Words by Bev Malzard
Cyclone Tracy blew into Darwin on 24 December 1974, devastating the town and outlying areas. What rose from the flattened buildings and broken hearts was the origins of a new, modern city that would be a beacon to government, entrepreneurs, tourism activity, young go-getters, migrants and refugee settlers – resulting in a busy, buzzy tropical town.
Darwin is home to the weird and wonderful – and some seriously lovely attractions you may want to step out of your comfort zone for:
- The Heli Pub Crawl takes you to three different pubs to share a yarn or two with the locals while enjoying a few bevies. The best part? Your designated driver is a helicopter pilot!
- Deckchair Cinema is an outdoor movie-going experience where you can watch the stars on the screen and overhead in the starry night sky. Open during the dry season, take a picnic and enjoy the show.
- Not quite a wild ride but close to it is the Airboat Tour of Darwin Harbour. Check out the harbour and surrounding mangroves from a flat-bottomed vessel propelled by a giant fan instead of a motor.
- The Crocodile Cage of Death, no explanation needed really. Get in the cage, get dunked and the crazed croc (very Darwin) is beneath you, mouth slavering for fresh meat. This is fun, go for it!
There are also stories of drama, intrigue and inspiration galore to discover in the Northern Territory’s capital city.
Two important stories are set at the Royal Flying Doctor Service building on Stokes Wharf. As well as the history of the RFDS and the extraordinary work done across the outback, there’s the Bombing of Darwin Virtual Reality experience. This tells dramatic tales from 1942 of the devastation wrought and the individual human stories.
The Fannie Bay Gaol Museum housed Darwin’s most desperate criminals between 1883-1979. The cells and gallows – a rare mechanism modelled on the Newgate Gallows in England - are pretty gloomy and raise the hairs on your arm, but now serve as the backdrop for dinner parties!
The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is a corker – there’s so much to discover and uncover here, from maritime archaeology, sublime indigenous art, artefacts and culture to WWII and the story of Cyclone Tracy.
Two other superb museums in the Darwin Military Museum Precinct at East Point include the Darwin Military Museum and the interactive installations at the Defence of Darwin Experience. When you reflect on the dusty hot town of Darwin as the first line of defence for an invasion of Australia in WWII and it being bombed mercilessly, it’s a chilling thought as to what might have been.
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