Adelaide River

Renowned for the fresh barramundi served at the hotel on the banks of the river, Adelaide River is a small town where the Stuart Highway crosses the Adelaide River.

Location: 200 km north-east of Katherine and 112km south of Darwin.

Though only a very small community, Adelaide River is well worth stopping at to break a road journey between Katherine and Darwin. The town played an important role in the war effort between 1942 and 1945 as a military base and site of the 107th Australian General Hospital and 119th Australian General Hospital.

Adelaide River Inn is home of Charlie the Buffalo, from the movie Crocodile Dundee. Charlie (that's his stage name; his real name was Nick) lived a happy retired life in a paddock next to the Inn until 2001 when he vacated it for greener pastures. When passers-by asked where Charlie had got to the reply was "Oh, he has moved to the bar now ..." where he remains to this day in all his glory, but unfortunately no longer alive. Adelaide River Inn is a great place for lunch.

Things to see and do

Grove Hill Heritage and Museum is housed in a residence built entirely from recycled materials during the depression. The museum is open daily 6 am to 2 pm.

Mount Bundy Station, 3 km north of the town, is a great spot for fishing, walking and swimming.

The historical military base of Snake Creek Armament Depot still stands. Entry requires permit from Northern Land Council as is on Aboriginal Lands.

The Adelaide River Railway Siding and Railway Bridge, which are now part of Adelaide River Heritage Centre, were constructed as part of the first leg of the North Australia Railway (NAR) which operated from 1888 until 1976. The centre has an excellent collection of The Ghan railway memorabilia.

Adelaide River War Cemetery is the third largest war cemetery in Australia. 434 servicemen and 54 civilians who were killed by Japanese air-raids in Darwin during World War II were laid to rest here. During the war, The 107th Australian General Hospital and 119th Australian General Hospital were set up around Adelaide River.

3 km south of Adelaide River, off Dorat Road, on the way to Daly River, is a pleasant waterfall pool at the end of a 10 minute walk called Robin Falls - a popular place to visit.


Adelaide River NT Country Music Talent Quest (every June)

Adelaide River Races (every August)

Brief History

The Kungarrakan and Awarai Aboriginal peoples are acknowledged as the traditional owners of the land surrounding the present day town of Adelaide River. There was little acknowledgement of their connection to the land in the early history of the area, evidenced by the predominately European place names. Their way of life remained unchanged for many thousands of years prior to settlement.

Adelaide River was first settled by workers who arrived in the area to construct the Overland Telegraph Line. During construction, the discovery of gold at Pine Creek in 1872 had a major impact on the settlement. In 1873, a weekly mail service between Southport and a mining site further south at Yam Creek was established. This service utilised pack horses, and during the wet season months when progress was slow mail bags from the north and south were exchanged at the crossing of the Adelaide River. The following year, Mr. Edward Hopewell was awarded this mail contract and built the Q.C.E. Hotel on the river bank and a restaurant, the "Jolly Waggoner" was opened by George Doherty, increasing the importance of the area as an overnight stop for travellers. The first police station in the town was constructed in 1879.

Prior to the construction of the railway to Pine Creek, the Adelaide River crossing was the overnight stopping point for the Haimes Royal Mail Coach which linked Southport with the goldfields.  This was a vital and well utilised transport link, but was a slow and uncomfortable service. Legislation providing for an upgraded transport link was passed in 1883 by the government of John Cox Bray in the form of the Palmerston and Pine Creek Railway Bill.

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In 1886 a contract was signed between the Government of South Australia and construction firm C&E Millar to build the railway between Port Darwin (then known as Palmerston) and the goldfields at Pine Creek. By April 1888 the railway had reached Adelaide River. Construction of the 155 metres  long steel girder across the river itself used five 31 metres spans supported on four sets of piers. The bridge was all but complete by the onset of the wet season later that year. The first train to cross reached the southern bank on 3 December 1888, followed five days later by the first scheduled service, hauled by the locomotive "Silverton".

Pastoral and agricultural activity were stimulated with the issuing of leases for Crown Land. In 1911 brothers Frank and Fred Hardy, local buffalo hunters, established Mount Bundy Station on a 834sq mi pastoral lease near the town of Adelaide River. Using local Aboriginal stockmen to hunt and process the animals, they began exporting buffalo hide to European markets. During the 1920s, Dutch-born agriculturalist Edwin Verburg (1869-1965) established a farm in the township irrigated by a weir he constructed across the river.

Work began in 1936 on a road linking Darwin to Adelaide River. As the railway was still the primary means of transportation at this time, it was an unsealed, dry weather road that was poorly maintained. This road followed a similar route to the present day Stuart Highway. Around the same period, a road south towards the rail yards at Larrimah was also developed to a similar standard.

Adelaide River played a central role in the defence of Australia during the second world war. In 1939, the town was designated as a rest area for personnel serving in Darwin, Northern Territory.

Military activity around the area increased significantly following the first Japanese air-raids on Darwin on 19 February 1942. The immediate aftermath of these attacks led to a mass-exodus of the city's civilian population toward the south, an event that would become known as the Adelaide River Stakes. The allied response was a significant increase of forces to rebuild and greatly expand defences in the region. A military airfield was built in the town close to the railway station, along with several others in the surrounding district including Coomalie Creek and Pell. In addition an artillery and weapons range was established at Tortilla Flats, between Coomalie Creek and Adelaide River. The town became an important tactical supply and communications base for all branches of the armed forces. In August 1942, the Adelaide River War Cemetery was established.

While there were numerous bombing raids on the surrounding outstations and facilities throughout 1942-43, Adelaide River itself was bombed only once, in the early hours of 12 November 1943. This was the last Japanese air raid on the Northern Territory. At the height of hostilities, there were up to 30,000 Australian Army and United States soldiers based near the town. An ammunition dump, including a spur railway line, was established at Snake Creek, 3.2 km to the north. Whilst the facility became operational towards the end of the war, it was too late to be useful in the war effort. Additional rail sidings were built at the town station to serve ambulance or "hospital" trains that brought wounded personnel to the field hospitals in the area. In addition to many transient units, the 107th Australian General Hospital and 119th Australian General Hospital were set up within Adelaide River.

On 11 January 1962, Adelaide River was officially proclaimed a town. The gazetted area comprises 626.8ha. Declining passenger numbers on the North Australia Railway led to services on the line being suspended in 1976. The line was officially closed in 1981 along with the Adelaide River station, but even with maintenance gangs withdrawn, the yard and facilities remained mostly intact. The 1888 bridge continued to be used as a river crossing to convey traffic on the Stuart Highway. A second crossing, this time dedicated to road transport, the Edwin Verburg Bridge, now carries the highway across the river. It was opened on 27 March 1980 by Chief Minister Paul Everingham. The bridge was named for the pioneering agriculturalist who established an early farm in the town.

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