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History and WWII

Larrimah means ‘meeting place’ in the local Aboriginal language. It is a small town 185 kilometres south of Katherine along the Stuart Highway. It came into being in 1940 with the construction of the nearby Gorrie Airfield, which was a major airfield servicing the war effort. It later became the site of the rail head and shunting yards after the demise of the township of Birdum, and remained a busy rail and road terminus until the railway closed in 1976. You can see the remains of the old railway shunting yards near the Larrimah Hotel and remnants of wartime camp relics are dotted throughout town. There are some interpretive signs at the sites of the former BIPOD (Bulk Issue Petrol and Oil Depot) and the No.45 Australian Camp Hospital, 7 kilometres south of Larrimah.

Larrimah Pub
The Larrimah Pub was originally the WWII Officer’s Mess. It has some interesting memorabilia, as extensions were added using materials from the dismantled Birdum Hotel. It offers an ideal stop for history buffs – look out for the Pink Panther and the 15-foot stubby.

Larrimah Museum
The museum is in the old telegraph building and displays information about WWII activities in the area, the Overland Telegraph Line and the operation of the railway.

Old Police Station
At the old Larrimah police station, you can step inside the cells and imagine what it may have been like to spend a night in the ‘lock up’. There is also an interesting display of memorabilia to browse through.

Gorrie Airfield
The turn off to Gorrie Airfield is 10 kilometres north of Larrimah. It was a highly secretive RAAF base visited by General McArthur and built to provide maintenance and repair facilities to the allied air forces during WWII. The entire complex once had 6,500 personnel. Explore the remains of the airstrips, but keep to the marked trails as it covers an extensive area and it is easy to become lost.

Daly Waters
Daly Waters, 265 kilometres south of Katherine, has the distinction of being Australia’s first international airfield. For almost 30 years, from the 1930s to the late 1950s, it was the focus of activity in the area. Initially, it was used for flying mail into the Northern Territory from Queensland. It then became a staging and refuelling point for Qantas international flights flying through Darwin and onto Singapore and other domestic flight services. By the beginning of WWII, military air traffic had replaced civilian air traffic. Although the aerodrome was closed to commercial traffic in 1965, the original Qantas hangar still stands, housing interesting facts, photos and equipment. You can explore the terminal ruins and walk along the airstrip.

The Daly Waters Aviation Complex
The Daly Waters Aviation Complex, located three kilometres off the Stuart Highway, is the oldest aviation structure in the Northern Territory. Built in 1930, the hangar and airstrip played an important role during WWII. In post war years the complex continued in use as a civil aerodrome, becoming an aviation hub as part of the new international air route between Australia and England. Restoration took place in 1992 and today the complex houses an interesting display. The original Qantas hangar and associated buildings between the airport can easily be explored. This is a registered heritage attraction. To access the site, a key is available from Daly Waters Pub.

Daly Waters Historic Pub
The award-winning Daly Waters Pub was first established in 1930 and licensed in 1938 servicing passengers and crew arriving at the airfield, as well as the intrepid travellers, early pastoralists and drovers. The pub has become famous for the memorabilia adorning the walls and the world-famous beef and barra meal. Throughout the dry season there is free nightly entertainment. Pet friendly accommodation, a saltwater pool, fuel, food and cold beer on tap is all available here.

Stuart’s Tree
Only a short distance from the pub, early explorer John McDouall Stuart marked this tree with the letter ‘S’. Daly Waters was a significant find for Stuart as it prevented his party and horses from perishing.

Dunmarra is located 316 kilometres south of Katherine. This roadside stop was named after a man called Dan O’Mara whose body was never found. The Aboriginal people of the area involved in the search couldn’t pronounce his name and referred to him as ‘Dunmarra’. The Wayside Inn services travellers and surrounding stations. Accommodation, caravan park, fuel and food are available. 

Frew Ponds Overland Telegraph Line Memorial Reserve
About 35 kilometres south of Dunmarra is a historic marker to Sir Charles Todd, builder of the Frew Ponds Overland Telegraph Line Memorial Reserve which commemorates the joining of the two ends of the line in 1872.

Newcastle Waters Historic Township
Further south located at the junction of three major overland stock routes, Newcastle Waters was an important gathering place for drovers to source provisions and rest before continuing on with their gruelling overland cattle drives. The township has become a ghost town, but while uninhabited, Newcastle Waters has a rich, vibrant history. Preserved historic buildings such as Jones’s Store and the Junction Hotel are a reminder of the early pioneering era. The Drover’s Memorial Park, featuring a bronze statue of a drover, is also a must see. Access is through Newcastle Waters Station.

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