State Square is one of Darwin’s most outstanding precincts. The thoroughly modern Parliament House and Supreme Court buildings are either loved or hated by locals, but most people agree that Government House, one of the few intact reminders of the city’s colonial days, is utterly charming. The wide green lawns of Liberty Square and surrounding shade trees make this an ideal area in which to eat a sandwich or simply relax.
Palmerston Town Hall
Darwin was initially named Palmerston, and the now-ruined Palmerston Town Hall was built in 1883. The building was partially destroyed by cyclone Tracy in 1974, and now stands as a memorial to the city’s early colonial days and to the ferocity of the cyclone.
Parliament House, the Supreme Court and Liberty Square
Parliament House is a large white rectangular building with one of the finest views of Darwin Harbour. Opened in 1994, this modern, imposing edifice also houses the Northern Territory Library and a cafe that opens out to an area of lawn, a large fountain and a great view. Visitors are encouraged to look through the grand hall that displays art and photographic exhibitions. Guided tours (08) 8946 1434.
Across the wide courtyard at the front of Parliament House is the Supreme Court building, which was built in 1990. High ceilings and an atmosphere of modern grandeur are also a feature of this building – it has a spectacular foyer with a giant mosaic floor designed by Aboriginal artist Norah Napaljarri Nelson, and a permanent exhibit of Arnhem Land burial poles. At the southern side of Parliament House, next to the Supreme Court, is an open, grassed area called Liberty Square. Edged by spreading rain trees, this is the place where unionists met early last century to protest against the administration of Dr John Gilruth, who was eventually forced to flee the city as a result of a popular uprising against him.
Government House, Old Police Station and Courthouse
Across the road from Liberty Square is Government House, an elegant, gabled, colonial-style building built in 1879, which survived both cyclones and bombs. The building is open to the public once a year and is the venue for formal government occasions and ceremonies. Further along The Esplanade, on the corner of Smith Street, is the Old Police Station and Courthouse. They are now home to the offices for the Northern Territory administrator and staff. Directly opposite these buildings is Survivors Lookout. It surveys the Darwin Waterfront precinct and Darwin Harbour to East Arm Port and the terminus of the Ghan, a historic train that originally terminated in Alice Springs but now runs across the continent from Adelaide. The lookout also marks a spot where World War II battles were witnessed by journalists and photographers.