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  • Writer's pictureAround the World in Vegan Eats


Updated: May 30, 2023

Welcome to the Northern Territory - a place that we were super excited and delighted, albeit a little nervous, to visit! Though some of the nature that calls this place home can be a little alarming at first, just being sensible can really help you out here. The biggest tip we have if you're visiting Darwin is to drink a whole lot of water: and when you think you've drank enough water, drink some more!

And honestly, we had an absolute ball in the city, checking out everything that this unique part of the world has to offer. It had a special place in our hearts too - both of us have beloved Grandads, who have sadly passed away, served in Darwin in the British Armed Forces. It was really beautiful to spend a moment by the armed forces memorials, thinking that maybe they had watched over the same view too, all that time ago. And with its large open bay, distinctive plants and wildlife, and rich red soil, what an incredible view to take in and remember.

Eating Vegan in Darwin

“I’ve been to Australia several times, and I just like the earthiness; it’s part of the culture. That’s a really good vibe to be around.” – Erin Heatherton

I'll be straight with you here: like Cairns, Darwin is not the easiest place to eat vegan. We struggled a little more here than many other places in Australia - but when we did find some great places to eat, this made it all the more delicious! You're more likely to find a couple of good options on an otherwise omni menu here, but don't feel too disheartened if you're visiting this gem of the Northern Territory. Some of the things we found to eat here was really great, so you definitely won't go hungry!

1st: Mad Snake Cafe

28 Austin Ln, Darwin City NT 0800, Australia

This super funky board game cafe in Darwin was a real hidden gem for us: their brightly graffitied exterior and interior plastered with movie posters and pop culture decor was a surprising home to the best vegan food in Darwin. Offering sandwiches, salads, wraps, toasties, and some of the most delicious baked goods, Mad Snake is humble but there's so much to shout about here.

Now they've clearly got a dedicated following, and when we visited at lunch time the choices were quickly depleting... but the lovely owner made us some fresh and delicious lunches from scratch. This took a little bit longer than just picking something from the cabinet but it was so, so worth the wait! Mike chose the vegan bagel, while I had the vegan wrap. Both of these were served hot, packed with fresh and flavoursome veggies, a creamy vegan mayo, and some of the tastiest vegan cheese we had tasted in a long time! Honestly, these lunchtime bites were a real treat.

But most of all, I was excited about the desserts. For almost three years I had been talking about how much I missed blueberry muffins, I fancied them so often but still hadn't found a vegan one. Little did I know, in this quiet Darwin cafe, I would find a plant-based blueberry muffin that was so fresh, sweet and delicious I would be over the moon. I only needed to go to the other side of the world, in the most unlikely corner, to find it! This muffin was packed with blueberries, whilst being soft and fluffy, just how I remembered. Though Mike wasn't a huge fan of the chocolate chip cookie (it was peanut-butter based, one of his least favourite foods!) I was overjoyed to have a second dessert, and saved it for an indulgent treat later. It was almost as yummy as my muffin, but without three years' anticipation along with it!

You know what else was great about Mad Snake Cafe? The prices! The lunches were quite reasonable, we thought. Mike's vegan bagel cost AU$12 (approx. £6.42, €7.39, or $7.98), while my vegan wrap was AU$11.50 (approx. £6.15, €7.08, or $7.65). For delicious, hot and homemade lunches with fresh ingredients and vegan cheese, we thought this was pretty reasonable. They were really filling and tasty too. Both the sweet treats cost $5.50 (approx. £2.94, €3.39, or $3.66), a price we were even more over the moon with. So why not check out the tasty vegan food at Mad Snake Cafe, and maybe you could crack open a fun game while you're there too!

2nd: Hot Tamale

F2/19 Kitchener Dr, Darwin City NT 0800, Australia

We headed to Hot Tamale for something a little different while we were in Darwin. Situated in an upmarket area close to the cruise ship terminals, Hot Tamale is one of the most fun places to eat in Darwin - and, bonus, they offer a nice selection of vegan alternatives to their most popular dishes too.

This beautiful and vibrantly decorated restaurant had a really fun and funky atmosphere and was great for people watching - their cocktails looked so tempting and were clearly popular with the people that were gathering there for a lively Friday night. After perusing their menu, we chose the El Hongos Quesadilla: a vegan alternative for their standard quesadilla offerings, which included vegan cheese and a plant-based crema. Though the portion wasn't huge, it made up for that in flavour: it was a little spicy, and really flavoursome. The vegan alternatives were indulgent and tasty, whilst the fresh veggies in these quesadillas were really juicy and crunchy. This was modern Mexican food heaven!

