Day Trippin’ to Adelaide River
T – Sometimes, mini adventures are great! Sometimes, they are frigging amazing! And rarely, like todays trip to Adelaide River, are they a failure.
It is meant to be the wet season here in the Northern Territory, but we really haven’t seen much rain so far.
C – The rain started during the night, so we awoke grey skies and pitter patter of drizzly rain. It was still forecast to be 29 degrees and a little rain never hurt anyone. So, it was off adventuring for us!
We had decided to head to a small town approximately 110km south of Darwin called Adelaide River. The Top End of the Northern Territory is rich with World War II history – the only place in Australia to be bombed during the war. When the Japanese started their bombing campaign of Darwin Harbour, some military operations and most civilians were evacuated from Darwin and Adelaide River became a key staging area.
Heading out of Darwin we nearly changed our mind as the rain grew steadily heavier. Thankfully, by the time we reached Adelaide River it was back to a light rain.
T – Poor Jane doesnt like the rain. As the puddles started forming on the slick road she skittered and slid all over the place. Nothing like aquaplaning down the road at 110km/hr! So we slowed it up a little after a few sphincter clenching moments and cruised our way south.
We pulled off of the main highway and followed the signs straight to the Adelaide River War Cemetery.
C – The cemetery was taken over by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1947, highlighting the national importance of the site.
The drive into the cemetery is beautiful as you meander along a small, winding road that runs right alongside the river. You can’t actually see the river, but the area is beautifully maintained with lots of grass and trees just begging for you to picnic under!
T – Even with the rain this little drive was stunning. The greens of the grass and the leaves was incredibly vivid green. All along the side of the road there are little hidey spots, some with picnic tables and all easily accessible from the road.
I was looking forward to seeing the cemetery. I think that these war memorials serve as important reminders to us to never repeat the past.
C – Arriving at the cemetery, there are some interpretative signs along the pathway leading to a small display area. There is some interesting historical information and a video you can watch about the bombing of Darwin.
We wandered about the cemetery (in the rain!) and admired how beautifully kept the site is. Because of the colour of the sky, the shades of green from the plants and grass were spectacularly vivid, adding a sense of hope to the atmosphere.
T – I always feel so small and humbled in these places. These men and women made the ultimate sacrifice so that I could be here today writing about this. They deserve all the honour and respect we can give them and I hope they continue to get that into the future.
Lest We Forget.
C – After paying our respects to those who lost their lives, we headed back into the town site to find the railway heritage precinct. We discovered a lovely park and picnic area on the banks of the river, directly under the main highway.
The railway heritage site is actually on the opposite side of the highway.
We had to stop at the visitors information sign in the town to find it, but we eventually found our way there.
We were a little taken aback when we first arrived – where were the trains! We parked the car and contributed the entry fee into the honour box ($5 per person). The grounds appeared very unkept, with lots of long grass and unrelated bits of machinery and the like laying about.
T – The young boy in me just wanted to see a locomotive! A big powerful stinking dirty engine! But either it was hidden from view in the long grass or the old shell of a modern locomotive by the highway was the only one. Surely a heritage train area would have to include a train?
C – We checked out the yellow military ambulance and then saw the sign for the visitors centre. It pointed into an unusually purple train carriage (which had all its underside removed). The doors were open so we went inside to find a very dusty and generally empty visitors centre. Signs lay strewn about and it looked as if the place had not had any care for a while. Perhaps this is due to the wet season and the lack of tourists around these parts at this time, maybe?
T – The inside of the old carriage was lined with timber and it smelt amazing! I love the smell of old wood in these carriages.
C – We did discover that the carriage was once a first class carriage for The Ghan (a train that runs between Adelaide in South Australia and Darwin in the north). Unfortunately, it had been completely stripped out of all its glory and the outside paint job was very unauthentic.
T – In fact the carriage was originally a gorgeous deep red colour that just screamed expensive. Now the patchy and faded purple paint work screamed cheap and unloved.
C – Moving into one of the two sheds, the items on display appeared to be a random collection of post-war stuff. There were some old brake components from a train and other, random railway related items.
The next shed seemed to focus on post-war electrical insulators from power poles. I found it a little odd and it did nothing to inspire my interest.
I zoomed through the displays very quickly and was ready to leave within 15 minutes. I have no problems contributing to the preservation of historical items or sites of significance, but I felt this was more someone’s personal collection and I felt the entry fee was a little much.
But, if you love electrical insulators then this may just be the place for you!
T – While it wasn’t the expected train museum there was still some interesting old railway signs and little random bits of information on the are from the war days.
C -Feeling a little disappointed, we eventually found a locomotive a bit further along the highway to take a photo of.
It was lunch by this time and we had not taken our usual picnic with us because of the rain. We went back into the town site of Adelaide River and found the Adelaide River Tavern. After perusing the menu, we decided not to eat as we felt the prices were a little steep for a lunch time meal.
We grabbed some hot chips from the service station and headed back out on the highway. We turned north back towards Darwin with the plan of visiting Lake Bennett and Manton Dam recreation area on the way back to Darwin.
Following the signs to Lake Bennett, we were both surprised to see that the whole area is privately owned.
The Lake Bennett Resort seems to take up one side of lake and the other side of the lake is a private estate, with signs strictly prohibiting day use, picnicking or camping in the area. I haven’t seen private lakes in country Australia before! The drive in and out was only 8kms each way and was really beautiful though!
T – Even though we couldn’t actually get down to the lake due to it being private, I really did enjoy the little windy road from the highway out. It curved and dipped through a gorgeous set of little wooded hills and small shallow streams were flowing across the road in places.
Back to the highway and heading north again, we turned left into the Manton Dam recreation area.
C – The recreation area is really beautiful and is essentially a water sports area. Boating, skiing, jetskiing and fishing is popular here. I’m not sure about getting in the water here as signs indicate that saltwater crocodiles are known to live in the dam! There is a beautiful day use area with fire pits and wooden platforms and it would make a lovely spot to laze away a sunny day!
With the rain continuing, we decided to head back into Darwin from here, stopping only at the Noonamah Tavern for a quiet beer. We reflected on the day and felt that really, it was not worth the day trip. We enjoyed our visit to the war cemetery, but this could be combined with some other interesting sights further down the road (another day trip coming up!). I would not recommend a visit to the heritage railway precinct and Lake Bennett is not worth venturing into unless you plan on staying at the resort.
All in all, it felt like a bit of a day trip #fail! But, we do these things so you don’t have to!
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