Darwin City

Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory, is situated on Australia's far north-western coastline. Australia's northern-most capital, Darwin has evolved out of the devastation caused by Cyclone Tracy in 1974 into an attractive vibrant and progressive city that serves the country well as its northern gateway. No longer a pioneer outpost and small port, it is now one of Australia's most modern and multicultural cities with a unique tropical flavour.

Location

Darwin is situated at the head of Darwin Harbour on the coast of the Timor Sea at geographic coordinates 12°27' S 130°50' E. Darwin is closer to the capitals of three other countries than to the capital of Australia: Darwin to Canberra is 3144 km. Dili (East Timor) is 656 km from Darwin, Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) is 1818 km, and Jakarta (Indonesia) is 2735 km from Darwin. Even Singapore is only slightly further away at 3360 km, and Manila (Philippines) at 3206 km.

Darwin is known as the "Gateway to Asia" and is often called the multicultural capital of Australia. Seventy-five nationalities are represented in Darwin, and nearly a quarter of the population self-identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Darwin has the largest proportional population of Indigenous Australians of any Australian capital city, and a significant percentage of the people in Darwin are recent immigrants from South and East Asia. Due to its proximity to Asia, Darwin is an important port, particularly for the live export of sheep and cattle, and of minerals. It is also the site of a large Australian Army base and a naval facility supporting patrol boat activity off Australia's northern coastline.

Darwin's Mitchell Street is lined with nightclubs, takeaways, and restaurants, many with al fresco-style dining. The Beer Can Regatta, held in August, celebrates Darwin's love affair with beer and contestants race boats made exclusively of beer cans. Also in Darwin during the month of August, are the Darwin Cup horse race, and the Rodeo and Mud Crab Tying Competition.

Every two years since 1991, Darwin has played host to the Arafura Games, a major regional sporting event. In July 2003 and 2004, Rugby league and Australian Rules Football are played all year round. One of the major events that occurs in Darwin is the V8 Supercars. This event thousands of locals, interstaters and international tourists. This event occurs in the mid year period and lasts 3 days. Darwin also has a horse racing cup carnival that starts in the last week of June and goes through to August.

Darwin has a tropical climate, and is subjected to tropical thunderstorms and cyclones during the wet season (December to March). Darwin has felt the fury of tropical cyclones or more than one occasion - the first recorded cyclone to hit Darwin was the 1867 cyclone, and much of the city was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy in 1974. It is also the only Australian city to have come under substantial attack during any war: Japanese planes bombed Darwin during the Pacific War.

Why Go There?

Intrigue

Like Perth, Darwin is an isolated city in terms of its proximity to the other states and capital cities, which raises a curiosity in people’s minds as to what it is like. For many Australians, to travel so far is like going to another country, except here there are Aussies just like them living a lifestyle similar to theirs. That is a very attractive (and justified) proposition for people who want to do some serious travelling to somewhere far away from home, but don’t want the hassles, risks and safety concerns in going to another country.

Its tropicality

Darwin is unique among Australia’s capital cities in that it is the only capital in the tropics. Darwin’s climate, vegetation, wildlife and dress code are all quite different to those of the other capitals; Townsville and Cairns are the only other Australian cities to share a similar tropical climate and lifestyle.

Its uniqueness: Where else in Australia can you experience a live crocodile show in the main street, grab a bite to eat at an oceanside market and then watch an incredible sunset from your vantage point on the beach as you dine, or decide take a drive and end up in Kakadu National Park before lunchtime?

Climate

Darwin has a tropical climate with distinct wet and Dry Seasons. The Wet Season is associated with tropical cyclones and monsoon rains. The majority of rainfall occurs between December and March when thunderstorms are common and humidity is regularly over 70 per cent.

