Isolated from the bustling east coast of Australia it’s easy to forget the significant role Darwin has played in our nation’s past. During World War II the airstrip in Darwin was our troop’s gateway to the war in Asia and Europe, a fact which led to Darwin being bombed by the same Japanese planes that had destroyed Pearl Harbour. There was a great deal of development and fortification to defend against this threat and as a result Darwin today holds a number of historic sites and war monuments. Several museums showcase artillery, fortifications, aviation development and even tunnel systems that sprang up in preparation for a possible invasion from the north.
Before the British settled in Australia, the indigenous Larrakia people lived in the Darwin area. There is still a large proportion of aboriginals still living in and around Darwin and you can visit a number of museums and art galleries to see their story told their way.
The Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is a free way to discover some of Darwin and the region’s past. You will find displays on Aboriginal culture, Southeast Asian and Pacific culture, natural sciences and contemporary art – what an interesting mix! There’s also a great display on the devastating effects Cyclone Tracy caused in 1974 on the city of Darwin. The Maritime Museum is also located here which adds another element to your discovery of the Top End.
Chinese Temple & Museum
Chinese people have played an important part of Darwin’s history and a Chinese Temple has been located on this site since 1887. Within the Temple grounds is a museum with photos and displays to showcase the work and achievements of the Chinese since they arrived as indentured labourers in 1874.
Darwin Military Museum
Address: East Point Road, East Point
Phone: 08 8981 9702
Opening Times: Monday to Friday 9.30am – 5pm
Admission: Adults $14, Children $5.50, Under 5s free
During World War II Darwin was one of Australia’s first lines of defence. Today, the East Point Military Museum is located on these very fortifications. Inside the museum you will find unique displays including artillery, videos, armoured vehicles, photography and other war memorabilia. Not to be missed is the dramatic Japanese bombing on Darwin Harbour.
Australian Pearling Exhibition
Address: Stokes Hill Wharf Precinct, Darwin
Opening times: May to September – Daily 9am to 4pm, October to April – Tuesday to Sunday 9am till 1pm
Admission: Adults $5, Children $3
From hard hat diving to modern pearl farming the Australian Pearling Exhibition will take you through a timeline of Pearling in the Top End. The Northern Territory produces some of the finest quality pearls and has become the state’s major fisheries export earner. This museum is a must as you discover the romance, danger and mystery behind these jewels of the sea.
World War II Oil Storage Tunnels
Address: Kitchener Drive, Darwin
Opening Times: May to September – Daily 9am to 4pm, October to April – Tuesday to Sunday 9am till 1pm
Admission: Adults $5, Children $3
These tunnels were built during WWII and are located beneath the cliffs of Darwin City, just a short walk from the Esplanade. There are some really interesting photographic displays of Darwin during these times on show.
The Australian Aviation Heritage Centre
Address: 557 Stuart Highway, Winnellie
Opening Times: Daily 9am – 5pm
At the Aviation Heritage Centre you’ll find Darwin’s aviation history on show. Exhibits include a B52 Bomber, B25 Mitchell Bomber, Spitfire replica, Sabre Jet and more!
Find more things to do in Darwin here.