She had a draught of 24.5 metres (80 ;ft). Propulsion machinery consisted of two General Electric LM2500 gas turbines, which provided a combined 41,000 horsepower (31,000 kW) to the single propeller shaft. Her top speed was 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph), with a range of 4,500 nautical miles, and she was capable of 5,200 miles at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph). Two 650-horsepower (480 kW) electric auxiliary propulsors are used for close manoeuvring, with a top speed of 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph).
Standard ship's company is 184, including 15 officers, but excluding the flight crew for the embarked helicopters.
Original armament for the ship consisted of a Mark 13 missile launcher configured to fire RIM-66 Standard and RGM-84 Harpoon missiles, supplemented by an OTO Melara 76-millimetre (3.0 in) gun and a Vulcan Phalanx point-defence system.
The sensor suite includes an AN/SPS-49 air search radar, AN/SPS-55 surface search and navigation radar, SPG-60 fire control radar connected to a Mark 92 fire control system, and an AN/SQS-56 hull-mounted sonar.
Two helicopters can be embarked: either two S-70B Seahawk or one Seahawk and one AS350B Squirrel.
During her career, Darwin has been deployed to the Persian Gulf on five occasions: during 1990, 1991, 1992, 2002, and 2004
She was deployed to East Timor as part of the Australian-led INTERFET peacekeeping taskforce from 19 September to 3 November 1999.
From 14–18 February 2001 Darwin was berthed in the Mumbai harbour in column RE for the International Fleet Review.
The ship was deployed to the Solomon Islands in 2001, after which she returned to undrgo her refit.
On the morning of 13 March 2009, Darwin was one of seventeen warships involved in a ceremonial fleet entry and fleet review in Sydney Harbour, the largest collection of RAN ships since the Australian Bicentenary in 1988. The frigate did not participate in the fleet entry, but was anchored in the harbour for the review.
In October 2013, Darwin participated in the International Fleet Review 2013 in Sydney.
As at 7 January 2016, Darwin has sailed over 1 million nautical miles.
In February 2016, Darwin was one among the 100 ships participating in the International Fleet Review 2016 in Vishakhapattanam.
In March 2016, HMAS Darwin, intercepted a small, stateless fishing vessel about 170 nautical miles off the coast of Oman. On board they found more than 2,000 pieces of weaponry, including 1,989 AK-47 assault rifles and 100 rocket propelled grenades. According to a U.S. assessment, the weapons were initially sent from Iran and were likely intended for Houthi rebels in Yemen.
In May 2016, HMAS Darwin made three seizures of heroin worth $800 million of the coast of Africa.
The Royal New Zealand Navy invited the Royal Australian Navy to send a vessel to participate in their 75th Birthday Celebrations over the weekend of 19–21 November 2016; however, following the Kaikoura earthquake on New Zealand's South Island, HMAS Darwin was sent to aide in humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
She is continuing her service at the time of writing.