The Ghan Expedition – Darwin to Adelaide

Darwin (1)

Brisbane was experiencing some cooler weather as we departed for Darwin for the start of our train journey on the Ghan a couple of weeks ago.  Following a 3 hour flight, we arrived to much warmer weather and immediately regretted that we hadn’t thought to pack our swimmers.  The pool at our hotel looked very inviting.

We were booked in for two nights, so we stopped by the information centre to find something interesting to do the following day.

Darwin (3)

We decided on the Hop On-Hop Off Bus, and it proved to be great value for money.  We rode the bus all day, as it did a different route in the afternoon, and we came away with a lot more knowledge than when we arrived.

We learned a lot about pre-war Darwin, wartime Darwin and Cyclone Tracy.  We were very surprised to find out that when the Japanese bombed Darwin in 1942, a greater number of bombs was dropped that day than were used in the attack on Pearl Harbour.  For generations the country was kept in the dark about the true dimensions of the Japanese attack and I think a lot of people probably still don’t know.  We didn’t.

On the other hand, most Australians are very familiar with Cyclone Tracy, a tropical cyclone that hit Darwin in the early hours of Christmas Eve, 1974, the worst one ever recorded which virtually destroyed Darwin.


Darwin (5)

A hand painted sign on an original house wall.  Looters were a problem when approximately 35,000 of the 48,000 residents were temporarily evacuated.


We visited several museums that covered a lot of this history;  you can stand in a darkened room, where you can experience the sounds that would have been heard when Cyclone Tracy hit.  Quite eerie.

The Military Museum had holograms telling the story of a commanding officer of a US destroyer, who watched the bombing from the water after he was blown out of a small boat while trying to return to his ship.

This museum also included The Royal Flying Doctor Service, with an interesting film on its origins in 1939, as well as being able to discover what it’s like to be inside one of its aircraft.


RDFS Darwin

The RDFS provides medical services to people in remote and rural areas of Australia



What I liked best was the virtual reality headsets taking you into the battlefront of the bombing of Darwin.  I had to do it twice, it was incredible – 360 degree views on board a ship with the bombs coming down from Japanese planes flying overhead;  then being on the wing of a fighter plane as the pilot ducked and weaved and finally being hit and falling out of the sky with the pilot down into the fiery sea.  Not for the faint-hearted!

Darwin (2)



Darwin (4)

Sweetheart was a 5.1 metre, 780kg saltwater crocodile responsible for attacking dinghies and fishing boats between 1974 and 1979 in a NT river.  He now resides at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.



Darwin 2 (1)

A huge termite nest.  We saw a lot of these from the train – not as big as this one, though!


Darwin 2 (2)

Australia has many beautiful native birds.  Here is a red-winged parrot.



4 thoughts on “The Ghan Expedition – Darwin to Adelaide

  1. Thanks for your comment, Catherine! Unfortuntely, Australians only seem to be dimly aware of the bombing of not only Darwin, but the Top End as well. Going to those museums has encouraged me to learn more. I hope your parents get to do the Ghan. I will be posting more about our trip very soon. 😄


  2. How interesting! I have to admit, that despite spending my entire education in Australia, these details about the war is something I never learnt. I’m going to share this post with my parents too, as they would love to do the Ghan trip one day!


Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s