a few steps from the business district of Darwin to find a mangrove forest
at its best!
after the famous naturalist, Charles Darwin National Park covers
1300 hectares of eucalypt woodland and mangrove forest starting just
two kilometres from Darwin’s central business district.
provides a chance to experience nature right on the doorstep of
forest is only two kilometres from the city centre.
park was created in 1998 to protect a small part of Darwin Harbour’s
22,000 hectare mangrove forest. (Thanks to its size and diversity – 36
mangrove species – the forest is considered one of Australia’s most
significant wetlands.) This action was prompted by public concern at the
wholesale destruction of mangroves near the city to make way for
find mangrove habitats to be fascinating places, full of strange
noises and interesting wildlife. But of course not everyone is so
enthusiastic, particularly when the sandflies are out in force.
of the wildlife you'll see in the forest.
you’re keen to explore a tidal inlet – and maybe cast a line while
you’re doing so – I recommend taking a tinnie up Sadgroves Creek.
It’s on the park’s western boundary a stone’s throw from the Dinah
Beach public boat ramp.
aside, the park’s main focus for most visitors is a pleasant
lawned picnic area that offers nice views – best in the morning
– across the mangroves to the white high-rises of the CBD.
best views of the city are in the morning.
here, firebreaks and narrow roads of WWII vintage wind through the
eucalypt woodland and along the edge of the mangroves.
roads, which originally serviced a number of wartime munitions storage
bunkers, are off-limits to cars so are ideal for walkers and cyclists.
pack binoculars if you’re planning on a walk as the bird watching here
can be memorable – 116 species have been recorded so far. Of particular
interest to twitchers is the park’s many species of specialised mangrove
birds such as the chestnut rail, red-headed honeyeater, mangrove robin and
mangrove golden whistler.
Mangroves have evolved to cope with
an unusually harsh environment that features salt, mud and tidal
fluctuations. In Charles Darwin National Park the forest floor can be
submerged under several metres of water at high tide, then be completely
exposed as the water drains away.
Mangrove forests are hugely
important in the marine web of life. They are a major source of food for
plankton and small fish, and provide a rich nursery environment for many
species of fish and other aquatic animals.
Yet humans regard mangrove forests
with contempt – we think of them as smelly, insect-ridden places that
should be buried under landfill and turned into waterfront housing and
This is a short-sighted way
to treat an ecology that is often described as “the lungs of the sea”.
Location: Four kilometres north-east of Darwin’s CBD.
Getting there: If coming
from the CBD, get onto Tiger Brennan Drive (an extension of Bennett
Street) and head towards Palmerston. The park turn-off is on your right
about 5.5km from the CBD.
Open: 7am to 7pm daily.
Facilities: Flush toilets, shade shelters, picnic furniture and gas
Wheelchairs: Access to toilets and picnic facilities.
Boat Ramps: The Dinah Beach ramp is off Tiger Brennan Drive about 2km
from the CBD.
Sandflies can be an absolute torment at sunset and sunrise, or at any time
down by the mangroves. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and
slather all exposed areas with a repellent containing DEET (diethyl
Pets: Not allowed
Contact: Tourism Top End, (08) 8981 4300), at the corner of Mitchell
and Knuckey streets, Darwin. Parks and Wildlife Commission, (08) 8947
Maps: Ours is from
Hema’s Road Atlas, (08) 3340 0000.
On The Road Magazine 2002. Any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is