Almost as inaccessible today as it was in the 19th century, the vast inlet which once hosted a lonely outpost of the British Empire still holds dazzling surprises for intrepid visitors. Equipped with necessary permits, travellers can arrive overland by 4WD (in the Dry), 'yachties' can sail in ~ or, for a more refined experience, visitors can arrive by air at a secluded eco-wilderness resort!

Part of today's 4,500 sq.km Garig Gunak Barlu National Park at the tip of the Top End, the settlement of Victoria was Leichhardt's destination in 1845. Today it is a forlorn collection of ruins in the scrub on the southwest coast of a protected body of water much larger than Sydney Harbour. Arrival at the ruins is only by sea, preferably after a call at the Park Rangers' station at Black Point, on the northeast peninsula. The Park is administered by the Parks & Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory and the Iwaidja people.

Port Essington 1839 chart B57 300W thumb

The Cobourg Peninsula reaches out from Arnhem Land and, together with the Tiwi Islands to tthe west, encloses the huge body of water of Van Diemen Gulf northeast of Darwin.

Port Essington is a 35km-long inlet on the north side of the peninsula, opening to the Arafura Sea.

Surveyed by Lt Charles Tyers of HMS Alligator in 1838, this later edition of the Port Essington nautical chart indicates the location of the ruins of the "former gov't settlement" about half-way down the west coast of the southern bay.

Click on the chart to see a larger version.

   
Port Essington c1845 WikiCommons Proj.Gutenberg 300W thumb Artist's portrayal of part of the settlement in 1845, which included a hospital, bakery, Governor's residence, cottages, kilns, wells, gardens, and military buildings including a magazine, troops' quarters and an officers' mess. (Click to see larger)
   
New-Victoria Atlas pittoresque pl 118 300W thumb This lithograph was published in the 'Atlas Pittoresque' and shows the view seaward down Port Essington, with some of the (rare) visiting ships anchored beyond the jetty and a variety of small craft on the secluded waters of the bay. (Click to see larger)
   
New-Victoria Atlas pittoresque pl 120 300W thumb Another elegant lithograph from the Atlas depicts the variety of buildings around the cleared grounds of the settlement, referring to it as 'New Victoria' ~ perhaps to distinguish it from the plethora of other locations bearing Her Majesty's name! (Click to see larger)
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