Charles Darwin visited Sydney in the 1830s, but he never saw the city named for him because there was no Darwin until 1869. Historically, the town that almost disappeared twice due to war and cyclone is not all that old. Original buildings that have survived, therefore, are kind of heroic.
There are only about half a dozen of them, and they’re all on the 18 stop Darwin City Heritage Walk. 16 of the 18 are clustered is a relatively small area between Knuckey Street and The Esplanade. My advice would be to take the walk in the morning since this city’s average maximum annual temperature is just under 90° Fahrenheit. Avoid Sunday too if getting into every place is a priority. There’s a really good Heritage Walk map to follow in the official visitor guide Destination Darwin available at the Visitor Centre on Bennett Street. I tried but could not find it on tourismtopend.com.au. I highly recommended this walk.
Ruth and I left the NOT recommended Value Inn on Mitchell Street to take it and started at the Old Admiralty House, an elegant white-shuttered colonial cypress pine building surrounded by trees and tropical plants that seemed like shady guards. One of the few buildings in Darwin to survive Cyclone Tracy, OAH is now Char Restaurant, which promises the best steak in the Northern Territory. Being Sunday morning, it was closed.
So was #10, Lyons Cottage, actual Tracy survivor and the best example of the style of architecture common to old Darwin, India, Malaysia, etc. but not seen elsewhere in Australia. The cottage itself was home to the managers of the telegraph company that linked Australia to Great Britain.
I had 5 favorite stops, all opened and busy. The Cenotaph/War Memorial is in Bicentennial Park, which is favored by runners and tropical birds and overlooks Port Darwin, a calm aqua bay. Vets of both World Wars are honored, and one plaque says that this Park was the site of the first unfurling of the Northern Territory flag when the NT achieved self-government in 1978.
Since it was Sunday, there was a service underway and fine singing emerging from Christ Church Cathedral. The original church dating from 1902 was heavily damaged by Tracy, but the surviving parts were cleverly incorporated into the Cathedral’s 1975 design.
The Chinese Temple was completely destroyed by Tracy. A Buddhist-Tao-Confucian Temple has attracted Darwin’s Chinese community to Woods Street since 1887. While the rebuilt temple is opened daily year-round, an on-site museum closes during The Wet from October to February. We were personally welcomed by a smiling Chinese man who was so friendly that I wondered if his objective was to secure a donation or make sure I didn’t take photos of worshippers.
The Victoria Hotel has been absorbed into the Smith Street Mall, but it’s still a fine stop on the Heritage Walk, as is The Mall. Many famous Australians, especially early aviators, have stayed here. There are memorial pictures, mostly of men like Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, World War I buddies who went on to found Qantas, said to be the world’s oldest continuously operating airline.
Civic Square, basically another park, contains an ancient banyan, considered to be the Tree of Knowledge by Buddhists, a brass replica of the HMS Beagle’s bell, and some fine local bird sculptures on pedestals. Charles Darwin was on the Beagle’s 2nd voyage from 1831 to 1836. It circumnavigated the globe, sailing south of Australia. As soon as The Beagle left Plymouth, England, Darwin became seasick and had 2nd thoughts. That must have been 5 loooonnnnggg years for him.