What You Need To Know
Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia. Situated on the Timor Sea, Darwin is the largest city in the sparsely populated Northern Territory. Darwin’s proximity to South East Asia makes it a link between Australia and countries such as Indonesia and East Timor. The Stuart Highway begins in Darwin, ending at Port Augusta in South Australia. The city itself is built on a low bluff overlooking the harbour. Its suburbs spread out over some area, beginning at Lee Point in the north and stretching to Berrimah in the east. Past Berrimah, the Stuart Highway goes on to Darwin’s satellite city, Palmerston, and its suburbs. The Darwin region, like the rest of the Top End, has a tropical climate, with a wet and a dry season. Prone to cyclone activity during the wet season, Darwin experiences heavy monsoonal downpours and spectacular lightning shows. During the dry season, the city is met with blue skies and gentle sea breezes from the harbour.
The greater Darwin area is the ancestral home of the Larrakia people. On 9 September 1839, HMS Beagle sailed into Darwin harbour during its surveying of the area. John Clements Wickham named the region “Port Darwin” in honour of their former shipmate Charles Darwin, who had sailed with them on the ship’s previous voyage which had ended in October 1836. The settlement there became the town of Palmerston in 1869, and was renamed Darwin in 1911. The city has been almost entirely rebuilt four times, following devastation caused by the 1897 cyclone, the 1937 cyclone, Japanese air raids during World War II, and Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
Area: 1,222 mi²
Australia’s national currency is the Australian dollar which comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and one and two dollar denominations.
The $100 note features world-renowned soprano Dame Nellie Melba (1861–1931), and the distinguished soldier, engineer and administrator General Sir John Monash (1865–1931).
The $50 note features Aboriginal writer and inventor David Unaipon (1872–1967), and Australia’s first female parliamentarian, Edith Cowan (1861–1932).
The $20 note features the founder of the world’s first aerial medical service (the Royal Flying Doctor Service), the Reverend John Flynn (1880–1951), and Mary Reibey (1777–1855), who arrived in Australia as a convict in 1792 and went on to become a successful shipping magnate and philanthropist.
The $10 note features the poets AB ‘Banjo’ Paterson (1864–1941) and Dame Mary Gilmore (1865–1962).
The $5 note features Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and parliament house
in Canberra, our national capital.
The standard $1 coin design, along with the 50, 20, 10 and 5 cent coin designs, was created by the Queen’s official jeweller, Stuart Devlin.
The $1 coin depicts five kangaroos. The $2 coin depicts an Aboriginal tribal elder set against a background of the Southern Cross and native grass trees. The 50 cent coin features Australia’s coat of arms: the six state badges on a central shield supported by a kangaroo and an emu.
The 20 cent coin carries a platypus, (soon to be replaced by cricket legend Donald Bradman); the 10 cent coin features a male lyrebird dancing; and the 5 cent coin depicts an echidna.
Currency exchange is available at banks, hotels and international airports. Australian banks offer the same range of services typical in other western nations, and cash withdrawal machines or Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are widespread, although facilities may be limited in remote towns and the Outback. EFTPOS is also widely available in most Australian shops. Fees may be charged on transactions, particularly if withdrawing from an international account.
English is the main language spoken in Australia, Other languages spoken at home included Mandarin, Italian, Arabic, Cantonese and Greek
The Top End, which includes Darwin, Katherine, Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land, has a tropical climate. Darwin has an average temperature of 32°C (90°F) all year, with varying humidity.
Darwin is climatically perfect to visit from May to October. There is no need to check the weather forecast as it is nearly always 31°C (89°F) and sunny during the day, with cooler nights. November and December the build up, or pre-monsoon season, begins and humidity levels start their rise. The summer rains bring the natural landscape to life and deliver the picturesque storms and sunsets the Northern Territory is renowned for. Some people enjoy this aspect of the wet, with the rivers and waterfalls in full glory, and the landscape greener.
The Government of the Northern Territory Department of Health and Families oversees one public hospital in the Darwin metropolitan region. The Royal Darwin Hospital, located in Tiwi, is the city’s major teaching and referral hospital, and the largest in the Northern Territory.
There is one major private hospital Darwin Private Hospital located at Tiwi, adjacent to the Royal Darwin Hospital.
In an Emergency dial 000 for ambulance, fire or police.
Dial 000 and request the service that you need
Remember to remain as calm as you can and give a clear description of your location
Speak clearly and give the details as requested
Royal Darwin Hospital is one of five public hospitals located within the Northern Territory. The hospital is on Rocklands Drive, Tiwi, on the northern side of Darwin. As you approach Casuarina, blue signs give directions to the hospital, but it is better to familiarise yourself with the Hospital’s location before you may need to find it. Darwin Private hospital is situated across the road. Extensive delays may occur for treatment of anything other than very serious illness or trauma injuries at the Accident and emergency section of Royal Darwin Hospital. Be prepared for a long wait, especially on weekends.
Drink plenty of water; at least 1 litre of water for every hour of walking in very warm weather. Ensure you have an adequate fitness level for the bushwalk you plan to undertake.
