DESTINATIONS - EVERY LITTLE TOWN HAS SOMETHING
The Northern Territory’s Daly Waters Hotel is a legendary spot in a tiny town on the Stuart Highway. Today, with a population of about 23, the town of Daly Waters has little to commend it apart from its historic pub. Daly Waters lies 212 metres above sea level and is located 620 km south of Darwin.
On the back of the menu at
the pub there’s some recorded history: ‘In the early days the Daly Waters Pub was a drover’s rest, the mob always staging here for stores and a night out for the boys before tackling the Murranji leg of the drove.’
Now little more than a stopover for people travelling along the Stuart Highway the tiny settlement was named by John McDouall Stuart during his epic attempt to cross Australia from south to north in 1861-1862.
By 1862 Stuart had already made two attempts to cross the continent. His first, in 1860, had reached Tennant Creek. The second, in early 1861, pushed further north but again Stuart was forced back. The third journey, which headed out from Adelaide in October 1861 reached the centre in March, 1862. Stuart
pushed north making slow progress. He finally arrived at Daly Waters on 28 May and Stuart named the springs after the new Governor of South Australia, Sir Dominick Daly. Stuart reached the northern coast near modern-day Darwin on 24 July, 1862.
The actual town of Daly Waters is located 7km to the west of the Stuart Highway, being built on the old stock route not the road. On the way into town is the Stuart Tree, with a plaque that reads: ‘The explorer John McDouall Stuart is presumed to have carved the initial S on this tree on 23 May 1862 during his successful journey from Adelaide to Darwin 1861-62. Erected by the Northern Territory Forces in 1944.’ There’s a faint ‘S’ on the eastern side of the tree.
The Overland Telegraph Line reached Daly Waters in June,1872 and for a short time a ‘pony express’ was established to bridge the gap between Daly Waters and Tennant Creek. Important telegraphic messages from overseas were actually carried by horse for the 421 km between the two stations. The line was
finally completed on 22 August, 1872.