The Chinese have left their mark upon the city and visitors can go to the Chinese Temple on Woods Street about 1.5 km from the city centre where the local Buddhists, Taoists and Confucianists still worship. The building has a very chequered history having been destroyed by the 1937 cyclone, Japanese bombing raids in 1942 and Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Open from 8am-4pm daily the temple is an interesting example of the rich racial mixture which is such an important part of the history of Darwin.
One building which survived Cyclone Tracy virtually unscathed is the Esplanade Gallery which was built out of cypress pine and 10 cm nails in 1937 and moved to its present location on The Esplanade in 1951. It is a superb example of tropical architecture with every design feature, and the garden, designed to maximise the benefit of the breezes off the harbour.
Fannie Bay Gaol
By 1881 the town had a population of 3451. The sudden increase in the population saw the construction of the Fannie Bay Gaol in 1882-3. The gaol was closed in 1979 and in 1982 it became the Fannie Bay Museum. The gaol is located on East Point Road and has a number of interesting displays including the gallows which were erected in the infirmary for the Territory's last execution in 1952. Other interesting displays include the women's section and the mess. The laundry was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy and it is appropriate that the gaol now houses a Cyclone Tracy display which includes an excellent photographic display and a continuous 30 minute video of the devastation.
British Australian Telegraph Residence Museum
A superb display chronicling the pearl diving era exists in the BAT building otherwise known as Lyons Cottage. Located on The Esplanade opposite the Esplanade Gallery the building, which was completed in 1925, originally housed the British-Australian Telegraph Company. It was seriously damaged by Japanese bombing during the war and in 1948 it was bought by the Lyons family and consequently became known as Lyons Cottage.
Now known as the British Australian Telegraph Residence Museum, Lyons House has an excellent display with each room concentrating on aspects of early Territory history. There's a room on the history of pearling, another on Palmerston and Essington, another on the maritime history of the area dating back to the first explorers and the Macassans, a room on the early police force, and a room on the Telegraph system.
Another place to recall Darwin's early history is the Stuart Memorial on the corner of Mitchell Street and Knuckley Street.
It is entirely appropriate that Darwin should have a memorial celebrating the remarkable achievements of John McDouall Stuart. Although he was not the first person to cross Australia from south to north (that 'honour' belongs to the rather inglorious adventures of Burke and Wills who reached the mangrove swamps of the Gulf of Carpentaria on 11 February 1861) Stuart was the first to make the journey successfully. He started his journey on 26 October 1861 from Adelaide and reached the coast 65 km east of the Adelaide River - close to the site of modern day Darwin.
Stuart's route was more than just a piece of daring exploration. Within a decade the route had become the means by which the whole of the Northern Territory was opened up because it was used as the basis for the construction of the Overland Telegraph which established communities around the repeater stations at Darwin, Yam Creek, Katherine, Daly Waters, Powell Creek, Tennant Creek, Barrow Creek, Alice Springs and Charlotte Waters.
Today, with minor variations, Stuart's route is still the major artery for transport through the Territory. It is appropriately known as the Stuart Highway.
It is easy for southerners to forget that Darwin is both geographically and temperamentally a 'city in the tropics'. Therefore the city's Botanical Gardens (enter via Gardens Road) are something worth visiting. Started in the late 1870s by the German botanist Dr. Maurice Holtze they contain over 400 species of tropical plant.
Holtze was one of those remarkable and urbane Europeans who find their way to Australia by strange means. He had worked in the Royal Gardens in Hanover and the Imperial Gardens in St Petersburg before migrating to Australia where, from 1878-1891, he was government gardener at the Palmerston Botanic Gardens. The government officials, being typical philistines in terms of horticulture, put him in charge of the production of fruit and vegetables for their tables but Holtze rebelled saying that the 'raising of cabbage heads was not the greatest ambition of the true botanist'. With his son, Nicholas (who became curator of the Gardens in 1891) Holtze began a series of experiments to see whether the climate of the 'top end' was suitable for the growing of tropical crops. He experimented with rice, rubber, coffee, tobacco, peanuts, sugar and other less well known crops and advocated that the Northern Territory could become a rice bowl.
In 1891 he left the Territory and became director and secretary of the Adelaide Botanical Gardens.
One building which is a reminder of the devastation of Cyclone Tracy is Christchurch Cathedral in Smith Street near the harbour. The original building was completed in 1902. It was 'enhanced' by the armed forces in 1944. Using stones taken from the old Post Office they built a porch as a memorial to the people who had died in World War II. Significantly when Christmas morning 1974 dawned the only part of the Cathedral left intact was the porch. The cathedral was subsequently rebuilt incorporating the porch into the new design.
Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Natural Sciences
Established in 1969 by Dr Colin Hinton, the Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Natural Sciences is one of the best museums in Australia. Where many museums tend to be stuffy, rather lifeless places, this museum focuses on South-East Asia and Australasia and has enough fascinating exhibitions to keep even the most bored visitor interested. The museum's show pieces include an excellent exhibition of Aboriginal bark paintings, a collection of stone axes some of which are estimated to be 22 000 years old, and the Melville Island Pukamani Burial Poles.
Indo Pacific Marine
The Indo Pacific Marine in Lambell Terrace near the northern end of Smith Street is worth a visit. It is one of the few aquariums in the world which has an exhibit of living coral formations.
East Port Fortifications
The East Port Fortifications at East Point at the northern end of Fannie Bay is a reminder of how close Darwin was to the front line during World War II. These military fortifications were built between 1936 and 1943. Not surprisingly East Port was the site of the first air attack on Australian shore. On 19 February 1942 the Japanese bombed the headland. Today the headland has remnants of bunkers, command posts, gun emplacements and munitions facilities.
Browns Mart is the oldest commercial building still standing in Darwin. Located at 12 Smith Street the building was originally erected in 1883. It was seriously damaged by the cyclones of both 1897 and 1974 but after both disasters it was restored so that today its simple stone construction and casement windows with their galvanised hoods it is a reminder of nineteenth century Darwin.
The devastation which occurred with Cyclone Tracy has left only rare examples of earlier forms of architecture. The Giese Residence at the corner of Myilly Terrace and Kahlin Avenue is an example of the kind of larger timber house which was built in Darwin in the 1920s. It was designed for the tropical climate with timber shutters, a beautiful tropical garden and an open floor plan to allow the breezes to cool the house.
Take Advantage of Western Australia Online
For assistance in planning your holiday in Darwin and Western Australia visit Western Australia Online which is a fascinating site offering Darwin visitors planning a trip to Western Australia a comprehensive travel service. All you have to do, to have your most detailed travel questions answered, is fill out a very simple form. Western Australia Online pride themselves in their ability to answer all queries within 48 hours. So, if Walkabout is not answering your questions about Western Australia, try Western Australia Online.
The Urban Fringe
Beyond the city centre and the points of interest Darwin sprawls with that kind of scrappy urban fringe which is all too common at the edges of Australian cities. This is a zone of market gardens, the occasional house, industry, sports areas, HMAS Coonawarra - Naval Communications Station, the Darwin Airport, and endless service stations. If it wasn't for the temperature and the vegetation it would be possible to mistake this area for the outskirts of Melbourne or Sydney.