Darwin’s climate averages are:

Mean January maximum temperature – 32°C
Mean January minimum temperature – 24°C
Mean July maximum temperature – 30°C
Mean July minimum temperature – 19°C
Mean annual rainfall – 1669mm
Wettest month on average – January, 422 mm
Rain Days: 110

The Dry Season, from April/May until September/October, yields pleasant weather that is similar to summer in the southern states. In Darwin during these months, humidity is low, the temperature is almost monotonously constant (around 30 degrees), and the days are warm and pleasantly sunny. For this reason, the Dry Season is also the peak tourist season.

The Wet Season is hot and humid with high rainfall. The tropical cyclones, choppy seas, endless days of rain and high humidity levels associated with the Wet Season would indicate that the Wet is not the time to visit the Top End, but there are actually two sides to this picture. The Wet Season brings forth the lush scenic beauty, raging waterfalls, an abundance of barramundi for those who love fishing, low prices all round and a lack of crowds at popular tourist haunts.

So there is a side to the Tropical North that you will never see if you are not there during the Wet Season, but there is a price to pay – heat, humidity, rain and the possibility of cyclonic weather. September to December, whilst not being particularly wet, are nonetheless very humid and quite unbearable, so it is best to stay away during those months too if you find humidity unbearable.

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Brief history

Darwin's harbour was first sighted in 1839 by John Lort Stokes of HMS Beagle. The ship's captain, John Clements Wickham, named the port after Charles Darwin, the British Naturalist, who had sailed with him on an earlier expedition of the Beagle. The Northern Territory was initially settled and administered by South Australia, until its transfer to the Commonwealth in 1911. On 5th February 1869, G.W. Goyder, the Surveyor-General of South Australia, established a small settlement of 135 men and women at Port Darwin. Goyder named the settlement Palmerston, after the British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston.

Goyder arrived aboard the 'Moonta' and spent much of the next few weeks looking for a suitable site for the township. He settled on Fort Point in Darwin Harbour. The town plan was drawn up on board the 'Moonta' by J. Brooks, Goyder's assistant, without him having gone ashore to view the land chosen. Brooks had simply transposed the grid-plan of the town of Adelaide to the location. A much smaller elongated version was called for as, unlike Adelaide, Palmerston would directly face the sea. It took Goyder one morning to go ashore and modify the grid pattern of Adelaide to fit the topography.

Within two weeks, a completed surevy of the town had been completed and by 26th April, plans and drafts of the township were sent to Adelaide with photographs, so as to meet an October 1st deadline when land would go on sale in Adelaide. 43,000 acres had been surveyed into 160 and 360 acre sections around the townsite, with 1,019 allotments in the town itself. Field surveys of 600,000 acres were completed by the end of August.

The streets of Palmerston had been named on the journey to the location long before the site of the township had been selected. Goyder named all the streets after surveyors and members of his party except for Cavenagh Street, which was named after Wentworth Cavenagh-Mainwaring (1822-1895), the Commissioner for Lands, a South Australian farmer, land agent and MP. His name was given to the principal street and the town square.

The first permenant building was The Residency, erected on a hill facing Fort Hill where Goyder had first planted the Union Jack. The Residency was built to be the home of the new Resident, Capt. Bloomfield Douglas, who arrived to take up his post in June 1870. In that year, the first poles for the Overland Telegraph were erected. The discovery of gold at Pine Creek in the 1880's further boosted the young colony's development. Upon Commonwealth administration, Darwin became the city's new name.

Darwin suffered a major attack by the Japanese during World War II. On 19th February 1942, during the Pacific War, 242 Japanese warplanes attacked Darwin, killing at least 243 people and caused immense damage to the town. Apart from minor attacks on Newcastle and Sydney, these have been the only attacks on Australian soil in time of war, and the only to have caused fatalities.

Devastation caused by Clclone Tracy

Darwin was largely destroyed on 25th December 1974 by Cyclone Tracy, which killed 50 people and flattened over 70% of the city's buildings. After the disaster, an airlift evacuated 30,000 people. The town was subsequently rebuilt with newer materials and techniques during the late 1970s by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. A satellite city of Palmerston was built 20km south of Darwin in the early 1980s. On 17th September 2003, the Adelaide-Darwin Railway was completed.

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