Darwin – Travel Log 12

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Located on the Timor Sea, Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory and although the smallest of Australia’s capital cities it is one of its most modern. Its proximity to South East Asia makes it the most multicultural and fastest growing cities in Australia.

Prior to European settlement the area was inhabited by the Larrakia aboriginal people. Today Darwin is home to the highest proportional population of Aborigines of any Australian capital city.

HMS Beagle was launched from the Woolwich dockyard on the River Thames, England on 11th May 1820. Although originally intended as a warship she was converted to a survey ship and sailed on three expeditions. The second of these expeditions was to South America aboard was the naturalist Charles Darwin. The third expedition sailed from England in 1837. The ship was captained by Commander John Clements Wickham. Assistant surveyor Lieutenant John Lort Stokes who had been a Midshipman on the first voyage of Beagle was also on the voyage. On the 9th September 1839 HMS Beagle sailed into Darwin Harbour and named “Port Darwin” in honour of Charles Darwin.

Explorer John McDouall Stuart completed the journey from Adelaide in South Australia to Darwin for the Australian Overland Telegraph company on 24th July 1862 having set off nine months previously. Several years’ later gold was discovered at Pine Creek by workers digging holes for telegraph poles. The gold rush which followed further boosted the growth of the settlement.

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On the morning of 19th February 1942 Darwin became victim to Japanese attack by 188 war planes. The bombing caused immense damage and over 240 people were killed. Thirty two years later the forces of nature destroyed over 70% of the city when it was struck by Cyclone Tracy. Seventy one people were killed and thirty thousand were evacuated the largest airlift ever recorded in Australian history.

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My wife and I visited Darwin in August 2011. We arrived amid blue skies and an almost choking dry heat in the high 30’s. It was a relief to step onto the air-conditioned airport shuttle bus and a pleasant trip to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Esplanade. Our first port of call after depositing our luggage in a spacious bright room overlooking the Timor Sea was the bar by the pool for cold refreshment.

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As we acclimatized to the heat we went off exploring by walking the length of the Esplanade to the southern part of the town. Stumbling upon a ceremony for veterans at the war memorial we stopped to pay our respects. From there we wandered to see the impressive parliament building and then strolled into the main town walking along Mitchell Street back to our hotel taking in the sights of the numerous bars and restaurants.

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I can certainly recommend Crustaceans on the Wharf restaurant located at Stokes Hill Wharf. I had the largest and tastiest lobster Mornay ever eaten and at the most reasonable price. http://www.crustaceans.net.au

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Darwin might be small but it does not lack anything; and at night the city comes to life in an explosion of lights, music, food, drink, and laughter.

During the evening of Sunday 21st we went off in search of the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. Here we wandered amongst the numerous stalls, purchased a few souvenirs and ate some beautiful oysters on the beach. The markets operate between the 25th April to 31st October on Thursday and Sunday evenings. http://www.mindil.com.au

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Apart from the many things to see and do within the city itself, Darwin is also the best place as a base to visit places such as the National Parks of Litchfield, Kakadu, and Nitmiluk [Katherine Gorge].

It is certainly a city worth visiting more than once.

RLB – Tomewriter

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