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A Day Trip To Mandorah

by Bill

Cullen Bay Marina, Darwin

Cullen Bay Marina, Darwin

Here's a little day trip I had a couple of weeks ago, (Aug, 2007) in which I combined my love of pottering about on my bike, a pleasure of getting out on Darwin Harbour and a little bit of history, looking up an old plane wreck that I first saw years ago, but without my camera.

I cycled nice and easy along cycle paths all the way from Nightcliff to Cullen Bay Marina. It took about 50 minutes for the 10 klm. (Alright, alright, I believe in pacing myself, and besides I think there might have been a head wind). I caught the 8:30am Mandorah Ferry, $20 return, and that even included my bike. Great value as It saved me a 260 klm round trip by road.

It was (and always is) magic to get out on the water again. Twenty minutes and about 8 nautical miles later we were arriving at the Mandorah jetty. It being a weekday and early there were only a few of us going over, but there was a quite a lot more waiting on the other side for the trip to the city, workers and school kids. I'd guess there is maybe two or three hundred people settled in the Wagait beach area.

I was lucky with the tide, it was quite high, so I didn't have too many steps to climb up the jetty. On my return the tide had dropped maybe 5M, so I had that much more to wheel the bike down.

I headed straight out along the bitumen Cox Peninsular Road about 10 klm. Almost no traffic, just one or two cars heading for the old Radio Australia transmitter station. (Now in private hands, broadcasting Christian messages to Asia).

A WW11 heritage sign pointed me to a right turn (toward the sea) and sure enough after maybe 5klm of gravel rocky road, I arrived at the wreck site. The road was OK for normal cars though, this being the dry season.

The place to me was very atmospheric, it is after all a place were six American airmen lost their lives in January 1945. The bodies were recovered the day after the crash and they were buried in the Adelaide River War Cemetery. They were after the war sent back to the States.

The plane Called "Milady" was a B24j Consolidated Liberator of the 531st bomber squadron(h) 380th bomb group(h) of the US Air Force. It crashed after a training mission, bombing Quail Island.

If you look at the background in a couple of the photos, you will see that the country is a medium scrub, with plenty of trees. That being so, after an hour or so wandering around the site, and a spot of lunch, I swung my hammock in the shade of a couple of the larger ones and had a brief siesta. (I have mentioned that I like to pace myself, haven't I?).

Refreshed after my snooze I explored a few of the tracks in the area, in a vain attempt to get to the sea. The sea could only be, say 4 klm from the wreck site
in a straight line, but there is a band of swamp running behind the coast for quite a few klms in that area, so I got turned back quite a few times. There was one spot that I could have walked through a couple of hundred meters of knee deep water and made it to the beach, but I didn't want to get my feet wet. Honest! (never even thought about crocodiles).

I did enjoy the pottering about though and I saw a fair bit of wildlife, a couple of Jabiru storks, and a small group of Brolgas took to the air as I tried to creep past them, what a racket they made, they didn't like being disturbed, that's for sure.

I headed back to the bitumen then off to Mandorah and a cool beer at the Mandorah pub. Luxury! I had a spare hour or so before the ferry back to the city, so I wandered along a couple of tracks around West Point. There are a few reminders of WW11 here, concrete slabs slowly being taken over by the sea that used to be gun foundations and observation posts.

Somewhere around here was the end of the steel boom defense net that used to stretch all the way to East Point in Darwin, but I couldn't find an sign of it.

For a quarter of an hour in the shade I looked across the harbour at the coastline that I would be riding along to get home. It struck me that the director Baz Lehrmann who has been filming parts of his latest movie (Australia ?) here recently had it spot on when he said something like "the colours of Darwin Harbour are like nowhere else".

Total distance traveled:-
By bike - 50 klm,
by boat - 16 NM
in time - 62 years.
A perfect mix for for a day trip.


(By Bill from

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by: Bailey Davis

I live in mandorah

Thank you
by: Anonymous

Sounds like a great day, will be checking it out tomorrow. Thanks for the advice.

Soon my question will be answered
by: Anonymous

Hello again.
Within the next couple of weeks I may find our way to Manddorah, and hopefully that magic fishing spot, so then my question will be answered.

Mandorah of 1964
by: Barry

Hi. We are going to Darwin later this year. In 1964 a group of us drove from Bachelor to Manddorah, and camped right on the rocky beach front, somewhere near where the submarine net hit shore. I think this was on Aboriginal land, as we had to get a permit back then.The fishing there was magic, as the shoreline was sort of rocky step like formation,
We could see the fish approaching our lines before taking the bait. If we take the ferry across, is the area I speak of easy to reach from there?

what a star you are.
by: Anonymous

I was checking out the ferry to mandorah bay and came across this very interesting story . Thank you bill. Keep up the good work.

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