Avoid walking in the hottest part of the day or walking alone, register with the overnight bushwalking register if you plan an extended walk. Carry a map of the area you’re walking/camping in and know how to read it, tell someone your plan and when you expect to return. Carry a mobile telephone if in a potential coverage area but do not expect coverage anywhere other than very built up areas with good line of sight to a transponder tower. Under no circumstances should you rely on mobile telephony for essential communications unless within the city area. Ensure you are using a mobile telephone service that provides usable coverage in the Northern Territory. Not all of the service providers give even faintly adequate coverage throughout the Darwin area and much less so outside the immediate city and suburban area. Please see the Driving in Australia article for some useful tips that apply to travelling by road in the Northern Territory. Even locations very nearby to the city can present serious challenges and concerns unless properly skilled and prepared for the conditions. The effects of hot weather and exhaustion can set in quickly if you encounter difficulties. Even if you are successful in raising an alarm for assistance it may still be a long wait before it can arrive.
Malaria does not exist in or around Darwin and during the peak of the dry season (the preferred traveling season) Mosquitoes are still present though in areas where there is water. Bring a DEET based repellent, as this will also work on sandflys. Risks arising from Dengue fever should be considered.
The Box Jellyfish is a potentially deadly beach hazard between the months of October and May, but less so during the peak travel season. When swimming at local beaches, even in the ‘safe’ season of June to September, bring vinegar and pour it over the wound if stung. Transport to hospital is a must as the venom of the Box Jellyfish can be deadly – remember CPR.
Crocodiles are very common in waterways, but are only occasionally found on public beaches. The local newspaper loves a good crocodile story. If a crocodile is nearby to a public place it will be often in the local media.
Never camp near the water’s edge.
There are safe swimming areas in and around Darwin, but caution should always be practiced- if you are even the slightest bit unsure about an area do not swim. A 6 m crocodile can lie completely invisible for more than 2 hrs in less than 1 m (3 ft) of water, so unless an area has been deemed safe by the local wildlife management, you’d be best to leave it alone. A check with the NT Parks and Wildlife Service will reveal which parks are open, and which are open with swimming prohibited.
Snakes inhabit most areas of the Territory, so be cautious when walking through long grass
The two largest economic sectors are mining and tourism. Mining and energy industry production exceeds $2.5 billion per annum. The most important mineral resources are gold, zinc and bauxite, along with manganese and many others. The energy production is mostly off shore with oil and natural gas from the Timor Sea, although there are significant uranium deposits near Darwin. Tourism employs 8% of Darwin residents, and is expected to grow as domestic and international tourists are now spending time in Darwin during the Wet and Dry seasons. Federal spending is a major contributor to the local economy as well.
The military presence that is maintained both within Darwin, and the wider Northern Territory, is a substantial source of employment.
Darwin’s importance as a port is expected to grow, due to the increased exploitation of petroleum in the nearby Timor Sea, and to the completion of the railway link and continued expansion in trade with Asia. During 2005, a number of major construction projects started in Darwin. One is the redevelopment of the Wharf Precinct, which includes a large convention and exhibition centre, apartment housing including Outrigger Pandanas and Evolution on Gardiner, retail and entertainment outlets including a large wave pool and safe swimming lagoon. The Chinatown project has also started with plans to construct multi-level carparks and Chinese-themed retail and dining outlets.
Education is overseen territory-wide by the Department of Education and Training (DET), whose role is to continually improve education outcomes for all students, with a focus on Indigenous students.
Preschool, primary and secondary
Darwin is served by a number of public and private schools that cater to local and overseas students. Over 16,500 primary and secondary students are enrolled in schools in Darwin, with 10,524 students attending primary education, and 5,932 students attending secondary education. There are over 12,089 students enrolled in government schools and 2,124 students enrolled in independent schools.
There were 9,764 students attending schools in the City of Darwin area. 6,045 students attended primary schools and 3,719 students attended secondary schools. There are over 7,161 students enrolled in government schools and 1,108 students enrolled in independent schools. There are over 35 primary and pre – schools, and 12 secondary schools including both government and non-government. Most schools in the city are secular, but there are a small number of Christian, Catholic and Lutheran institutions. Students intending to complete their secondary education can work towards either the Northern Territory Certificate of Education or the International Baccalaureate (only offered at Kormilda College). Schools have been restructured into Primary, Middle and High schools since the beginning of 2007.
Tertiary and vocational
Darwin’s largest University is the Charles Darwin University, which is the central provider of tertiary education in the Northern Territory. It covers both vocational and academic courses, acting as both a university and an Institute of TAFE. There are over 5,500 students enrolled in tertiary and further education courses.
Driving is the best way to comprehensively see Darwin. Many of the sights are spread out, parking is easy and traffic is usually free flowing.
There is a public bus service, which is useful for accessing areas close to the city. The services are more frequent closer to the central area where the routes overlap, but you will need to plan according to the timetable to get anywhere else – some services only run a couple of times a day. The buses are air-conditioned and some of them have public WiFi. Tickets are $3 which entitle you to travel for 3 hours on any bus route. You can also get a daily pass for $7 or a weekly pass for $20.
Walking between attractions or from a bus stop to attractions, even in the inner city, can be very hot work for those not used to the Darwin climate. Dress to stay cool, and carry water.
Cycling is another popular method to travel around the CBD, thanks to the flat geography and small footprint of the city. Casual cyclists are a common sight (and occasional hazard) on the footpaths, as well as the roads. While helmet laws are in place, they are rarely enforced.
Tours are available, and tour coaches are available to some attractions.
Buslink, 113 Pruen Rd Berrimah, ☎ +61 8 8947 0577, . Buslink is the major private provider of public transport, operating half of the Darwin Bus Network. Buslink also runs charter buses.