East Point Science Trail
Directions - From the centre of Darwin take Smith St west until you reach Gilruth Avenue. Take a right here and follow this north as it becomes East Point Rd. At the roundabout turn left to stay on East Point Rd and the car park for the playground is on your right before the monsoon forest begins.
The Walk - After getting a number of trails under my belt during the week in Darwin including a trip out to Litchfield National Park to sample a few of the lovely walks there, I had one last walk on my list. On the day we were scheduled to leave I made plans to visit one of the more intriguing walks I came across in my research of Darwin walks (which is very limited I had to make one up myself). With the website at the time providing less of a trail map and more a link to a Google Maps overlay, it was going to be fun trying to follow the exact route but it seemed like a simple loop. Rather than a follow the trail marker style of trail, it is designed to showcase different aspects of East Point.
After a week driving and walking around Darwin I was pretty familiar with the area so headed out to the start point early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day (even though this time of year was about as cool as Darwin gets). Parking up near the playground I located the trail head (the mangrove boardwalk sign) easily and was keen to get out and explore a vegetation type that I'd only had a brief dalliance with at Charles Darwin National Park. Hoping for less biting insects than my time there, a pathway leads you into the bush before you get to the proper boardwalk section. The cool morning air of the tropics was a nice feeling and after reaching the boardwalk I had a good look at the Crocodile Danger sign. While there are crocodiles in the area (hence the boardwalk), my observations and research during my time here suggested that it wasn't as big of a threat as it's made out to be. I'd be really happy to see one in the mangrove section so kept as eye out as I made my way to the viewing platform at the end. The mangroves are a really cool place to be with a unique growth structure and plenty to photograph. After spending a bit of time at the viewing platform, I was unable to summon a tropical dinosaur to come out and play so headed back along the boardwalk to begin the next section of the walk, spotting a few shiny birds along the way. The next section of the walk is kind of a necessary evil as you walk along a dual use path towards the more historic elements of East Point.
Re-vegetation work is on-going here to repair the area after Cyclone Tracy and you can see the difference where they have planted. Unfortunately along this stretch there is a lot of grass on either side of the path so it can become a case of just getting from A to B as quickly as possible. One distraction is the model airplane field to the left that is full of kangaroos (the only wildlife besides birds I saw all walk). I always find it weird that you are more likely to see native animals in unnatural environments like paddocks in Australia than you are in their natural habitat. I guess they love the easy life too. Further on you reach the interesting historical features from WWII. Old military buildings dot the landscape with information boards to explain their purpose. Unfortunately a lot of the defence infrastructure was next to useless on the first strike of Darwin in WWII as the thinking that the Japanese would attack from the north ended up being wrong. Instead they came from inland and followed the main highway up, attacking the exposed south side of the city first. It is here that you start walking along the edge of the water and it's a very pretty part of the walk. There is a fair amount of erosion on the rocky cliffs here that they are trying to do something about but for now there are large sections that are fenced off for people's safety. The stillness of the water was very calming and I could see a few of the giant tankers that seem to lurk offshore around these parts.
Skirting the edge of the grassy area and the water, it was nice to come across a shaded part as the trail turns south and winds its way past the equestrian club. A group of people fishing out on the flats caught my attention and added to my thinking that crocs weren't waiting in every shallow bit of water waiting to eat you. Coming across a sign for the Atlas Moth rehabilitation area, it's nice to see something being done to restore the area after a lot of land clearing resulted in significant habitat loss. The species has been reintroduced and hopefully over time will thrive in the area. Before reaching the picnic and playground area at Dudley Point Lookout I found an old watch tower that you can climb. Similar to the access ladder to the Castle Rock Granite Skywalk, the steel ladder up provides an option for some better views over the landscape (I did not partake as I was on a time limit). Rounding the point, I noticed the area was very popular with families and visitors enjoying the facilities plus the area has some nice views looking back towards the Darwin skyline. A few nights earlier we celebrated my partner's grandmothers 90th birthday at one of the best rated restaurants in Darwin, Peewee's, that is located right on the water here. It is highly recommended and a fantastic place to watch the sunset and enjoy some fine dining.
Walking past Peewee's you can see the information signs for the monsoon forest and this marks the last section of the walk. It's nice that the start and finish are in more natural settings and the rehabilitated forest is a world away from the grass and concrete that dominates the East Point landscape. Once you step through the vegetated gates off the road it is a lovely place to be. The disjointed landscaping of the parkland is replaced with something very natural and although it seems a bit same same as you weave through the forest, I prefer this to the pavement bashing that the trail goes through earlier on (that area should be looked at for further rehabilitation). I did spot a wallaby through here although it was lightning quick and was gone before I even had a chance to think about taking a photo. Another local resident here is the Orange-footed Scrubfowl, more commonly known as the Bush Chooks (the same nickname Western Australian's use for emus). Their presence is apparent because of the large mounds they build as nests and some I spotted were impressive feats of architecture for such a small bird (they are roughly the same size as a common duck). The monsoon forest section ends near the airfield and you must take the same dual use path you walked after the mangroves back to the car. With the temperature warming up I was happy to be finished and power walked back to the car, ready to go meet the family for a well earned coffee and breakfast.