Darwin, Northern Territory
Situated on the edge of the Timor Sea, Darwin is closer than any other Australian capital to the rest of the world. That could be why it has such a cosmopolitan range of inhabitants, with as many as 60 different ethnic groups represented. Darwin is practically brand new. Since 1974, when it was levelled by Cyclone Tracy, it has been remodelled as the ideal tropical capital, with wide tree-lined streets, inviting public buildings and hectares of landscaped parklands.
It cultivates a relaxed outdoor lifestyle with a youthful population of around 80,000 people and Territorians are renowned for their hospitality and friendliness. Darwin is situated on one of Australia's prettiest harbours so take time to enjoy a sunset harbour cruise. Choosing your style of fun is easy when there are so many options at your fingertips. There are museums, art galleries, theatres, a casino, restaurants, nightclubs, open-air markets and modern air-conditioned shopping plazas just to name a few.
In 1839, Lieutenant John Lort Stokes of HMS Beagle named what is now known as Darwin Harbour Port Darwin, after the naturalist Charles Darwin who had sailed on the Beagle to South America. It wasn't until1869 that the settlement first known as Palmerston was established and its permanence assured with the submarine telegraph cable connecting Australia with Britain in 1870. The settlement's fortunes rose with the discovery of gold further south and the growth of the cattle industry.
In February 1942, Darwin became a target for WWII bombs. It endured 64 Japanese air raids with 243 deaths, including many civilians. You will see reminders of the war years in several locations around Darwin as well as WWII airstrips alongside the Stuart Highway as you travel south - keep an eye out for the signage as it tells a story of this fascinating period.
Darwin's attractions are all reasonably close together, so you can see a surprising amount in one day. Every month Darwin seems to have at least one concert, parade, fair, rodeo, music festival or other major entertainment. Some of them include the Festival of Darwin, Sunset Jazz on the lawns of the Casino, the Darwin Cup Carnival, the Greek Glenti and many more. One of the Top End highlights is the annual Tiwi Football Final held on Bathurst Island in March - this is Australian Rules at its most original!