Darwin roundup

I’ve now written a few posts about our holiday in Darwin, but inevitably I feel as though I’ve missed some elements that I’d like to record for posterity, so this is a roundup of those odds and sods.

There is some wonderful street art in Darwin, here is just a sample.

We visited the Art Gallery and Museum and found it fascinating. A whole section on Cyclone Tracy which devastated Darwin on Christmas Eve, 1974 and which was responsible for the destruction of a lot of the original architecture of the city, but also some glorious Aboriginal art.

We also visited the botanic gardens, of course, and as usual I was drawn to things like interesting trees

A beautiful bench

and exquisite flowers

There was also interesting wildlife

Parliament House was interesting to visit. It’s a gorgeous building in the colonial style

and is as lovely inside as out

It also houses the National Reference Library which had surprisingly few books but a fabulous display of all sorts of things. This is a mockup of an original tour bus and there are movies inside showing what people got up to back in the day.

There was a brilliant display of objects made in the Northern Territory and I loved the basket ware.

There was also a display of various newspaper front pages showing events and highlights over the years. This one made me laugh and I thought it might amuse you too.

Yes, he burnt himself quite badly with a firework! And yes, that’s a snake wrapped round his beer bottle!

Crocodiles are a bit of a feature of the Northern Territory (NT) and this is Sweetheart. He is housed in the Art Gallery. He didn’t attack people but he did love to wrangle an outboard motor. He became a bit of a nuisance, in spite of being a local celebrity, so it was decided to move him to a crocodile park. Sadly, he became entangled in ropes during his capture and he drowned. This made me incredibly sad.

The crocodile skin above the bar at the Bark Hut Inn in Kakadu gave me pause for thought. This is one animal.

The same place had this little fellow in an aquarium. Hi name is Colin and he is destined to live in here forever. Apparently crocodiles are so adaptable that they don’t outgrow their environment so he will stay small. This disturbed me as well.

One of the many highlights of the trip was accidentally finding an afternoon tea at a National Trust House. These only occur on the third Sunday of the month and this was the last one until April of next year. Reservations have to be made but we did look needy and they found us a table. The tables are all in the garden and it was fabulous.

We decided to return to do a tour of the National Trust house and we were the only ones there, so we got to ask lots of questions and find out all the nitty gritty things that always interest me.

This is actually a cluster of four houses, but the main one is this two storey house. It was designed by Beni Burnett, a Scot who grew up in Mongolia and Malaysia and he brought architectural principles from those regions to Darwin. This house was built in 1939 and is known as the “K” configuration.

The house was considered radical for its time. It is two storeys, with living areas downstairs and bedrooms upstairs and is built from lightweight materials such as asbestos cement sheeting, corrugated roof cladding and louvres with patterning by casement windows. The roof is steeply pitched with an open asbestos ridge vent at the top, allowing air to circulate from open eaves through the ceiling space and out the ridge. It also incorporates asbestos louvres, glass casement windows and walls with louvres to allow for maximum air flow throughout. It also features three-quarter height partitions between rooms, again to allow the hot air to escape and the cooling breezes from the ocean to circulate. I have included a photo of the plans in case any one is interested.

A unique feature is the coloured compass inlay in the ground floor concrete slab (fourth photo). The ground floor has polished concrete floors downstairs and cypress pine floors upstairs. Cypress pine has a natural mosquito repellent in the wood, so would have been useful in the time before sprays.

Burnett House bears a number of scars from World War 2. Two bullet holes are easily visible in the front fence, and the remnants of a WW2 bomb was also found in the garden years later.

The house was damaged by Cyclone Tracy in December 1974, and was restored in 1988 for the National Trust. As I mentioned there are other houses in the vicinity and they were all occupied by high ranking government officials (last photo is an example of one of the other houses). The houses and gardens have ocean views and a casino group tried to get their hands on the land to build another casino. Luckily people power prevailed and the buildings were preserved and protected. This was not the fate of an iconic Darwin hotel and the penultimate photo is of a newspaper article showing how it was demolished overnight to become a car park!

