I arrived at about noon at Darwin Airport and the first thing to strike you is the heat, the humidity and the lack of shadow from the sun. That last bit just tells you that you are in the tropics, with the Tropic of Capricorn 10 whole degrees to your south.
Bizarrely there are two hotels called “Doubletrees by Hilton” side by side with each other. The taxi driver waited while I checked out the first, “no” wasn’t mine but the they had my name on the list to tell me I was in the next hotel. And to confuse matters even more there is another Hilton further along the Esplanade. The hotel was clean and spacious with very friendly and helpful staff on the desk. It has a exit/entrance onto Mitchell Street where a lot of the restaurants and cafés are to be found.
Darwin has three things going for it. It’s proximity to the Kakadu National Park 240 kilometres – that’s nothing in Aussie terms; the bombing by the Japanese in 1942, and a deep water harbour with a well maintained Esplanade.
When I first ventured out I headed south to the Stokes Hill Wharf and was struck by the lack of visitors. These photos were taken at 1330
About 2 kilometres just before the entrance to the Wharf there is a memorial with plaques commemorating the bombing in 1942. There were surprisingly four senior citizens like myself sitting in the shade examining them. Like me they were Brits on holiday.
To get down to the harbour there is a bridge and a lift; very civilised and then down to a well kept strip with cafés, mini shops and swimming pools with the harbour further out. It is a feature that commends Australia to me that families are so well looked after in public places like this. A lifeguard sat by the gate to the pool ensuring that unaccompanied toddlers did not wander in. On the grass and at the provided benches and tables, there were several families picnicking. The harbour wall further out was a scene of activity with boat-masts clearly visible.
I had a coffee and a sandwich, but even the cafe’s air-con could not cool me down, the temperature of 29C had got to me, so I took refuge in a nearby hotel lobby and then taxied back to my hotel. (=7AUD).
Next day I took the bus out to the Aviation Museum. Buses are good value in Darwin, $3 for a ticket gives you 3 hours unlimited travel, but the journey out to the museum took only 20 minutes.
Nice welcome from the air-conned reception and after paying my $14 (senior’s concession only to Aussie pensioners) went into the hangar containing a number of exhibits the biggest being the B-52 bomber.
The heat inside the hangar was stifling, and I could not endure to listen to the video playing; despite the fan. I had to keep making trips back to the reception to cool down. All in all I was not impressed, perhaps if there had been someone to do a conducted tour it might have been different. It lacked a cohesiveness and storyline, but that might just have been me suffering from the heat. The Spitfire was a replica, and while the size of the B-52 might have been impressive 30 years ago, it is not today.
To get the bus back, I had to sit at an unsheltered bus-stop for 15 minutes. Actually I stood, as the aluminium bench seat was too hot to sit on. Eventually the bus turned up and I was able to be dropped off at the back entrance to my hotel. A great place to eat and drink is the Duck’s Nuts in Mitchell Street. Just sit on the terrace and watch the world go by- and it does!
I’m obviously visiting Darwin at the wrong time of the year for many of the Tourist Trips were not available. Despite the dates being good (from their brochure) I tried to book a trip out into the bay for an evening meal and to watch the sunset. Sadly cancelled.
The Kakadu was too far for me on this trip, so it was off to Broome now via Kununurra. I enjoyed my stay in Darwin, a lovely city well laid out, lots of cheap taxis and most of the people friendly and courteous.