Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, was first settled in the 1860s. Originally the name of the settlement was Palmerston, its port named Port Darwin. The name Darwin for the town came to be widely used by the inhabitants, and in 1911 that name became official. The average temperature exceeds 30-degrees Celsius every month of the year, and its climate is heavily affected by the monsoon season, with much of the yearly rain falling between November and March, a period in which tropical cyclones are often a threat.
Darwin has, probably more than any Australian city, had its share of calamities over the years. During World War 2, in 1942, it suffered loss of life and property when bombed by the Japanese. Further devastation followed in 1974, when on Christmas Eve Cyclone Tracy almost completely levelled the city. Pioneering spirit though has overcome these events, and the twice-rebuilt city has thrived, now boasting a cosmopolitan population in excess of 87,000 people.
Compact in size, the city is easily navigable by foot, well signposted for those driving, and pleasingly flat for those who cycle. The Tour Tub, an open-air bus, is a fine way of getting a feel of the city and seeing its major attractions.
The main shopping precinct is in the city centre, with Smith Street Mall and Knuckey Street the places to go. All modern wares are to be found there, along with a great range of Top End Aboriginal and Islander artwork. After a day of touring and shopping, Mindil Beach Sunset Market offers a wide array of food and a fine beach on which to relax, have a drink and take in the view.
The city has 3 public golf courses, a motor sports complex and a horseracing track, in addition to facilities for most popular sporting activities. Those looking to swim are well served by public swimming pools, important as the sea is often unsafe, especially between October to May, due to deadly box jellyfish. Checking with a local all-year round is the policy you should follow before swimming in the sea. The waters off Darwin are prized fishing grounds, and there are numerous fishing trips and charters available for the keen angler.
Darwin also serves as good base from which to explore some of the spectacular natural attractions of the Top End. The vast Kakadu National Park is 140 kilometres east, Adelaide River 112 kilometres west, and Litchfield National Park 170 kilometres south. The flora, fauna and scenery of the region is a must see, and tours for these locations and more can be taken from Darwin.
Other attractions in and around Darwin include:
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory - exhibits highlight the region's art, history, culture and natural history (free, except for some special exhibitions).
Lyons Cottage - the only remaining example of colonial bungalow-style architecture in Darwin, housing a collection of Larrakia and European early history including an exhibit about the Overland Telegraph (free).
Fannie Bay Gaol - once a working jail and one of the Territory's most important heritage sites (free).
Botanic Gardens - featuring tropical plants, a rainforest area with waterfall and a mangrove area.
Indo Pacific Marine - get up close to some of Northern Australia's fishy inhabitants
Australian Pearling Exhibition - explore the history of pearling in northern Australian waters
World War 2 Oil Storage Tunnels - a short walk from the city centre, take a tour of the tunnels, including a photographic display of Darwin during WWII.
East Point Military Museum - Darwin's first museum features war memorabilia, equipment and vehicles.
fish feeding at Doctor's Gully - at high tide, hundreds of fish arrive at Doctor's Gully at the northern end of the city centre, ready to be hand-fed by the public.
For more attractions and activities around Darwin, check out our Top Spots