Darwin Waterfront Precinct Walk
Stokes Hill Wharf
3.6Km (One Way)
Directions - I started this walk at the Stokes Hill Wharf that can be reached from the centre of Darwin by heading south on McMinn St and taking a left at the second roundabout onto Stokes Hill Rd. Follow this to the end and there is a large car park on the wharf.
The Walk - With the matriarch of Caris' family turning the big nine-zero in July it was decided that a family trip was needed. The requirements for the trip were it had to be warm and a relatively short flight from Perth so in the end Darwin was chosen as the location and plans were put in place. I had only been to Darwin once before but apparently I was only three so I cannot remember anything from that trip. Having loved my previous visits to Karijini and Broome in previous Perth winters, I was looking forward to escaping the cooler weather and exploring the Top End during the cooler but still quite warm dry season. As with any trip I was immediately on the lookout for walks I could do, to not only explore the city but provide a cool experience that I could photograph and write about.
Unfortunately there wasn't a whole load of information available about walks within the Darwin area online and the visitor centre in the centre of the city were only interested in selling you a tour (didn't even have the basic Litchfield National Park brochures). With that in mind and after a couple of days walking around Darwin (which by the way is a really cool city with a lot going for it), I decided to check out the sunrise from Stokes Hill Wharf and then do a highlights of Darwin tour along the waterfront area. Waking up before sunrise, I headed off from the hotel for the short walk down to the wharf. Loving the fact I could wear shorts and t-shirt at sunrise in July, I was rushing a little to catch the sunrise over the harbour. Passing over the Sky Bridge leading from the city down to the waterfront area (I would take a different way up the hill on the proper route), I could see the beautiful morning colours starting to appear. Far from being empty at first light, there were plenty of people jogging, walking and having breakfast. As I passed the Convention Centre and made my way to Stokes Hill Wharf I could see the sun gently rising over the water. Near the Indo Pacific Marine building I stopped to get a few photos of the sun peaking on the horizon.
Casting a bright orange glow everywhere, my timing was just right and I spent a while here photographing and admiring the brilliant colours. With plenty of boats in the harbour I had fun trying to get them in front of the sunrise glow with limited success. I still hadn't reached my planned start point at the end of the Stokes Hill car park but with such a cool sunrise I wasn't rushing anything. Having visited this area the previous day for a historic boat tour of the harbour and coastline around Darwin, I was looking forward to exploring the sights we'd been told about on foot. I reached the start point I had set (the first lot of buildings at Stokes Hill Wharf) and stood there for a while soaking it all in. The tug boats were looking cool in the morning light with their shiny exhaust pipes glowing orange from the early sun and off to the south the colours were a more muted purple and blue. Coming from Perth you really appreciate when it's not windy, especially near open water, so it was really peaceful and serene to just look out over the still waters of the harbour in the humid morning air.
One cannot visit Darwin and not be fascinated by the WWII history and looking out over the water I remembered a bit from the boat tour the previous day about the Japanese planes surprising the city and coming in from the south. The city's defences were concentrated in the northern sections (pointing at the open sea and South East Asia) so when the Japanese headed inland first and then followed the main highway all the way into the city, they had a clear bombing run over the harbour. Imagining squadrons of Japanese bombers flying over the water and unleashing hell was a powerful thought as I stood on the edge of the water. With the orange glow of sunrise now over, I started the walk and headed back down the wharf towards the Darwin Convention Centre. The waterfront precinct here is a bit of a maze of paths but I picked a route that took me along the water and past the convention centre, wave pool and along the edge of the artificial beach. With crocodiles lurking in the waters surrounding Darwin, an area for public swimming has been created so you can have a cooling swim without worrying about being taken by a big croc. There is a cool inflatable playground in the middle and it looked like a really fun way of escaping the heat (even in the cooler dry season). There were plenty of people now out and about enjoying the cooler temperatures of the morning as I headed back towards the Sky Bridge.
I thought about taking the elevator up and walking across the city icon but decided to admire the bridge from below and walk along Kitchener Drive to see if the WWII Oil Storage Tunnels were open for a visit. They weren't open for another 90 minutes but looked like an interesting thing to do if you're visiting. Right next to the tunnels are stairs leading up the hill towards the connecting road I was using to reach the Esplanade area. This area is very green with plenty of flowering plants hanging off the side of the hill. Crossing Hughes Avenue and making my way up another set of stairs, I was on the esplanade and presented with the impressive Supreme Court and Parliament buildings. Manicured lawns and palm trees are the order here and it does create a nice open space from which to admire the lovely white buildings. A nice old tree towers over the space between them and the picturesque view of the Parliament building opened up more as I moved along the path. I really loved seeing this building as it has a presence to it along with being beautifully designed. With the palm trees surrounding it, the fantastic overarching roof line and the bright white façade, it gave off strong South Pacific vibes that had me thinking of being in Hawaii.