"The sea breeze setting in early, we did not reach it till after dark, when we landed for observations at a cliffy projection near the eastern entrance point: this we found to be composed of a kind of clay, mixed with calcareous matter. We had some difficulty in landing, and then in scrambling up the cliffs by the light of a lantern. If any of the watchful natives happened at the time to be on the look out, they must have stood in astonishment at beholding such strange persons, who at such a time of night, with no ostensible object were visiting their shores".
The term 'Night Cliff' was thus applied to the locality, and it subsequently appeared in this form on Surveyor-General George W. Goyder's original plan of 1869. Goyder also mentioned the locality a couple of times in the diary he kept as leader of the Northern Territory Survey Expedition. Despite these well established facts, many people have insisted that the name was derived from a misspelling of the name of John George Knight, one of the best known government officials in Darwin for nearly two decades prior to his death in 1892. It was known that Knight enjoyed visiting the Nightcliff environs and it is believed that he spent long periods of contemplation on the cliff tops. As late as 1952, a former resident who had lived in Darwin between 1876 and 1926 wrote to the Northern Territory News insisting that the area was known during that period as "Knightscliff". It is evident that many Territorians have preferred this variant form of name in deference to one of the most highly distinguished local public figures of the late nineteenth century. However, records show that Knight did not arrive in Darwin until 1873, several years after the publication of Goyder's map.
The Nightcliff foreshore was the site of Royal Australian Air Force camps with spotlights and large guns used to defend Darwin from bombing during WWII. During 1941, a naval outpost including a large concrete artillery outpost bunker was established on the headland. Various other defence facilities were constructed inland as large numbers of military personnel moved into the area. The 2/14 Field Regiment A.I.F. (Australian Infantary Force) was given the task of planning and constructing a hutted camp which became known as "Night Cliff's Camp". After the War, increasing pressure for suburban development caused the Nomenclature Committee of the N.T. to officially name the area on 29 October 1948. The conjoint version of the name, "Nightcliff" was adopted.
On Sundays, there is Nightcliff Markets which run from 6am-2pm. The stalls at the markets are mainly food and drinks but there is also craft, massage and fresh/dried fruit stalls. A live music band usually plays music on the stage in the middle of the markets.
The Nightcliff area is generally associated with its sister suburb, Rapid Creek, and the adjacent northern suburbs of Millner and Coconut Grove. Nightcliff has arguably become one of Darwin's most popular suburbs, as it is mostly situated directly on the coastal fringe. A lot of development has been completed on the coastal road, Casuarina Drive.
The median house price of Nightcliff is $480,000 AUD and the median unit price is $244,579 AUD.