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Humpty Doo, NT

Town on the road to Kakadu - now almost a commuter suburb for Darwin

Humpty Doo, with a population of over 5,000 and a location only 38 km from the centre of Darwin, has effectively become a commuter town on the road to Kakadu National Park. Once known for its attempt to turn the tropical north into a verdant garden for fruit and vegetables, it is now is a combination of market gardening (mostly for Darwin), commercial agriculture and tourism for visitors travelling to Kakadu.

Location

Humpty Doo lies 38 km south-east from Darwin on the Arnhem Highway.

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Origin of Name

The town takes its name from a station (property) in the area which was named "Umpity Doo". No one knows why the station was given that name. 'Humpty doo', probably coming from 'Humpty Dumpty', was an expression in Australian vernacular meaning "upside down" and there is a suggestion that there was a Woolna Aboriginal word, "undid" meaning "resting place" but no one is certain.

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Things to See and Do

Big Boxing Croc
As Humpty Doo has evolved into a commuter town for people who work in Darwin, the Big Boxing Croc has become a very identifiable icon. It stands 13 metres high, wears a pair of red boxing gloves, and was inspired by the "Boxing Kangaroo" logo used in Australia's successful 1983 bid for the America's Cup. At the time it was horrendously expensive. The crocodile was the brainchild of Marcel Britnal who was running the Humpty Doo Bush Shop. In 1987 he commissioned a Sydney company to build the Big Boxing Croc out of fibreglass. The challenge was to build something that was strong enough to stand the full savagery of tropical cyclones. This may explain why the big croc cost a staggering $137,000.

Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve
Located 22 km along the Arnhem Highway is a turnoff to Fogg Dam (it is a further 7 km to the north). The dam was constructed in the 1950s as part of the Humpty Doo rice project and when the project failed it became a bird sanctuary, particularly during the dry season. Not surprisingly the birds had already started to use the dam. Access is across the low dam wall which can be blocked during heavy rains.
There are three birdwatching walks in the reserve:
Woodlands to Waterlilies Walk (2.2km, easy, 45 minutes) which leads through the woodlands on the edge of the dam.
Monsoon Forest Walk - (2.7 km, 90 minutes, easy) which heads out onto the floodplain.
Pandanus Lookout - with views over the dam.
There is an excellent and downloadable brochure at https://nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/200068/fogg-dam-conservation-reserve.pdf which includes a map and information about the walks in the reserve.

Humpty Doo Uniting Church
Located off the Arnhem Highway at 15 Challenor Circuit, the Humpty Doo Living Water Uniting Church is a comment on the temperature and humidity of the area: it is an unusual open air church without walls.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area around Humpty Doo had been occupied by the Woolna Aboriginal people for at least 40,000 years.

* The first European into the area was Boyle Travers Finniss who explored the Adelaide River area in 1864.

* By 1869 George Goyder had subdivided the land around Humpty Doo into parcels of 10 square miles (2,590 ha).

* In the 1870s and 1880s the German botanist Dr. Maurice Holtze carried out experiments in Darwin exploring the region's ability to grow tropical crops.

* By the 1880s Chinese farmers, serving the Chinese miners on the Pine Creek goldfields to the south, were growing rice around Humpty Doo.

* By 1910 the settlement was known as Umpity Doo.

* In 1954, after considerable CSIRO experimentation, a joint Australia-US company known as Territory Rice Ltd was established. It planned to irrigate the plain of the Adelaide River and produce a commercial rice crop.

* In the mid-1950s the RAAF Airfield Construction squadron built Fogg Dam to provide water for the Humpty Doo Rice project.

* In 1955-56 Territory Rice Ltd received agricultural leases of 303,000 ha on the floodplain. It was a disaster.

* By 1959 the rice paddy fields had been abandoned. That year Fogg Dam became a Bird Protection District.

* In 1962 Territory Rice forfeited the land to the government.

* In 1967 a general store was opened on the road to Kakadu.

* In 1971 the Humpty Doo Hotel-Motel opened for business.

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Visitor Information

There is no visitor information centre at Humpty Doo. For information check out Tourism Top End, 6 Bennett Street, Darwin, tel: 1300 138 886.

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Useful Websites

There is no dedicated website for Humpty Doo.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

3 suggestions
  • This week, a man phoned police in the town of Humpty Doo to say that his father had burned all his – his son’s – prized cannabis plants in a bonfire. Apparently the son believed this was a worse crime than drug possession. Police say no charges would be brought against him due to a rather obvious lack of evidence.
    (source: BBC News)

    How could you not love Humpty Doo when it produces stories like this!

    Craig wood
  • Humpty Doo leaves Martha’s Vineyard way behind! The people, friendliness, openness, no BS. Can’t wait to go home to HD.

    Stara
  • Humpty Doo is a “must see” area. Found the locals welcoming. Have always told foreign and ozzie tourists heading north to stop at Humpty Doo and stop at the hotel and store. My first visit was 25 yrs ago.

    Helen West