Because the portion size was pretty small, we found Hot Tamale to be a little expensive: but for a contemporary Mexican restaurant in this premium location, this really wasn't a surprise. The El Hongos Quesadilla cost AU$20 (approx. £10.70, €12.32 or $13.30). Though this was a little more than we would ideally have paid for a quesadilla, there is no denying that this was tasty, and that the vegan dairy alternatives were delicious and very impressive.

3rd: Simply Foods

1B Star Village Arcade, 32 Smith St, Darwin City NT 0800, Australia

We headed to Simply Foods for lunch, having heard its reputation as one of Darwin's only veggie-vegan eateries. Now, we were a little confused to see that this place, which is marketed as a healthy place to get vegetarian and vegan food, also serves some meat dishes - fish and chicken were on the menu when we visited, but they were very much the minority on this menu.

Simply Foods' counters were packed full of fresh, homemade vegetarian and vegan hot dishes, as well as another counter with countless delicious-looking salad items. They also have a menu of takeaway sandwiches and other convenient lunch snacks. We wanted to try the best of their homemade lunches, so opted for their pick'n'mix salad meals. Now, on the day we visited they really didn't have many exciting vegan choices in their cabinets: my plate actually included all of them. The only hot food item that was vegan on this day was a lentil rissole (something that I've never actually tried, but my grandma remembers fondly from the '70s). While this really wasn't the most flavoursome thing that I've ever eaten, I really enjoyed the various fresh salads that were heaped on my place. Mike (who is vegetarian) had much more luck with his veggie selection, choosing a pumpkin lasagne which he really, really enjoyed. Like, Mike loved this lasagne, and really enjoyed the various veggie salad items that he chose to go along with it.

So overall, Simply Foods was a bit of a surprise for us: the portions were enormous and excellent value for money. We couldn't finish it all, and were full for a very, very long time! It would have been nice to see more vegan options for somewhere that markets heavily as veggie-vegan, but their veggie game was definitely strong! The prices were really very good for this quantity of fresh, homemade food: the large plates full of hearty, wholesome goodness that we tried came in at AU$15 (approx. £8.01, €9.21, or $9.96). A really good price fo an enormous, filling lunch!

4th: Smith Street Social

22 Smith St, Darwin City NT 0800, Australia

Smith Street Social was a really fun pub located close to where we were staying: we visited three times while we were in Darwin, once for dinner, once for a drink, and another time for a pub quiz. The vibe was great here, and it was easy for Smith Street Social to quickly become one of our favourite hangouts in the city.

Though their menu isn't fantastic for vegans, there are a couple of strong options for a tasty plant-based dinner. We chose their pumpkin gnocchi: this was one of the veggie options that can easily be veganised by removing the cheese that usually comes on this by default. This gnocchi was really tasty: it was homemade and really filling. Even though the portion looked pretty small when it arrived, and I was initially a little disappointed that they didn't have any vegan cheese to add, the flavour of this dish really made me forget about any initial disappointments. The sweetness of the pumpkin contrasted really well with the savoury gnocchi. The components may have been fairly simple, but the flavours were not: we really enjoyed eating this yummy and filling dinner.

Though you shouldn't have high expectations in terms of choices at Smith Street Social, you can definitely get excited about the flavours here. It was a little more expensive than many of the places we visited in Darwin, with the pumpkin gnocchi coming in at AU$22 (approx. £11.77, €13.56, or $14.63). But this food was as pretty as it was delicious: so much care and attention had clearly gone into this homemade and impeccably presented good. And what's even better is that this tasty food is served in a fun atmosphere - go here for the vibes, stay for the taste for sure!

Where is your favourite place to get plant-based food in Cairns? Are there any new places or old favourites that we've missed? Leave us a comment to let us know (and others who might be visiting too!)


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The centre of Vienna with tall, historic buildings all around
Crocs are one of the main draws here!

Where should I stay?

For a top vibe in Darwin, including a social atmosphere, a bar, a big pool, and a choice of modern private or dorm accommodation, check out Youth Shack Backpackers. For more of a chill social vibe, with an emphasis on making friends while working remotely or hanging out by the pool, why not try MOM Darwin?

Tours & Experiences

Some of the main tourist experiences in Darwin come in the wild, or on the water. For a day trip appreciating the local nature, why not try this Litchfield National Park Day Tour, which includes time at Wangi Falls, Florence Falls, and Buley Rockhole. Or, if that's not for you, check out some of the top-rated Viator tours below!

Please note that the tours displayed below are automatically selected for their popularity by Viator, not chosen or recommended by us. Please carefully consider whether food-based tourism activities are suitable for your diet before taking part!

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