A travel guide to Darwin, Australia

"Darwin serves the biggest beers in the world—two-liter glasses." This telling factoid was delivered by an artist I met at a bar in JFK airport awaiting my flight to Australia. She was from Adelaide and lived in Melbourne, so perhaps her views of Darwin were skewed, but she went on:

"Darwin is full of people who've run out of places to go. Cowboys, renegades, just... indivduals. They give it a real frontier feel."

Perhaps Darwin is simply the end of the line for some. They get to the end of the Stuart Highway and, unless they fancy a really long swim across the Timor Sea to Indonesia or Palau, cannot go any farther, so they settle here.

Darwin lies roughly halfway along the north coast of Australia, tucked into a harbor off Beagle Gulf.

It is the main city of the Top End, the semi-tropical northern half of the Northern Territory, and as such is the air gateway for Kakadu, Litchfield, Nitmiluk/Katherine National Parks.

A major shipping center for trade with Asia (it is closer to five Asian capital cities than it is to Australia's capital, Canberra), Darwin is Australia's most modern city by default, having been leveled once by Japanese air raids during World War II, and again by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

Darwin is also rather multicultural, with a nearly 10% Asian population, and the highest percentage (also around 10%) of Aborigine inhabitants of any major Australian city.

Most of the cultural attractions—from the marquee Museum and Gallery of the Northern Territory (www.nretas.nt.gov.au) on down—celebrate Dawrin's warttime role and its aviation history—QANTAS, after all, stands for "Queensland And Northern Territory Air Service" (this is why it one of those rare Q-words-without-a-U)—and there are Spirfires and a B-52 bomber in its Aviation Heritage Centre (www.darwinsairwar.com.au).

It also has many galleries of Aboriginal art, and serves as a gateway to Arnhem Land, 500km to the east, the largest Aboriginal Reserve in Australia.

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in August 2013.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.