Swimming and Sailing in the Northern Territory

The Top End climate as always drawn people to the water. Despite the dangers of swimming in Top End waters, like crocodiles and stingers, swimming has was a favourite pastime in Darwin from the 1880s. Darwin had sea baths at Fort Hill 1880-1919 and later Lameroo Beach 1922-1950s. As a British colony sailing was also a popular pastime. During World War II the Fannie Bay Sailing Club was the first to be established in the Northern Territory. The early water sports pioneers could only imagine the luxury of inground swimming pools and the facilities of today’s sailing clubs on the shores of Darwin Harbour.       

Shooting Sports in the Northern Territory

Rifle shooting and other gun target sports are some of the longest running sports clubs of the Northern Territory. Competency with a gun was an essential skill for much of our history. Almost every colonial era ‘sports’ competition included a rifle shooting competition. Palmerston’s or Darwin’s first rifle shooting competition was held on 1 March 1869. The Palmerston Rifle Club was formed in 1881 and there has been clubs in Darwin almost ever since. Rifle ‘matches’were often held in association with 19th century horse race meetings in some of the Northern Territory’s remote communities. A Central Australian Rifle Club was established in Alice Springs in 1936 although it is likely that there had been competitions prior to this time. Northern Territory marksmen often competed interstate in the premier King or Queen’s shooting competitions and continue to compete in national competitions today.    

Cycling in the Northern Territory

Cycling first came to Darwin in 1894 when Overland Telegraph staff imported ‘safety cycles’ to town to deliver telegrams. The Northern Territory Athletics Association sports program of 1895 introduced cycling races for the first time. In 1898 Cycling was kept in the public eye when Albert McDonald, a member of the Overland Telegraph Department, cycled across Australia in 1898, setting a new transcontinental record of 29 days from Darwin to Adelaide, making him the Northern Territory’s first national sports star. In the 1930s the NT Cycling Club, a Road Racing Club was formed and the Darwin Amateur Cycling Association followed in 1936. Post World War II cycling re-emerged in both Darwin and Alice Springs. A cycling track was built on the site of the present Aviation Museum on the Stuart Highway by the Darwin Amateur Cycling Club. The current velodrome was established in the 1970s.

Northern Territory Hockey

Hockey is the Northern Territory’s most successful sport when measured by Olympic success. Hockey was first played in Darwin in 1938 with two teams from the Darwin Garrison and a town team named Palmerston. During the war years prior to the Bombing of Darwin there were as many as 28 defence force teams playing in regular competitions in Darwin. The Northern Territory Hockey Association was formed in Darwin in 1948. Alice Springs also formed a hockey competition in 1953. Since that time the game has grown from strength to strength.

Northern Territory Athletics

The Mitchell Mile is the most recent effort to revive Northern Territory athletics. Few would know that races were held on Mitchell Street in the 19th Century. Athletics is one of the first sports practiced in the Northern Territory. Almost everyone can run! Athletics events were held throughout the Territory. Often they were held in conjunction with holidays and other events like the horseracing. New Years Athletic carnivals were common even in the most remote locations. In the late 19th Century matching racing, racing for gambling stakes, was very popular. These races were sometimes held on Mitchell Street. Handicap racing, similar to the Stawell Gift, were a popular event at sports carnivals and from time to time are still held in the Territory.