NOTE: This article was made possible by Travellers Autobarn, who gave me a campervan to drive around Australia and review things. If you're considering a drive to or from Darwin, go no further than Travellers Autobarn.
Darwin. It’s a city of teenage military dudes from Texas, teenage backpackers from France, and a whole lot of miscellaneous legends who wear thongs. And what unites all these different groups is a love of cheap drinks and a distrust of fanciness, which is everything you need to know about Darwin’s nightclubs.
Some of Australia’s best clubs are in Darwin. Not in the way that you’re thinking, but in a more down-to-earth, free bubbles for the shielas kind of way. Darwin’s clubs are giant barns that admit everyone regardless of fashion sense or sobriety. It’s a town where the DJs take requests and the beers come in plastic cups. A place where “cowboy” shots are still prefixed by the word “cocksucking,” and drink specials are so cheap that you can die. No one will ever throw you out of a club in Darwin. It's all fine. It's all good. And in this way Darwin has some of the best clubs in Australia.
I know this because I just finished driving Australia, and visiting all the worst-rated clubs. First I looked up reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google Maps and then, using some highly complicated science, I averaged the scores. And here are Darwin’s worst-rated clubs, in descending order of quality.
Then I went out to review the very best of Darwin’s worst.
The locals call this place “Monnies.” They also say it’s a big sausage fest, which is something the owners are trying to change.
What they’re trying to do, I think, is attract women with male strippers. And I love the logic here. You can imagine the hyper-blokey owners of Monsoons getting together for a brainstorm. “We need to bring in more women!” grumbled the boss. “But how?!” And then they all tried to figure out the secret inner lives of women, which they found weird and confusing. The guys all knew what they liked about nightclubs, which was women, obviously. But it felt complicated when they tried flipping it around. But finally, after much deliberation, they had an idea...
To attract women they’d use men. Naked men.
Despite my criticism in the previous paragraph, it was pretty fun. There was lots of whistling from the crowd and the guys on the stage blew kisses and I wondered how anyone takes off their pants without falling over. For me, sexily removing pants always means tangling them around my heels and falling over.
The crowd were happy, drunk, and heavily tattooed. They ground it out to Bon Jovi in a room decorated with striper poles and spot lights.
The DJ remixed the Jackson Five, which was cool, but he looked very serious about it. Like behind the desk he was actually doing something quite boring and a bit annoying, like making things fit inside a dishwasher.
Finally I put $5 on Keno and stood in the crowd, watching the screen. And I thought I'd won, but then the woman behind the bar said I lost. But I guess that’s the thing about Keno. No one really knows what the fuck it is or how it works.
I left about 10:30 to find this outside. What you’re looking at is a puddle of blue vomit next to a $10 note, which is a nice metaphor for clubbing.
Next up I headed to Opium, which is where the cream of Darwin’s R&B tastemakers go to party. It’s in a basement so you go down these stairs to find...
A dancefloor of people twerking. You don’t see so much twerking any more, but twerking still trends hard at Opium.
The music was a mix of mid-2000s rap and Bollywood. These guys worked the decks while an LED panel above them advertised the 1995 seminal classic "I Got 5 On It” by hip hop duo Luniz, which they didn’t play once.
Now, say what you will about Bollywood music, which is the worst type of music in the world, but the drink specials at Opium were fantastic. I got there about 11 PM and they were selling spirits for $5 a piece. And I don’t know about you, but $5 drinks give me a special kind of thirst, which I’d describe as a thirst for life. Because if drinks are $5 and you don’t get extremely drunk, have you really lived?
After getting extremely drunk I became engrossed in the wallpaper. It was that kind of jazzed-up Victoriana pattern that’s popular in country gift shops and nightclubs. They don’t share much in common, country gift shops and nightclubs, but they sure love this wallpaper.
Then I got over it and left. Outside, I found this guy having a bad time so I tried to help by taking photos. Eventually he told me to “fuck off” which was fair enough.
And then I went to Discovery. This is the second worst night club in all of Darwin, but for my money I’d say it’s the most Darwin nightclub in all of Darwin.
And I’d say that because it’s just so goddam non-pretentious. If you want to see a bunch of mums cutting lose to “Place Your Hands” as belted out by a bunch of dads, while everyone laughs and looks happy to just not be at home—Discovery.
The mums were out in force. Mums who two year ago discovered Facebook and have slowly put aside all other interests. Mums who post lots of memes about how they like to drink wine. Mums who really love the ticked box emoji. Mums who say quite intense and personal things about dad on very public walls. All those mums were out, thanks to a Facebook group they’d started a month earlier.
And there was this guy. Cruising around, tilting his akubra, and generally causing a stir amongst the mums.
Now, the odd thing about Discovery is that it’s split in two. Out the front it’s just your standard suburban bar, but out the back it’s this vast chamber of teenage secrets. The music out the back is the kind of gansta doof that you hear through your bowel, and the place is full of kids spilling drinks and engaged in precoital dancing.
Again, the DJ seemed to be having a shit one. By this point I’d suggest that if you’re a DJ in another city and you’re considering a move to Darwin, maybe make some calls first. Find out why DJs in Darwin never smile.
And then it was about 2 AM and time to visit the next place: Throb.
Jump on the internet and you’ll find a lot of people mad at Throb. Personally I thought it was great, but I think some people get mad because it’s a gay club that accepts anyone.
I got up the stairs to find lots of flowing capes and young men making out and it was all very sexy.
And then there were lot of others just drinking, dancing, and climbing stuff.
Throb is the opened-up top floor of a 70s office building. The walls and furnishings were all clad in velour, which had developed a nice oily feel in the tropical air-conditioning. The music was your basic EDM, but by this point I was lots of $5 drinks in, and I was really embracing that thing about dancing like no one was watching.
So I’ll say it: Throb was probably my favourite shit place in all of Darwin, which, like I said, has some of the best shit places in the country. Some of them might be daggy, but when was the last time daggy got in the way of a good time?
So after Throb I stumbled home, full of joy and wanting a shower. And the answer is "never," by the way. Daggy never gets in the way of a good time.
This article was made possible by Travellers Autobarn. Want a campervan? These guys know what's up in campervans