Darwin hotels and hostels are ‘inundated’ with visitors as bookings hit new highs

Ryan Travis came to Darwin for one thing.

“I’m here to party,” said the English backpacker with a cheeky smile.

Like thousands of fellow travelers, he headed north in early May for a techno event headlined by a renowned British DJ.

Two weeks later, Mr. Travis has barely left the poolside pagoda of his downtown hostel.

“Sydney cold, Melbourne cold. Darwin’s warm. I love that.

The influx of travelers seeking sun – and music – has seen beds in the city’s hostels fill up much faster than usual.

“We normally don’t get busy until June, July and August,” Youth Shack Executive Director Nikki Moss said.

Visitors flock to Darwin’s Mindil Beach to watch the sunset.(ABC News: Andrea Jonson)

The situation has been exacerbated by the closure of several other CBD hostels in recent years.

And with thousands more interstate revelers in Darwin for this weekend’s Bass in the Grass festival, the hostel, which seats 300 people, is running out of space.

A combination of government-subsidized tourist vouchers for local residents and half-price flights for interstate travelers has helped sustain many of the city’s hotels throughout the pandemic.

“It wasn’t like the typical low season and suddenly it’s crowded [when the dry season starts]”Darwin Hilton General Manager Markus Kaliss said.

“We’ve been busy since the last quarter of last year.”

All 234 hotel rooms are booked this weekend.

With a host of major events on the horizon – from Supercars in June to the Darwin Cup horse racing carnival in August – the city’s caravan parks and campgrounds are also in high demand.

Four men and a woman smile as they wave their beers.
Hostels in Darwin CBD have seen a surge in demand this dry season.(ABC News: Erik Havenen)

Ms Walter attributed part of the influx to the closure of international borders.

“You have so many people who would normally travel overseas who have gone and bought themselves a shiny new caravan and are heading here,” she said.

“Plus, you have everyone who postponed their plans last year, and they’ve all re-booked this year with their credits.”

“They are coming in droves”

Ms Walter said many visitors leave too late to book their accommodation.

“So they’ve got the V8 tickets, they’ve got their flights, and now they can’t find accommodation,” she said.

“And now they’re buying garlands and planning to throw a garland on a piece of grass.”

Chris and Yvonne Roff, from Noosa Heads in Queensland, are among those who have made the journey to Darwin, almost 23 years after their last visit.

But they came prepared, securing a place for their caravan before the masses arrived.

“Half of Australia is heading into the Northern Territory, so you better be prepared,” Ms Roff said.

“They absolutely come in droves.”

Chris and Yvonne Roff smile as they sit at a table next to their trailer.
Chris and Yvonne Roff last visited Darwin 23 years ago.(ABC News: Jano Gibson)