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Darwin: The Ultimate Pilgrimage Destination for Military Tourism in Australia

February 20, 2018 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

Today marks 76 years since the Japanese bombed the Top End of Australia in World War II. 

Over a one day-period, a greater number of bombs were dropped over Darwin than were used in the attack on Pearl Harbor just weeks earlier. Yet surprisingly, some three-quarters of a century after the first bomb dropped, the Bombing of Darwin remains one of Australia’s most significant, yet little known military events.

As Australia observes a National Day of Observance today – with dual services for American and Australian soldiers in the Top End, and a depiction of the fighting at the Darwin Cenotaph – World War II and Bombing of Darwin veteran Basil Stahl has returned to the Northern Territory for the twenty-sixth year-in-a-row to commemorate his fallen mates.

Stahl is one of a handful of veterans left that were stationed in Darwin when the bombs fell. “I joined the Army Survey Corps in ’41 and I went to Darwin on 29 of December and then six weeks later they bombed us,” Stahl said, “They raided us twice in that one morning about quarter-to-ten and then about quarter-to-twelve. They did all their damage in those two raids.”

“We were sitting on the sand bags just having morning tea, just before ten o’clock, when they flew over the first time. They flew that low that you could see the cockpit was open and they were only a very short distance above. They just flew up in a big convoy and they did nothing. Then, they turned around and they came back and that’s when they started to bomb everything.”

Despite the Federal Government declaring a National Day of Observance, many Australians are still unaware of the events’ historical significance and how it shaped Australia’s involvement in WWII. To combat this, Tourism NT commissioned research that showed military experiences enhance visitor experiences, and is joining forces with tourism businesses to promote military tourism experiences in the Top End. Likewise, the Northern Territory Government has just announced a $1.9 million boost to make Darwin and the NT the pilgrimage destination for Australian military history.

“Darwin played a significant role in Australia’s defensive and offensive activities during World War II – the Bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942 was the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia, with the City under attack up to November 1943,” said Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss.

“We want military history visitors to see Darwin and the NT as the ultimate pilgrimage destination in Australia,” she said. Visitors to the NT will find many sites of military heritage throughout the Territory including the Anzac Hill Memorial and Spencer Hill war time sites in Alice Springs, the Katherine Museum, a former WWII regional air terminal that holds an eclectic collection of artefacts, photographs and memorabilia, and the Adelaide River War Cemetery.

Travellers journeying south from Darwin along the Stuart Highway will discover many fascinating reminders of the time when the war came to Australia with several airfields dotted along the highway.

Tope Ten Military Experiences in Darwin and surrounds

Darwin Military Museum & Defence of Darwin Experience

Located at East Point Reserve, the Darwin Military Museum allows you to witness live footage and a captivating collection of artefacts including uniforms, weapons, artillery pieces and real life interviews with WWII veterans. To top it off, the museum houses a café which is steeped in lush tropical gardens – the perfect way to cap off a day of exploring!

Australia’s Frontline – Bombing of Darwin tour

Hit the water in Sea Darwin’s Bombing of Darwin cruise. The one hour journey gives a different view of historic sites such as Stokes Hill and Fort Hill Wharves, the Pearling Luggers and wreck sites of SS Neptuna and USS Peary. If you’re keen for more, the cruise can also be booked as part of a half-day tour on dry land, too.

Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility

History meets technology in this immersive attraction. Experience the Bombing of Darwin Harbour through cutting edge virtual reality, see amazing stories told through holographic presentations, and have your questions answered by historical figures via interactive displays

Bombing of Darwin WWII Heritage Tours

Find out what really happened when Darwin was devastated during WWII.  This four hour morning tour visits many relics and reminders of this time, as you hear tales that bring the past to life again.

Darwin History and Wartime Experience tour 

See historic sites from the back of a WWII army truck as you explore Darwin’s fascinating history.  The interpretive guiding will introduce you to some of the colourful characters of the past who created modern day Darwin.

Battle of Australia Tour 

Want to visit all the iconic sites, but don’t have time to spare? Darwin Tours’ Battle of Australia Tour is just the ticket. This one-day guided tour will take you to 15 of Darwin’s WWII sites, including the RAAF Ammunition Storage Facility, sites on Darwin Harbour, and the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre. Tour includes morning tea, lunch, and hotel transfers.

WWII Oil Storage Tunnels 

Located in the Darwin Wharf Precinct, beneath the cliffs of Darwin city, lie the oil storage tunnels built during WWII.  The tunnels feature a photographic display of Darwin during WWII and new interpretative boards.

Batchelor Museum

Spend an hour or two at this fascinating museum that tells how Batchelor became a strategic base for the Pacific region during WWII.  Housed in the old Single Women’s Quarters, the museum also tells the stories of the local Aboriginal heritage, mining and pastoral histories.

Walk Darwin Tours

Explore the city of Darwin with a local guide on a 2-hour walking tour to hear the history and see the present day sights.  There are many hidden treasures to see and local insights to hear as you walk through the historic quarter of the city.

Darwin Aviation Museum

Boasting dozens of aircrafts, engines and plane crash remnants, this unique museum covers the fateful bombings of Darwin in 1942 and many other air battles of WII, including remains of a Japanese Zero fighter. Also on display is one of the last B25 Bombers in the world and other fascinating relics.

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