In July 2016, Melbourne was in the grip of icy cold winter weather when, accompanied by my good friend and unpaid personal assistant Kay Wee, I headed off to Darwin to research the setting for Dusty Kent Murder Mystery #3. Darwin winter is a completely different kettle of fish to Melbourne winter. In Darwin it’s balmy in the morning, balmy in the evening, balmy at dinner time. And the residents are sometimes barmy − or was that a tourist I saw with a crocodile cap on his head, its huge jaws peaking over his face?
Darwin is the capital city of Northern Territory, colloquially known as the Top End. Northern Territory is one of the most lightly populated places on Earth and that means its capital offers the advantages of a city without the traffic congestion and the hoards of people. The Top End is also a place where you grow up tough and the blokes believe that: You’ve got to get off your arse and do some hard yakka.
The Aboriginal people of the Larrakia language group who had trading routes with Southeast Asia were the first people to make the Darwin area home. Many years later, in 1869, the South Australian Government established a small European settlement at what was then called Port Darwin. The settlement grew into a thriving township but suffered a devastating setback in 1942 when Japanese warplanes bombed the town causing immense damage and killing 243 people. Tragedy visited again in 1974 when Darwin, now officially a city, was struck by Cyclone Tracy and the city was almost totally destroyed. However, the Darwin that Kay and I visited is a modern nurtured city of wide open spaces that exudes a slow, relaxed feel. Public areas are cleaned daily and the lawns and gardens are maintained impeccably.
Our first priority on arrival in Darwin was to locate points of interest for Dusty and Sean. We found pool tables at Hotel Darwin for Sean and discovered he would be able to enjoy a Guinness on tap at Shenannigans or at Fiddlers Green where a sign says: No working during drinking hours. Fiddlers Green is located on the waterfront, a vibrant precinct where, among other things, people swim in the lagoons safe from crocodiles, picnic on the lawns, meet friends for coffee or dine on delicious seafood. In Bicentennial Park we were embraced by warm breezes and shaded by the capacious canopies of tropical trees: the perfect place to enjoy our daily walks. Built on the porcelanite cliffs that overlook the 1000 square kilometres of Darwin Harbour, Bicentennial Park also offers stunning views. I was fascinated to learn that the Harbour was formed by the drowning of several major river systems after the Ice Age when melting glaciers caused sea levels to rise.
Having settled the needs of the book’s main characters, Kay and I decided to have some fun ourselves. We enjoyed good food and the occasional martini at SkyCity, (see picture below)