The most cosmopolitan of Australian cities, Darwin is
Australia's only tropical capital. It is closer to much of Asia than it is to
much of southern Australia -Jakarta is closer than
Brisbane, and Singapore is
closer than Hobart. The city sits on the eastern shore of Port Darwin, a
convoluted inlet on the Beagle Gulf, itself an inlet of the Timor Sea. The
centre of the city and the port are on a wide isthmus of land between Frances
Bay and Fannie Bay, and most of the suburbs are either directly to the north, or
spread along the Stuart Highway. There are just under 100,000 people in the
greater metro area, making Darwin the smallest capital city in Australia but
what it lacks in population, it makes up for in variety.
There are more than 50 ethnic groups in the city, and a
large number of these have been here almost from the very first days of
settlement. Aboriginal people have been living here for 40,000 years or more, of
course, and Darwin is home to a vibrant Aboriginal culture, with Aboriginal
language, art and craft, dance and music an everyday affair. And Macassan
che-de-mer fishermen from the islands of modern-day Indonesia have probably been
sailing this coast for the last few hundred years.
There is a host of things to do in and around the city.
For those who enjoy looking into the past there are the old Town Hall and
Government House (1883), the Court House and Police Station (1884) and Hotel
Darwin, originally called the Palmerston (1883).A wander around the Fannie Bay
Gaol, which was in use from 1883 until 1979, gives visitors an insight into
conditions endured by prisoners here. There are also many reminders of World War
II, including the Oil Storage Tunnels (some open to the public), the
anti-submarine boom net tower and the East Point gun emplacements.
The Museum and Art Gallery of the
a must, with displays covering just about every aspect of the Territory's
history and art. The Australian Aviation Centre has an impressive display of
Territory aviation history and is dominated by a USAF B52 bomber. There are also
the Australian Pearling Exhibition, the Indo-Pacific Marine facility (both at
the Wharf Precinct), and Lyons Cottage, built in 1925 to house Australian
Telegraph Company workers, which has a marvellous collection of old photographs.
For those who love local markets, try the Mindil Beach
Sunset Market, with its local and regional handicrafts and food stalls, and the
Parap Market. Darwin’s oldest market is the Rapid Creek Markets, held every
Sunday morning -food lovers will be overwhelmed by the choices. There is a wide
variety of restaurants in the city, including many kinds of Asian restaurants,
plus Mongolian, Greek, Latin American and Australian (with buffalo, camel, barra,
mud crabs and more on the menu).
The city is also a fine base from which to explore
The Top End. The Darwin Crocodile Farm and the Territory Wildlife Park, and the
Windows on the Wetlands, are on the Arnhem Highway, 60 km (37 miles) south-east
of Darwin. A little further along the highway are the jumping crocodiles of the
Adelaide River. If you want to see a croc up close, this is the spot! There are
also the Marrakai and Fogg Dam Conservation Reserves with their water birds, and
the Wildman and Shady Camp Reserves, which are well-known fishing spots.
Offshore are the Tiwi Aboriginal islands of Bathurst and Melville. There is a
great cultural experience to be had on the islands; tours run from Darwin
The fishing in Darwin is brilliant. There are plenty of
places to throw a line in and you can catch barra almost everywhere. Close to
the port there are wrecks that act as artificial reefs, and around these you
will find barra, cod, black jewfish, tuna, queenfish and Spanish mackerel.
Special annual events that take place in Darwin include
the Hummingbird Corroboree Park Challenge fishing competition at Easter, the
Back to the Bush Annual Campdraft and Rodeo in July, the Royal Darwin Show in
July, the Darwin Cup Carnival in July, the Darwin Rodeo and Country Music
Concert in August, the famous Darwin Beer Can Regatta and the Festival of Darwin
in August/ September. The Darwin Symphony Orchestra also performs at many
special evening concerts.