Railway & stone embankment: the Stokes Hill Wharf

The port area of Darwin had two hills and the two existing wharfs are named after those hills.

Fort Hill was the location for the flagpole above Goyder’s survey camp. Today only Stokes Hill remains, as Fort Hill was removed in 1965 to make way for new iron ore loading facilities serving the Mount Bundy mine.

In 1865, a surveyor, W.P. Auld, exploring Port Darwin named Stokes Hill after the Commander of the Beagle, who had visited and named the site in 1839.There have been three wharfs constructed that have backed on to Stokes Hill.

The first, Port Darwin Jetty or Railway Jetty, was built in 1885-6. With an 8m tidal range in Darwin harbour, the jetty stood high on timber piles. The little Sandfly steam railway engine shunted trucks carrying cargo along the length of the jetty. Cyclone damage in 1897 and worm infestation weakened the structure and a temporary wharf was hastily constructed at the end of Stokes Hill point.

The second, Town Wharf, was completed in 1903, and stood on cast iron and concrete piers with wooden decking and a distinctive L shape. Cargo handling was by rail. The stone embankment, extending along the edge of the road leading to the wharf, was probably built at this time and was constructed of locally quarried porcellanite stone. The Town Wharf was severely damaged in the first Japanese bombing raid. The remains of the ships destroyed in that first raid remained visible at low tide until 1959, when the salvage rights were sold – ironically to the Japanese Fujita Salvage Company – and the wrecks were cut up and removed.

The third, Stokes Hill Wharf that you can see today, was not officially completed until the end of 1956. It was built of steel and concrete with timber decking and served as the main port of Darwin until facilities were transferred to the new Darwin Port at East Arm in 2000. East Arm became the terminus of the north-south transcontinental rail freight link.

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.