As mentioned in my Darwin introduction page, part of my reason to visit Darwin was the Cyclone Tracy exhibition at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and the newly opened (19 Feb 2012) Defense of Darwin Exhibition at the up graded Darwin Military Museum complex at East Point, some 10 km (6 miles) from the Darwin CBD
The complex is divided into:
A. An indoor area where the main interactive Defense of Darwin Experience is located and comprises a significant display of photos and plans from the time of the bombing. There are audio files of interviews with survivors (male and female) at the time as well as interactive displays showing aircraft routes, bombing damage and much more. The real highlight of the indoor section is the Bombing of Darwin Experience Gallery. Doors open and an air raid siren moans and visitors enter the gallery where there are displays on all 4 walls of the gallery. The lights dim and best to grab a seat as a film complete with flashes, very loud bomb noises starts with a loud air raid siren and a strong Australian accented voice, “Another false alarm – bloody drongos!” For 12 minutes a very realistic film depicts the events of 19th February 1942, The Day That War Came to Australia.
B. Significant outdoor exhibitions of tanks and other military equipment down to a BAS Paratrooper fold up bicycle and almost everything in between. There are a number of indoor exhibitions that include early computers used by the nearby 9.2 inch guns, propaganda material and what I found absolutely fascinating was a 3 page letter from the manager of the Darwin Branch Commonwealth Bank as to how he and bank staff were able to safely get the money and important documents out of the city and the 1200 km to Alice Springs. Almost the entire town was evacuated of civilian personal and stayed that way until the end of WW2. Another bunker contained very interesting memorabilia from ‘Norforce’ including a stuffed Frilled Neck Lizard which forms part of the cap badge for the unit (photo on main Darwin page)
Having really enjoyed my visit I returned into the indoor complex to;
A. Grab a coffee and snack
B. Scour the excellent gift/book shop for a pressie for myself.
I made the bad mistake of going for coffee/eats first as the young woman in charge was not about to get anything for me or anyone else at that late time of 3.50pm. Seems she had to pack up and get the place cleaned up before 5pm and we, the consumers, were not going to deter her from her duty. I protested to the nearby information/entry counter and a short time later VERY reluctantly and with much pouting, glaring, slamming of things down I got my coffee and a snack from the pie warmer. I went to the complex for a war experience and not a war – seems the woman did not have other staff to help out and maybe the complex should be employing more staff who are better prepared to do the important part of serving their customers.
No I didn’t get to buy anything at the gift/book shop for myself!
Perhaps the only down side of the excellent facility (apart from belligerent café woman) is the lack of public transport getting to/from. Taxi to/from Darwin CBD is around $20 each way, but you could take a Darwinbus route 4 or 10 and get off in the Fanny Bay area and either walk (about 4 km in the heat) and then take taxi for the shorter distance, depending on taxi availability in the area. I was able to get a share taxi back to Darwin CBD with another visitor.
Web site below is for the Defence of Darwin Experience, however there is a separate web site for the Darwin Military Museum and can I suggest reading the history of the museum section. Part reads: “In true Territory fashion, the members of the RAAA decided one weekend to safeguard these historic icons as no government initiative was forthcoming.” LOL and good on you guys - maybe they had better luck in the coffee and something from the pie warmer department than I did.
About the photos:
1. Main entrance and building is air conditioned.
2, Just a small part of the excellent Defense of Darwin Experience
3. There are small guns and here is the big one.
4. War going bike.
5. The WAR ZONE - don't mess with the cafe woman.
Like so many cities around the world, Darwin is investing in urban renewal and in the case of the Waterfront Precinct, there is a great mix of residential, commercial and retail together with other infrastructure for the city.
Part of the Waterfront development included a new overseas passenger shipping terminal and we happened to visit the day the ship ‘Dawn Princess’ was in town – a very impressive sight as she sailed off. My wife and I were looking on from a shady vantage point and could not help but overhear a woman talking on her mobile phone to obviously from the conversation a ships passenger, “Look to the group of trees along from the warf – that’s us.” “We are waving at you, can you see us?” At that point I interjected, “Come on everyone wave.” Amid much giggling our small crowd all waved in unison. I overheard the very embarrassed woman end the call with, “Luv ya darl!”
