Along the northwest coast of the Northern Territory lies Darwin, a city which is isolated by the vast Australian desert. A significant event in Darwin's history was in 1974 when Cyclone Tracy swept across the coast destroying more than half of the buildings and killing nearly 70 people. Today Darwin is the capital and largest city of the Northern Territory, offering many sights from its colonial past and excellent shopping and dining opportunities.
Cyclone-proofing does not make for beautiful architecture, but Darwin today is an attractive blend of the few surviving colonial buildings and reconstructions. Interesting sites are Government House (1883), Fannie Bay Gaol (a museum), Old Admiralty House, the Victoria Hotel, the Chinese Temple, and the Civic Centre with its "Tree of Knowledge" banyan tree. The Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences, on the shores of Fannie Bay, is a modern installation with good exhibitions of Aboriginal art as well as Asian and Pacific exhibits.The Botanical Gardens have been fully restored and display the great variety and exoticism of tropical flora. The city is also closely identified with, and serves as the gateway to the Kakadu National Park which lies about 200 km (125 miles) to the east. To the south lies Katherine Gorge, Edith Falls and Litchfield National Park.
During colonial times, the area was sought by the French, Dutch and British, and was finally established as the town of Darwin in 1869. In 1942, the city was under the threat of an attack by the Japanese, so a major Australian military base was established here. During the Second World War the Japanese did in fact bomb the city on several occasions, killing 243 people.
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