History & heritage in Darwin
Aboriginal Dreamtime, tales of pioneering spirit and immigration, and WWII survival stories are just part of the region’s captivating history.
Immerse yourself in the compelling history of the Top End, where everyone has a story: Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, tales of pioneering spirit and immigration, survival stories of WWII and Cyclone Tracy. From any angle, the region’s history is captivating.
Complex and fascinating in equal measure, the Aboriginal history of Darwin and the Tiwi Islands dates back tens of thousands of years. Get an overview at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory or delve deeper with a living history lesson and guided tour from the land’s traditional owners.
Pioneering spirit and pre-war architecture
Darwin’s pioneering and pre-war history endures in the city’s surviving buildings: visit the early pioneers’ stone buildings – Browns Mart, Government House and the Fannie Bay Gaol – before moving on to pre-war Troppo architecture and high tea at Burnett House.
Surviving on the frontline
Darwin and the Tiwi Islands felt the full force of World War II, and in 1942 much of Darwin was destroyed. The region’s wartime heritage, and the lives lost, is remembered at heritage sites around Darwin, including bunkers, oil storage tunnels, cemeteries and museums.
Having been rebuilt after the war, Darwin was devastated again in 1974 when Cyclone Tracy struck, killing 71 people and wiping out most of the city’s buildings. The memory of Tracy is still strong in the city, and there’s a breathtaking display of the cyclone’s impact at the Museum and Gallery of the Northern Territory.
Immigration and industry
A transport hub from the early days of European settlement, Darwin has a proud aviation history, and has long been a major Australian gateway to the world. In the 1870s the Overland Telegraph Line and the gold rush in Pine Creek drew workers from all over the world, introducing a multiculturalism that continues to enrich the region today.