Australia consists of a number of States and Territories – 8 if you are counting. We live in one of these (New South Wales). Have spent a number of weeks exploring another 3 (Tasmania,Western Australia and Queensland). Weekend breaks to another 3 (Victoria,ACT and South Australia).
That leaves only 1 more. Can you guess which one is missing?
The last State is,of course, the Northern Territory. Technically not a State but it’s certainly big enough to be one. Our destination would be it’s capital city Darwin. Flight time was 4 and a half hours.
Situated on the Timor Sea and with ~146,000 population is the largest city in the NT yet the smallest capitol city in Australia. The Ancestral home of the Larrakia people, Darwin acts as both a link between Australia and the northern tribes and between Australia and the rest of Asia due to its proximity to a whole host of Asian countries and it being almost as close to Singapore as it is to Canberra.
The first Europeans to map this area were the Dutch in the 1600s. They even landed on what is now Tiwi Islands but were repelled by the Tiwi Peoples. This accounts for the number of Dutch Names in the region – e.g. Arnhem Land and Groote Eylandt.
On 9th September 1839 the HMS Beagle sailed into the harbour to survey the area and the first person to set sight on it was Lieutenant John Lort Stokes.The First Officer aboard the Beagle, a Scot by the name of John Clements Wickham, christened the region ‘Port Darwin’ in honour of their former shipmate, biologist Charles Darwin. (Darwin had sailed on the previous voyage of the HMS Beagle that ended 3 years earlier).
The Settlement changed names in 1869 to Palmerston after a town was created there by the Surveyor-General of South Australia – George Goyder. The discovery of gold in nearby Pine Creek in the late 1880s expanded the size of the town and it switched back to Darwin in 1911.
As well as 3 re-branding exercises it has also had to be almost re-built 4 times following Cyclones in 1897,1937 and 1974 (Cyclone Tracey) and the Japanese Air Raids during WWII. (More on that in our next post).
Out and About – Day 1
We arrived pretty late in Darwin (after midnight) so our introductory impressions of the city would need to wait until that first full morning. Our hotel was situated in the relatively new Darwin Waterfront Precinct – a collection of docks with restaurants, bars, hotels, apartments and a Wave Pool 🙂
It was also was a cracking location with only a 5 minute walk to the CBD. Across the Sky Bridge, past Parliament House and arriving on Mitchell Street – a collection of bars punctuated by cross roads and what serves as Darwin’s nightlife.
Before starting our exploration of the city and surrounds we would need to secure some breakfast. A bunch of medium hinted at the possibility of getting something funky and filling at the Alley Cats Patisserie situated off Mitchell Street. Great coffee helped us wash down some smashed avo and toast. They had a lot of ‘sweet things’ and funky dessert breakfasts to eat but that’s more of a Paul Coia move.
Most of the sights were situated outside of the CBD and thanks to the silly lady in the Tourist Information Office who declined to offer us rental bikes we decided to walk (most) of the way to the Darwin Military Museum.
We got a taxi to our first main stop along the way was the suburb of Parap Village. As it was a Saturday it was market day up there and we got the chance to visit the Parap Markets. The markets were a riot of colour and a cacophony of sound as everything from Aboriginal artwork to clothes was to be purchased there. Yon could buy a whole Crocodile Skeleton if you fancied it.
Frederick the Great (or was it Napoleon Bonaparte) once remarked that “an army is like a serpent, it moves on it’s belly”. Well this Army of Two also goes on it’s belly and the food on offer was something else. Our taxi driver that took us from the Airport into Darwin the night before was not wrong when he described the density of Asian Culture we would experience during our visit as we had a choice of every single cuisine we spent 9 months eating whilst back-packing around Asia.
There was also a bit of Street Art or two just for seasoning.
With all that food taken we needed to do some serious ‘walking off’ so a decision was arrived at that we would walk the rest of the way to East Point. But first we needed to reach the shore. A quick google maps check showed us a path through the warren of streets and avenues and this took us directly past a little piece of history in Darwin – the 1934 Qantas Empire Airways Hanger. The current occupants are the NT Motor Vehicle Enthusiasts Club but this Hanger’s true purpose was to accommodate up to 4 ‘Empire Mail Planes’ (de Havilland DH86s). Unlike most of the buildings around it – the Hanger never had to be rebuilt – surviving Japanese bombs and cyclones alike.
East Point Reserve
As soon as we hit the waterfront our journey became more certain with a simple turn to the right we headed north and with the water to our left there was no getting lost.
As we entered the Reserve we noticed the name area we were walking through – Fannie Bay. Cue much laughter from the Scot in our troop. Fannie Bay was named after the eldest daughter of the Chambers Family by their beneficiary Scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart, who mapped a large tract of inland Australia.
There was also a monument dedicated to Ross Smith, captain of the Vickers Vimy that on 10 December 1919, was the first aircraft to fly from England to Australia in less than 30 days. The co-pilot was his brother Keith Smith.
As we made our way into the reserve we noticed a cute coffee van and decided to stop for a refreshing drink and take in our surrounds – nestled between the beach and Lake Alexander – a large man made-lake that allows Darwinians to swim without the fear of jellyfish, crocs and bull sharks.
After our drink stop we picked up the pace and walked the last 2km around the head of the peninsula until we reached our destination… The Darwin Military Museum.
As we walked across the portal and into the Museum we contemplated if we had walked too far that day. How would we get back to the CBD and our hotel? Was this worth the long journey? Did the Camera have enough battery left?
Find out the answer to this question and more in our next blog post 🙂