrade your learner license into a provisional.

Registering your car

If you have already passed your test and you’re looking to register your car from another area, you will need to transfer your interstate (or overseas) licence within three months of living in Darwin, or anywhere else in the Northern Territory.

There is no fee to transfer a current interstate drivers licence to the Northern Territory. In order to transfer your interstate licence, you will need to either visit the Motor Vehicle Registry (MVR) office in person or go to a local Australian Post Office which provides MVR licence and vehicle registration services.

When transferring your licence you will need to provide the same documents as listed in the ‘Getting your driving license’ section above, and if you have any driving conditions set out on your licence you will also need to bring the following:

School Options

Darwin’s education system has an abundance of choices available for both private and public schooling which covers everything from preschool to tertiary level education. All schools are in line with Australia’s recognised standards and all government schools are free to the children of permanent residents or Australian citizens.

When it comes to higher education Darwin has numerous private training organisations in addition to facilities such as Yirara College or Charles Darwin University. The cost of a higher education varies depending on the university and course chosen and could cost as much as $30,000 a year for university study.


Darwin follows the same laws as the rest of Australia which are designed to keep both citizens and visitors alike, safe. These laws include those set out by the Australian Constitution, regulations promulgated by the Executive, legislation enacted by the Federal Parliament and the parliaments of the States and territories of Australia, and the common law of Australia arising from the decisions of judges.

Everyday Life

Life in Darwin is very much focused on enjoying the outdoors. Whether it’s catching up with friends, commuting to work via bicycle or exploring the abundance of natural beauty that surrounds Darwin with its national parks, there’s a lot to see and do.

Recreational activities

Darwin is incredibly popular with both residents and tourists alike, mainly due to the abundance of nature the city has surrounding it. Rainforests, springs and national parks (including Australia’s largest - Kakadu) attract an abundance of visitors every year as the people like to make the most of the balmy nights, hot days and outdoor lifestyle.

Being so close to the coast means that Darwin will always have fresh seafood available, but you’ll also see people making the most of the diverse cultural influences in Darwin’s expanding restaurant scene. There is a fantastic fusion of Asian influences, traditional European eateries and Australian Barbecue together with Indian, Greek and Chinese restaurants.

Tip: When dining out be sure to try the Northern Territory’s famous Barramundi!


Due to being located in Australia’s top end, Darwin has strong diplomatic and economic ties with the Asian region and as a result, has an array of employment opportunities. These opportunities tend to draws in young professionals, who typically relocate from cities such as Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Perth. Jobs are in such an abundance that the Northern Territory’s Government has created a list called the ‘Skilled Occupation Priority List’ and is actively seeking migrants with skills in these areas to relocate and help fill the shortage of workers.

As a result, there are vast employment opportunities and Darwin’s unemployment rate is incredibly low, sitting at 3.24% - almost half of Australia’s 6% average. There is a high demand for industries of all calibres and even though Darwin is a hub for Gas, Oil and Defence, there are also opportunities in the health, management, administration, hospitality and tourism sectors, and in addition to this the Northern Territory is booming as multi-million dollar developments create an online presence in the region.