Arrived in Darwin on Saturday 11th May, a day earlier than we had originally planned. Our early arrival was deliberate as we wanted to in Darwin, and settled in, by Sunday in order that we could go to the Mindil Beach Market which operates Sundays and Thursdays from about 4:00pm until 9:00pm.
We started our Sunday sightseeing at what is called "The Darwin Waterfront", a redeveloped port area with a Casino, Hotels, Restuarants, Wave Pool and on Sundays a craft market. And thereafter took a driving tour north of the city proper to Fannie Bay, East Point Reserve and NightCliff before heading back to camp to rest up for our planned excursion to the Mindil Beach Markets.
The Mindil Market surprised us somewhat as it was a bigger event than we had expected. Maybe 100-150 food and craft stalls and a number of thousand of people. We had been told by a number of people that the accepted practice was to spend some time just looking around and then about 10 minutes before sunset buy some food from one of the stalls, take that food onto the beach and watch the sunset into the ocean.
Our first day left us with a good impression of Darwin, light traffic, small city, fantastic beaches and ocean front, and some great parks.
We also noticed an emphasis around the city of Darwin's role in WWII when it was bombed by Japanese planes beginning 19th February 1942.
Monday, Day 2 of our stay in Darwin started with some chores, a new windshield for the vehicle and a new auxiliary battery. With that out of the way we took a visit to Darwin's Museum and Art Gallery (a combined organization). We were particularly impressed by the natural history displays of land and sea animals. But the main attraction for us was the Cyclone Tracy display. This display is a record of destruction of Darwin by cyclone Tracy on Christmas eve 1974. In the aftemarth of the cyclone almost the entire population of Darwin was evacuated while the city was rebuilt.
Sweatheart is the stuffed corpse of a local crocodile that was famous for attacking outboard motors. He was trapped with the intention of relocation in 1984 but drowned when the tranquilizer unexpectedly shutdown his "anti-drowning" reflex. It was a big news story at the time.
For me one of the unexpected gems of the museum was a display of boats from nearby parts of South East Asia.
Tuesday we took another exploratory walk around the waterfront and the downtown part of the city. Saw more monuments to the bombing of Darwin in WWII, a monument to the laying of the undersea telegrahic cable to Java in 1874 that connected Australia with the rest of the world. Saw a few relics of the bombing, like the church facade in picture 2.
The Banyan tree in picture 3 stands on the location of the 19th century Chinatown and seems to be much loved by Darwinians (??), so much so that the design of the nearby City Council building was modified to allow the tree to survive.
Wednseday we decided to give ourselves a full dose of the WWII history of Darwin so we visited the Military Museum that is located on East Point. Before and during WWII East Point was the lcoation for two 9.2 inch artiliary pieces and while the guns are gone (though there is a replica of one there now) the concrete bunkers that housed them are still there. Indeed one of the implacements is part of the museum and today houses a replica of those guns (picture 6).
Curiously the real 9.2 inch guns were cut up for scrap in the 1950s and a Japanese firm won the contract to do the demolition.
The first picture below is the Fire Control "computer" that was used to sight those 9.2 inch guns. Its a mainly mechanical device rather than a computer in the modern sense.
Really quite an interesting Museum with a good collection of old military equipment, and a very good display both static and audio-visual about the 1942 bombing.
In Darwin we stayed at Hidden Valley Holiday Park located about 10km from the cities downtown. This proved to be very convenient and close to all the things we wanted to see. The park is very nice with a pool, good facilities and a well equipped camp kitchen. We camped in an unpowered site the first night and there after had a nice cabin with ensuite bathroom.
On the downside cell phone service (Telstra) is poor, the camp wifi does not reach to the cabins and is really only available at the pool, and the place is located close to Darwin airport and during the day is subject to a lot of jet noise both civilian and military; and those military planes make a lot of noise.