The area contains a variety of man made swimming lagoons including a spectacular looking wave pool – remember that Darwin while being on the coast does not really have any safe swimming beaches.
The Darwin Convention Centre is also a major attraction to the area.
There is walking access to the Waterfront Precinct from Darwin CBD via an elevated walkway and glass lifts from Smith Street
I was attracted to the museum as I’d heard they have an excellent permanent exhibition on Cyclone Tracy, the cyclone that all but destroyed Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974. In the lead up to that cyclone a next door neighbouring family had moved to Darwin from our own suburb and we feared for their lives as the news of the cyclone hit our airwaves ‘down south.’ It was some days later that we heard the family had survived the cyclone and dad and the kids had made it back to Melbourne, while ‘mum’ had to be taken to a Sydney hospital for treatment for her injuries sustained that terrible night in Darwin. Some weeks later she was repatriated back to Melbourne to join up with her family. Needless to say our TV and radio news reports at the time were full of reports on the devastation caused by the cyclone and the stories on how 20,000 + people were evacuated by air from the city in only a few days.
The Tracy exhibition graphically portrays that terrible event in Australian history. We were amused at some of the movie like sets used to display the interiors of homes in the lead up to the cyclone and well remembered some of the furnishings from that era. There is an excellent Cyclone Tracy on line exhibition.
The museum has much more to offer and includes an exhibition on ‘Sweetheart,’ the unfortunate name for a massive crocodile that attacked smaller fishing boats. He was captured but unfortunately died and is now preserved for all to see – quite a scary exhibition! (photo above)
There is a lot more to see at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and includes Aboriginal art, natural history of the NT and a fascinating collection of sea going craft from Australia’s neighbouring countries that have made it into the Top End – and included a Vietnamese boat that somehow made it carrying 9 ‘boat people’ from the 1978 (photo above).
Depeniding on your interests, allow 2 – 3 hours minimum to appreciate the museum – where entry is free.
There is also an excellent on-site café that serves a wide selection of food and drinks – and yes it is licensed. We went one afternoon and then had dinner and drinks while watching the sun set at the across the road Darwin Water Ski Club (separate tip).
One of the more unusual attractions for Darwin is the Outdoor Deck Chair cinema located close to the Darwin Waterfront.
Outdoor cinemas have a long history in tropical northern Australia where indoor cinemas would have been real hot houses at night and aircon either non existent or far too expense to operate.
See web site for details on the nightly screenings during ‘The Dry Season’ from April to November. There is on site food and drink available. Note they do not take pre bookings, so just roll up anytime from 6.30pm.
We strolled past during the day and found a camera friendly hole in the fence to snap off the photos as shown. I would believe the area ‘may’ be somewhat difficult to leave from at night owing to the almost remote “bushy” location (photo 3). There is a long and steep walkway that takes pedestrians back to The Esplanade. The park lands around the cinema are a haven for those trying to camp without having to pay for the privilege. I hope you understand the meaning of my warning!
Berry Springs Nature Park is a wonderful park where you can enjoy some family time, a picnic or BBQ as well as a refreshing swim.
The park is located close to Darwin and is very popular at weekends.
The park has picnic tables with lots of shady picnic areas. There are a number of shady pools along Berry Creek (some of which have steps allowing easy access) to enjoy a cooling swim although pools may be temporarily closed in the wet season (October to April) when conditions are considered unsafe. There is also a walking track through two of the Top End's Natural wildlife habitats.
A kiosk is situated within the park and is open during popular visiting times, generally from late morning to mid afternoon.
The Visitor Centre is open from 08:00 to 16:30 and houses displays which show the animals that can be seen within the Park and in the creek.
