25% OFF all NT Experiences! BOOK NOW!
Travel must commence by the 30th of April 2024. Discount applied automatically!
Available online at visitkatherine.com.au or contact the Top End Visitor Information Centre

Darwin & Surrounds WWII History

During World War Two (WWII), Darwin became the first mainland site in Australia to come under direct attack from the enemy when it was the target of more than 64 Japanese air raids, causing huge devastation and many civilian casualties. The Top End played a key strategic role in the defence of Northern Australia and much of its unique military heritage is well preserved. Gun emplacements, oil storage tunnels, bunkers, military airstrips and lookout posts are scattered in and around the city. Most are easily accessible and many are free of charge. Visitors are encouraged to explore this fascinating and often overlooked chapter in Australia’s history. 

A national day of observance, now officially named Bombing of Darwin Day, is commemorated annually with a City of Darwin community event at the Darwin Cenotaph on the 19th of February. Many additional commemorative services take place across the Top End on or around this day, attracting visitors and locals who wish to acknowledge the sacrifice of those who lost their lives, and the courage of all who served in the defence of the Top End.


Must do:

Take a journey back in time on a specialised WWII tour with Bombing of Darwin WWII Heritage Tour,  the Tour Tub, AAT Kings, Sea Darwin, Darwin Explorer, The Darwin History and Wartime Experience and Walk Darwin.

Visit Darwin Military Museum and Defence of Darwin Experience, Myilly Point Heritage Precinct and Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility for an immersive, interactive, multimedia experience.

Follow the WWII Oil Storage Tunnels deep under Darwin city.


Adelaide River War Cemetery
The only war cemetery in the Top End, this is the resting place for 434 service men and women and 63 civilians, all who died during the Japanese air raids. Situated on the north east banks of the Adelaide River approximately 120 kilometres south of Darwin, this special site is beautifully maintained amidst tranquil gardens.


Australian Aviation Heritage Museum
From the WWII Spitfire to the B52 Bomber, the museum boasts an impressive presentation of aircraft and graphic displays depicting the Northern Territory’s long-standing involvement in aviation history.  Entry fees apply.


Charles Darwin National Park
This area was part of the network of military sites established during the development of Darwin as Australia’s northern defence line during WWII. The site has been restored to include an interactive display outlining Darwin’s role in the Pacific War. Charles Darwin National Park is approximately seven kilometres from Darwin along Tiger Brennan Drive. Gates are open from 8am-7pm.


Darwin Military Museum and Defence of Darwin Experience
Featuring a unique display of WWII memorabilia and wartime stories, the museum boasts fantastic relics, an extensive photograph collection, displays of war instruments and even restored guns constructed for use during the conflict. This is also the site of the amazing new Defence of Darwin Experience which provides visitors with an immersive, interactive, multimedia experience of the story of Darwin’s role in WWII. The museum is located within East Point Reserve and entry fees apply.


East Point Military Reserve
Originally established as Darwin’s main defence point to protect precious oil stores at Stokes Hill Wharf, 9.2 inch gun emplacements, an anti-submarine boom net, ammunition magazines, lookout towers, communication rooms, searchlight emplacements and command posts still stand in East Point Reserve, just eight kilometres from Darwin CBD along East Point Road.


Myilly Point Heritage Precinct
A unique and related group of four pre- war houses built for executive level public servants in the late 1930’s. The precinct makes a strong contribution to the understanding of Darwin’s architectural and social history. Burnett House is the only surviving example of noted architect Beni Burnett’s Type K House. The houses have particular significance as being the only grouping of pre-war houses on an original, publicly accessible site. Together, both houses are open to the public for viewing and offer a snapshot of early Darwin high end tropical housing. Burnett House (open from 10am – 1pm Monday to Saturday) and Audit House are open from 9am – 2pm Monday – Friday.


Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility
Visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility - Two Iconic Territory Stories in One Iconic Location. Enjoy the heroic tales of the birth and growth of the RFDS and relive the drama of the Bombing of Darwin Harbour that rocked Australia in 1942.


Strauss Airstrip
The site, approximately 45 kilometres south of Darwin along the Stuart Highway, includes an information shelter and life-size cut-out plane images, and was an important landing strip used by American, British and Australian pilots involved in combat over Darwin and Fenton.


The Cenotaph/War Memorial
Overlooking Darwin Harbour in Bicentennial Park, the Cenotaph is Darwin’s memorial to those members of the armed services, rescue services, and civilian personnel who gave their lives in the service of their country in time of conflict. Flanking the Cenotaph, memorial plaques include dedications to the many who perished, as a consequence of the air raids on Darwin during WWII.


USS Peary Memorial/USAAF Memorial
Overlooking Darwin Harbour at Bicentennial Park on The Esplanade, the memorial is dedicated to the officers and crew of the USS Peary, which was attacked and sunk during the first Japanese air raid on Darwin. One of the guns later salvaged from the vessel now serves as a memorial to those lost in action. Also honoured here is Lieutenant Robert Buel, a United States Army Airforce pilot who lost his life on 16 February 1942 in an heroic attack on Japanese aircraft on a bombing raid over Darwin.


WWII Oil Storage Tunnels
The WWII tunnels were constructed in 1943 to protect Darwin’s oil supplies. Photographic displays pay tribute to the men and women who served in Darwin during WWII. Self-guided tours are conducted daily. Please note the tunnels are closed December 1-27 and New Years Day. Entry fees apply.

Choose to Book with the Top End's Local Experts

Need a hand choosing or booking your Top End Adventure?