|DARWIN - NORTHERN TERRITORY - 0800|
Darwin is Australia's tropical capital and the gateway to Asia and Europe.
Rich in tropical foliage it is surrounded to the north by azure seas, and to
the south, east and west by spectacular national parks including Kakadu and
Darwin today could well claim to be the most modern city in Australia. Devastated by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve 1974, after which half of its then 45,000 population were evacuated, it is a tribute to the determination and resilience of the'Top Enders' who rebuilt their city in only 3 years. The new Darwin has a population of around 80,000 and must surely be the most cosmopolitan community in Australia with some 50 ethnic groups represented.
Originally named Port Darwin in 1839 by Lieutenant Stokes of the 'Beagle', after naturalist Charles Darwin, settlement was attempted in the area in 1824, 1827, 1845 and 1863, before Surveyor General George Goyder successfully established Palmerston in 1869. The name was changed to Darwin in 1911 when the Commonwealth Government assumed control of the Northern Territory from South Australia.
Poor communications and transportation hampered the early expansion of the area despite the discovery of gold nearby in 1871, and major development of the Top End did not occur until the 1940s when nearly 10,000 allied troops moved to the north in defence of Australia's coastline against a threatening Japanese invasion. In February 1942 the Japanese bombed Darwin, the first of many wartime bombing raids on the Top End, and many of Darwin's early buildings were destroyed. During the war years sealed roads connecting Alice Springs and Mount Isa to Darwin were constructed and the Manton Dam was built, just to the south, bringing water reticulation to the town.
Improved communications and facilities, plus the discovery of uranium at nearby Rum Jungle, attracted new residents to Darwin in the late 1940's and the impetus has continued. Despite Cyclone Tracy, Darwin has seen the fastest growth rate in Australia.
The visitor will be able to trace this chequered past through the many buildings still standing in mute defiance of time, the bombs, and the elements. The East Point Artillery Museum with its giant gun batteries still pointing out to sea; the several ruins of Cyclone Tracy, missed by the broom which swept clean after the devastation, or the Fanny Bay Gaol, built in 1883, at the time the most expensive building in Darwin costing over $10,000, are but a few.
There is much of interest in Darwin, but it is the untamed hinterland which most beckons the visitor. Stark escarpments, tropical rainforests, myriad waterfalls and hot springs, massive rivers, and the fascinating fauna. Giant butterflies, crocodiles, wild horses and buffalo, countless varieties of birds, kangaroos and emus are all to be seen on the many wildlife tours which operate out of Darwin. The Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks have seen increasing numbers of visitors in recent years.
An increasing interest in aboriginal culture has seen a rapid development of aboriginal cultural tours to places of interest.
The Top End is a place unique in Australia and the world, I can guarantee you will find it a holiday to remember.
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|© Copyright Peter W. Wilkins|