Darwin, Australia: Where the World Comes Together

“I’m having a going-away party tomorrow,” said the woman we’d just met. “You should come.”

We were spending the day in Darwin, Australia, and had begun with lunch at Moorish, a fine dining cafe specializing in flavors from Spain, the Mediterranean, and Northern Africa. Karen was our very charming server, and she was leaving Darwin to manage a luxury resort in the Australian outback.

Moorish Cafe’s insanely good roast pumpkin with dried figs, blue cheese, and brown butter

We accepted her invitation, and Karen’s goodbye became our hello to an international collection of expat friends who now called Australia home.

But before we met them, we met Darwin.

The capital of Australia’s Northwest Territory, Darwin feels as different from Sydney as Los Angeles feels from New York. Its tropical climate boasts palm trees and beaches, and it’s closer on the map to Bali than it is to Brisbane.

While it’s been inhabited by the indigenous Larrakia people for centuries and settled by the British in the 1800s, Darwin feels like a newer city. To some extent, it actually is new. The town has been almost entirely rebuilt four times: after cyclones in 1897 and 1937, following Japanese air raids during World War II, and again after Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

Darwin is not only a newer city but also a younger city. The average age of its 146,000 residents is just 33, which is readily apparent when you’re two middle-aged travelers who happen upon a bar hosting a Pimm’s pitcher party attended by a sea of girls in flower crowns.

We were there for the beer list, which was filled with solid Australian brews.

After a pleasant stroll across the very walkable town, we sought more Aussie beer at Six Tanks, a Darwin microbrewery.

With — you guessed it — six tanks brewing on site, we were excited for a bit of variety. Unfortunately, all but one of the tanks were unavailable during our visit. Thankfully, the single beer they had was a decently hoppy IPA.

We’d enjoyed our lunch at Moorish so much that we made a dinner reservation for the same night, and we caught a lovely sunset on our way back to the restaurant.

After a good night’s sleep fueled by a spectacular dinner of Middle Eastern lamb for me and a dukkah-topped steak for Mike, we spent a leisurely Sunday before heading to Karen’s party.

The group was meeting at Stone House Wine Bar, located in a character-filled old building on Cavenagh Street.

We arrived early and enjoyed a cheese board with a glass of Champagne for a late lunch.

One by one, Karen’s friends arrived. Josh from the Philippines. Ben and Cindy from France. Sarah and Harry from Texas. Robert from England. Even the Australians were from all over: Kristen from South Australia, Jess from Queensland, Kelly from Sydney, and Ed from Melbourne.

Each of them had moved to Darwin for different reasons, but they’d all found things in common that helped them create a sense of community.

We spent the evening hearing about their experiences as expats, and they taught us something about moving to a new place in the world: anywhere can feel like home as long as you have friends.

Ben from France, Josh from the Philippines, Mike, and Karen, who brings the world together wherever she is.