PARK OPENING HOURS :
08:00 to 18:30 daily
The paths from the Rainforest Loop either go north to the Shade Garden and Tiwi Wet Forest, or to the west to the Tropical Savannah and back to the northwest entrance. I was running out of time, so I went to the Tropical Savannah. The Adansonia (baobab or boab) trees and the Moringa tree were really unique looking. I did not know about Moringa trees until writing this tip. They are an amazing food source and have medicinal properties too. From the signboard and knowing where I took the picture, I think the second picture here is of the Moringa drouhardii near the "Y" in the paths at the top of the signboard.
There seemed to be a mix of plants from several different habitats here. For example, in one place there were a hibiscus bush, palm tree, cycad, and adansonia (baobab) tree planted next to each other.
The northwest entrance to the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens is a secondary entrance on Gilruth Avenue. There is a nice path to the main part of the Gardens through the Woodland Habitat and across the bridge to the Heritage and Borassus Lawns. Just before the bridge you pass the first stop on the Aboriginal Plant Use Walk at a River Pandanus. It was my last day and I only had about an hour to visit the Gardens. I really only saw a small part of them. Generally my route passed through or by the Woodlands, Heritage Lawn, Borassus Lawn, Ramp to the Permaculture Terraces and Orientation Center, Orientation Center, Plant Display House, Rainforest Loop, Tropical Savannah, and back to the northwest entrance. Admission to the Botanic Gardens is free.
This ramp and path run from the Borrasus Lawn up the hill past the Community Food Garden at the Permaculture Terraces. The path then meets the primary loop road for the Botanic Gardens, which passes the Orientation Center and Plant Display House. Unfortunately I arrived at the Orientation Center like two minutes before it was supposed to close (it is open Mon - Fri, 8 AM - 4 PM, and 8:30 AM - 4 PM on weekends and holidays); however, they had closed already and I was not able to get a map or brochure. I did not stop at the Plant Display House but it too may have been closed.
The path down from the Rainforest Loop upper pool winds down along the rocky streambed and would have views of the waterfall; however, at that time it had been dry and there was no water running over the pool's edge to make a waterfall. There was a Chime Tree (Albizia gauchapele) beside the trail going down Rainforest Loop. The signboard said that a Chime Tree is a giant tree from the equatorial regions of Mexico and South America (the one on the left in the picture with the kink in the trunk and no vine on it). It has a distinctive, flaky, brown bark. The seeds in its bean-like pods rattle with the slightest breeze, like a melodious chime.
Rainforest loop is one of the main things to do at the George Brown Botanic Gardens. The path is about a 0.5 km loop up to a pool with a small bridge across it and a waterfall over the edge of the pool. It had been dry so no water was running out of the pool to make a waterfall.
Information and self-guided maps are available at the Orientation Center. Since it was closed, I had to rely on the signposts and signboards. The first picture is an example of the signboards. It says that the main features of the Botanic Gardens include the Rainforest Loop, Cycad Garden, Plant Display House, Wesleyan Church, Children's Playground, and the Tiwi Wet Forest.
Borassus (Palmyra Palm) is a genus of six species of fan palms, native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia and New Guinea. They are tall palms, capable of growing up to 30 meters high. The leaves are long, fan-shaped, 2 to 3 m in length. The flowers are small, in densely clustered spikes, followed by large, brown, roundish fruits. Another place that Asian Palmyra palms can be found is at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
The Darwin Trailer Boat Club is located on Fannie Bay off East Point Road about 400 meters north of the Capricornia Motel. The motel recommended the Blue Marlin Bistro there but I did not get a chance to try it, since it was my last day and I had my Kebab House leftovers. Their membership fee structure is complex; however, I was told that the bistro was open to anyone and that it had better food than the Darwin Ski Club.
The Discover Our City kiosks are located in various places around Darwin. They welcome you to Darwin and help you discover the 8 precincts: City, Esplanade, Wharf, Gardens, Fannie Bay, East Point, Northern Suburbs and Outer Darwin. They include maps, history, and what is to be found in the precincts.
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