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Darwin harbour.
Darwin harbour.
Before take-off.
Flying along the Darwin Harbour.

Darwin Hovercraft

Thursday, November 15, 2001
When you want to see the harbour of the Top End's largest city — there is only one way… Look out!

The top end's largest city is a melting pot of people and cultures, and is often the first point of call for travellers and cargo from Asia.

If you are in Darwin, seeing the harbour is a must. About 2½ times the size of Sydney Harbour, it has plenty of history and stories, and we've come up with the perfect way to see it all.

Paul Thomas owns Darwin Hovercraft Tours and he has one of two (the larger) operating in Australia. These amazing vessels can get up to 100km/h, but Paul usually "drifts" along at 50-60km/h. They are perfect for their job, as their flat bottoms can get them over just about anything, as long as it isn't sharp. (In Canada, the hovercraft are used to skim across ice and snow).

The craft is so stable, Paul can do a 360 degree turn with a full glass of water on the floor that doesn't lose one drop! The reason for its stability is that it actually flies across the water with the help of two large fans that pump air underneath the craft, lifting it and allowing it to skim across the surface. It can be sand, water, ice, grass, a road — pretty much anything but rocks or reefs. Paul likens the experience to that of flying a light aircraft or helicopter.

Guests are picked up from their hotel and driven to Francis Bay to board the hovercraft. Paul gives a basic safety talk. Sunset cruises leave at around 5:15pm. Once you're on, it's like sitting in an aeroplane — coach seating and air-conditioned. It is fully enclosed with a fibreglass lid, with two opening side doors that can be opened, allowing you to get the best photographs.

Paul arranges his trips depending on what is happening in the harbour. You will see crocodile traps. When one is caught, it is sent to a wildlife farm — they are not culled.

Larrakeyah is home to Darwin's most expensive homes, as well as 12 navy boats which patrol the coast between Cape York and Broome. They are on the lookout for boats smuggling people and drugs, as well as illegal fishing boats. The army base is also there.

You will see Mindil Beach where people congregate to see the wonderful red sunsets. There are also popular night markets held there, and the casino is nearby.

There are usually 300 private boats moored in Fanny Bay during the dry season. Each November, they are taken to dry land as that's when cyclonic conditions arrive.

As you pass East Point — the mouth of the harbour, you will see lots of caves that have been created by wind and water erosion.

Ten cattle ships work out of Darwin Harbour, shipping about 200,000 head of cattle each year.

The Channel Islands housed a leper colony run by nuns. When WWII broke out, they were sadly forgotten, but managed to escape through the mangroves. Many were fed and looked after by kindly Aboriginal people.


Francis Bay in Darwin.


Darwin Hovercraft Tours cost $55 for adults, $35 for children and take 1½ hours. They run all year, weather permitting.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Darwin Hovercraft Tours
Ph: (08) 8981 6855
Fax: (08) 8981 5744

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