We visited the Mamukala Wetlands in Kakadu National Park. None of my photos do this marvellous spot justice. The wetlands was teeming with birdlife and we spent some time watching the birds land on the water. At the back of this photo is a mass of water lillies and these were gathered by the local indigenous people for food and basket weaving.

There were a number of boards highlighting what occurred during each of the six seasons recognised by the Aboriginal people and how the seasons influence the way the people live. They outline when plants and animals are available for food and can be used as survival tools.

The wetlands are of international importance under the Ramsar Convention which aims to halt the loss of wetlands and conserve those that remain. These wetlands are crucial for the survival of bamurru or magpie geese, and we were lucky to see these geese. They have disappeared from southern Australia because of wetland destruction. The land is no longer used for hunting by the local people so the wildlife is thriving.

We were going to do a Darwin harbour ferry cruise, but it had finished for the year, so we jumped on the ferry for a trip to … this jetty! It was a fascinating jetty as it accommodates the multiple levels of the ocean depending on the tides. The tide was low when we went, but the ferry attendant said he had seen the water to the top.

The jetty doesn’t appear to lead to anywhere, there’s no settlement nearby but lots of people got on and off the ferry.

we also observed the anti-submarine cable that was installed before WWII. Of course Darwin was attacked from the air, so it probably wasn’t terribly useful!

We visited all the local markets we could find, including the Mindil Beach Night Markets. We went to the beach to watch the sunset but there was a couple dancing at the water’s edge, which was rather wonderful.

The Mindil Beach sunset markets are big and busy, with lots of food vendors and also lots of crafts and things to buy.

We also visited the Parap markets, which are similar but held in a shopping centre on Saturday and Sunday mornings with lots of the same stalls as at Mindil.

One of my Instagram followers suggested that we visit the Rapid Creek markets. These are also held in a shopping centre car park but is just local produce. I have to say that the mangoes and pineapples were out of this world.

We did love the family who were making dumplings for sale. We treated ourselves to some and they were delicious!

We stumbled across the Civic Square which has a series of bells known as the “HMS Beagle Ship Bell chime” We had to walk round and make tunes! It was a fun activity.

We enjoyed exploring the coffee shops and the Mad Snake Cafe is a bit iconic in Darwin. It looks quirky from the outside, but inside is a whole different level! It is full of old gaming computers, Star Wars memorabilia, and there were people playing games and doing jigsaw puzzles scattered around. Definitely worth the visit.

There is so much more that I could explore, but I’m aware that this is becoming a very long post. I will leave you with our impressions of Darwin and NT. We found the whole place very laid back and the people friendly and relaxed. We felt that we did a reasonable job of seeing most places and will definitely be returning but we would like to drive up the middle of Australia next time. We are home now but enjoying our memories and reliving the holiday through our credit card statement!


10 thoughts on “Darwin roundup

  1. Sue, I have thoroughly enjoyed your “chapters” on your NT holiday. Darwin has always been on my list, other destinations seem to bump it. I must make the effort. Thanks for the read.

    1. Thank you so much Jane. I must say that we were exactly the same and I have to thank Covid for us finally making it. Darwin was one of the few places open for West Australians to visit, so it seemed obvious to visit. I would certainly recommend making the effort, and trying to stay for about 10 days (we had 12).

  2. Fabulous post Sue -loads of fascinating stuff here (and I was sad about the crocodile not getting any bigger too). Well done persuading the NT that you really ought to be allowed afternoon tea. Dave is very good at looking hungry so I think we might have been ok too 😂
    Did you see someone getting/giving a hug in your interesting tree or is that just me?

    1. Thanks Kim, we so enjoyed our afternoon tea at the NT, it was a kind of guilty pleasure. I see so much in that tree (the patterning went all the way round), including Jesus!

  3. What a wonderful report. I’m not sure that I’ll ever get to that part of the world, and I’m fascinated to learn about it through your travels. Thank you for sharing your photos and for chronicling your trip!

    1. Thank you so much, it makes me so happy that you enjoyed my posts. It’s hard to get everywhere, but this is relatively close to home and accessible in these difficult time.

  4. I have enjoyed seeing all the sights of the Top End, and of course all your outfits! I am planning a trip in the next year or so, so I am noting these all down for future research.

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