Make your own free website on Tripod.com

How can I get there?

Road Rail Air Sea

By Road

Think very carefully if you decide to visit Darwin by road. It's a long way from anywhere. If you're from Europe you may not be able to appreciate the vast distances involved. We are talking big here, really big, mind boggling really. Between Darwin and the next biggest town in the territory which is Alice Springs, is over 900 miles of not very much. There are two towns in that nine hundred mile stretch - Katherine and Tennant Creek, and they are both small. A couple of one horse hamlets exist down "the Track" (that's what the road between Darwin and Alice is called). Fuel stops are strategically placed down the track, but it is possible to run out of petrol if you don't plan ahead, in fact, with a couple of hundred kilometres between fuel bowsers in some places, it's irresponsible not to plan ahead.

There is no other way to get into Darwin by sealed road without coming up the track. There is a road from Queensland which joins the track just above Tennant Creek (600 miles south), and there's a road from Western Australia, which joins the track in Katherine (180 miles south) - and that's it. The track itself is a very modern piece of bitumen and is normally in good condition, although a bad Wet Season can play havoc with the normally flat surface. This is the road where the now infamous Canonball Run was held (Darwin to Alice), a couple of years ago. The race ended in tragedy when an inexperienced Japanese dentist drove his Ferrari into a Checkpoint, at high speed, killing himself, his co-driver and two Marshal's in the process.

There are no speed limits on many territory roads, which, combined with the good roads, makes for some very fast journeys IF you've a car which can cope with high speeds. For its small population, quite a few people die on territory roads each year. Reasons for this include terrorists (sorry, tourists) who jump into a right hand drive vehicle for the first time and eventually end up driving on the wrong side of the road. Tiredness caused by a combination of long distance, heat, sheer boredom (there not a lot to see out there) and in many cases, alcohol. Watch out for wandering animals such as cattle or Kangaroos (hitting a Kangaroo at 90 mph can make a big mess out of your car - who wants to end up with the severed head of a 'roo sitting in your lap and believe me, half a ton of beef sitting on your bonnet at 90 mph is even worse). Also, watch out for wandering caravans - it's a pity that caravanners are not required to take an appropriate driving test.

Road Trains can also spoil your day if you're not careful. A Road Train is the premier method of moving goods between A and B in northern Australia. Road Trains are big, up to 53 meters in length that's around 170 feet (told you they were big). They can weigh in at over 100 tons and consist of a Prime mover and two or three semi-trailers, all in all you're looking at lots and lots of wheels - try 62 wheels in all for a triple-bottom Road Train. They are not that slow either, travelling at 90 km / hr. The biggest thing to remember about Road Trains is passing them. It can take a long time especially if your vehicle isn't very powerful. Make sure that you have plenty of space to pass and don't let your vehicle stray off the bitumen and onto the dirt shoulder which could see you roll over. Also, watch out for the wind created by a passing Road Train.

Rail

If you want to travel to Darwin by train you're going to have to wait a while. There used to be a line from a little place called Birdum, which is a couple of hundred miles south of Darwin, but that has been defunct for many, many years. At the moment work is underway to build a north - south railway linking Adelaide to Darwin. A lot of the earthworks and track laying has been completed but there's still about 18 months til completion (early 2004). At present the fight is about where the railway station will be located - either in Darwin itself or out at Palmerston about 20km away.

Air

Darwin is well serviced by air with several international carriers having regular routes into and out of the town. Darwin Airport is a modern facility with Air Bridges, bars, restaurants, in fact all the things you'd normally associate with a modern airport, and is 10km from the town centre. This is a far cry from the old airport which closed down in the early 90's. The old Darwin Airport was an old tin shed left over from WWII (complete with strafe holes from a visiting Japanese pilot). The old airport had no airconditioning which made things very warm in the Wet Season. Likewise the International Arrivals Hall often got so crowded that passengers would have to queue up outside on the tarmac while waiting to get through Customs and Immigration. Unwary travellers caught outside the terminal during a Wet Season downpour with nothing but an umbrella for protection can relate some interesting horror stories from this period .

As I've said, Darwin Airport is now a very modern facility - on par with anything I've come across elsewhere. By the way, if you are coming into Darwin on an international flight, it might be worth noting that there is a very good Duty Free Shop in the Immigration Hall on the way into the country where you can buy booze, smokes, perfume, etc. It's open with every inbound international flight and is as cheap, if not cheaper, than Singapore or K.L.

Darwin has daily flights to and from all interstate capitals, however, air travel within Australia is expensive so if possible book your internal flights from outside the country.

Here are some links which may help you.

Qantas Ansett
Flight Centre Singapore Airlines
Malaysia Airlines Garuda

Also, both Merparti Airlines and Royal Brunei have regular flights into and out of Darwin

Sea

There are no regular services linking Darwin with interstate or international destinations. There is talk at the moment of a ferry service being established from Darwin to Kupang in Timor but as yet it's not established and I don't know when it will be (latest word is that the whole thing has fallen into a heap).