Top End military trail sheds light on Australia's war history

Head to Darwin and the Top End to honour Australia's military history

Domestic travel
Aa

From bunkers to secret tunnels, the Top End's military history is preserved with historical sites capturing Darwin's military past.

Aa

A Top End military trail is shedding light on Australia's important war history.

With international travel and places like Gallipoli and The Western Front currently off the cards, Australians can take the pilgrimage to Darwin to commemorate and honour Australia's military history.

To this day, the bombing of Darwin on February 19, 1942 remains the largest single attack on Australia ever mounted by a foreign power.

During World War II, Darwin was bombed in more than 50 air raids, resulting in more than 230 lives lost.

Today, the Top End's military history is preserved with numerous historical sites, from museums to oil storage tunnels, airfields and ammunition bunkers, that all capture and commemorate Darwin's military past.

Here's Tourism NT's guide to some of Top End's military attractions.

Darwin

  • Darwin Military Museum, overlooking Beagle Gulf, is one of the best stops to understanding Darwin's role in World War II, housing World War II fortifications, military vehicles and larger artillery pieces.
  • Nearby is Defence of Darwin Experience, which offers visitors a powerful World War II audio-visual journey, with anecdotes from real survivors and films containing actual footage from the attack
  • At the Darwin History and Wartime Experience, take a journey back through time in a genuine World War II army truck to relive Darwin's exciting and historic past. Tours run up to four times daily seven days a week during the dry season, May through to October.
  • At Stokes Hill Wharf, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility uses virtual reality and holographic technology to transport you to the bombing scene of 1942, complete with films, story-telling 'ghosts' and simulated, cockpit experiences.
  • Head to Darwin Aviation Museum and witness an impressive collection of Territory's aviation history, including massive B52 bomber - one of the few surviving in the world - and wreckage of a Japanese Zero brought down during the 1942 air raids.
  • The concrete and steel-lined World War II Oil Storage Tunnels, located at Darwin Wharf Precinct, were part of an overall defence strategy and remained a secret to the public until 1992. Now, the tunnels are lined with photographs and relics, and make for a meaningful walk through history.
  • If you're looking to hear more military insights and stories from local historians, enlist in a four-hour Bombing of Darwin WWII Heritage tour or Australia's Frontline: WWII Bombing of Darwin tour

Stuart Highway (formerly North-South Road)

  • A small detour at East Arm, 36km from Darwin, lies Quarantine Anti-Aircraft Battery Site, a former command post during World War II and is now the most complete anti-aircraft-gun-site in the area.
  • Drive for an hour to the town of Batchelor, which was once an important RAAF base for the Pacific region. Learn more about military history at the Batchelor Museum, the departure point for the first bombing missions against the Japanese on Australian soil.
  • Book a tour and see real-life artefacts at the former 4 Repair and Service Unit at Pell Airstrip.
  • Enroute to Litchfield National Park, stop by Adelaide River War Cemetery and Civil Cemetery to pay your respect to the 434 military members and 63 civilians that were killed during the bombing of Darwin.

Charles Darwin National Park

  • Part of a network of military sites that formed Australia's front line of defence, today you can see historic ammunition storage bunkers and testing areas that were built in 1944 and used until the mid-1980s.
World War II Oil Storage Tunnels, located at Darwin Wharf Precinct, were part of an overall defence strategy and remained a secret to the public until 1992.

World War II Oil Storage Tunnels, located at Darwin Wharf Precinct, were part of an overall defence strategy and remained a secret to the public until 1992.

Katherine

  • Drive two hours south to Katherine, the southern-most point of Japanese bombing raids in the Territory and home to two Australian Army hospitals during World War II.
  • For a solid history session, head to Katherine Museum, housed in a former air terminal and contains detailed wartime displays as well as pioneer memorabilia.
  • View crater remains at Knott's Crossing Katherine, which was directly bombed in 1942.
  • Whilst Mataranka is best known for its hot springs, it was also a World War II base for more than 100 military units including the Aboriginal Army Camp, established in late 1943.
  • On the return trip to Darwin, you'll spot aircraft along the north-bound side of Stuart Highway. The Straus Airstrip, a former base for fighter squadrons in World War II, is one last surviving and most intact pursuit fighter installations in northern Australia.

Tourism NT's Never Before NT Summer Sale is also currently running till March 31, 2021, and offering travellers discounts of up to $1000 off already reduced prices for NT summer holiday packages, valid to heritage tours, experiences and accommodations.

For more details, visit northernterritory.com

Aa