Darwin was founded as Australia’s most northerly port in 1869 and its population surged after gold was discovered at nearby Pine Creek in 1871.
The Macassan of eastern Indonesia who sailed down from the Spice Islands on the trade winds to gather prized trepang are thought to have been the first non-Indigenous people to set foot on Northern Territory soil. Dutch explorer William Jootszoon van Colster recorded the first official sighting from his tallship Arnhem in 1623, but the Macassans and other seafarers are thought to have visited long before then.
The 1880s gold discoveries lured an influx of Chinese fortune-seekers and Malay, Filipino and Japanese divers were brought to the Northern Territory to collect mother-of-pearl shell. Greek people also came in large numbers and, together with their fellow European and Asian immigrants, helped create the multicultural city that Darwin is today.
Explorer John McDouall Stuart became the first explorer to cross Australia from south to north, paving the way for construction of the overland telegraph line. When completed in 1872, it provided Australia’s first communications link with the outside world. Today, The Telegraph Station near Alice Springs is heritage listed and visitors can explore this location.
The telegraph line opened the way for pastoralists to take up leases in Central Australia - but it was the discovery of alluvial gold at Arltunga to the east of Alice Springs in 1887 that provided the impetus for the region’s population boom.
Tennant Creek took its name from the nearby watercourse named in 1860 by John McDouall Stuart acknowledging the financial assistance he received from South Australian pastoralist John Tennant.
Katherine was developed with the establishment of the Overland Telegraph Line. In 1879, after good reports from Stuart and other explorers, Alfred Giles and Alfred Woods brought stock to the district and built ‘Springvale’ homestead with a view to establishing a pastoral empire.
World War II put Darwin on the map as a major allied military base for troops fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. More than 200 Defence personnel and civilians perished when the Japanese bombed Darwin on 19 February 1942. Today travellers can see evidence of Darwin’s World War II history at a variety of preserved sites including ammunition bunkers, airstrips, oil tunnels and museums in and around the city.
Darwin was devastated again on 24 December 1974 when Cyclone Tracy swept across the coast. The city was rebuilt with much improved construction codes and is a modern, landscaped metropolis today.
For more information go to the Tourism Top End website and the Darwin Military Museum website.