Arrival: Travellers’ Walk

Prior to the Stuart Highway upgrade during World War II, visitors to Darwin usually arrived by ship.

From at least as early as the 1880s, passengers disembarked at the Port of Darwin and climbed the escarpment via the walkway to town known colloquially as Chinamans’ or Travellers’ Walk.

The path began at the entrance to the railway yards with steps up to Cavenagh Street and finished at the Terminus Hotel. There, shaded by the great banyan tree, ironically dubbed the Tree of Knowledge, drinkers sat debating the issues of the day. This was the seaward end of Chinatown and the commercial centre of the town, now the site of the Darwin Civic Centre.

The name of the walkway came about, in part, because Chinese stonemasons, skilled at working with porcellanite, constructed the original pathway and steps. The name was also in recognition of the many people who used it. In the nineteenth century many Chinese prospectors came north from goldfields elsewhere in Australia and from southern China. Until 1911, there were more Chinese than Europeans in the Top End of the Territory and they made up a vital part of the economy and character of the town.

Photographic evidence shows that the path zigzagged its way up the hill. The route has changed over more than a century of use and has been, at different times, wider, fenced and eventually concreted.

To view a selection of heritage sites, please click here to download a copy of the Heritage & Cultural Trail brochure. We encourage visitors to follow the designated paths and trails while learning about our heritage.