Darwin WWII Oil Storage Tunnels

Useful Information

Location: Darwin Waterfront Precinct, Kitchener Dr, Darwin City NT 0800.
(-12.467528, 130.845157)
Open: MAY to SEP daily 9-16.
OCT to 06-DEC daily 9-13.
26-DEC to APR daily 9-13.
Fee: Adults AUD 9.50, Children (4-16) AUD 6.50, Seniors AUD 8.50, Families (2+2) AUD 25.
Groups (10+): Adults AUD 7.50, School Pupils AUD 5.50.
Classification: SubterraneaWorld War II Bunker
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Address: Darwin WWII Oil Storage Tunnels, Darwin Waterfront Precinct, Kitchener Dr, Darwin City NT 0800, Tel: +61-8-8985-6333.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1924 11 above ground oil storage tanks built on Stokes Hill Wharf.
19-FEB-1942 Japanese air-raid.
16-MAR-1942 Japanese air-raid.
16-JUN-1942 Japanese air-raid.
1943 construction of tunnels started.
1950s storage of jet fuel for RAF and RAAF bombers for 3 years.
1970s used by the Fire Brigade for training purposes by filling them with smoke.
19-FEB-1992 tunnels opened to the public.


Darwin WWII Oil Storage Tunnels are air raid bunkers constructed for the storage of oil. One could say, the war, despite being called World War, was actually in Europe. That's not true, as the U.S.A., Japan and other nations around the Pacific Ocean were also at war. And the Australian and New Zealand armies, known as ANZAC, fought both in Europe and around the Pacific Ocean. The Australian feared air raids and there actually were air raids on Darwin by the Japanese in 1942.

For obvious reasons oil was of great strategic importance. It was fuel for industry, vehicles and ships, so it was important for civil use as well as military use. In 1924, 11 above-ground oil storage tanks were built on Stokes Hill Wharf. This was just a logistic installment, to store oil until it was needed. Seven of those tanks were destroyed during three Japanese air raids in the first half of 1942. In November, the decision was made to build air raid bunkers for the storage of oil. Darwin was built on a peninsula, which forms a sort of plateau, surrounded by an escarpment. The tunnels were dug horizontally into the foot of the cliff, right behind the harbour at the southern tip of the peninsula.

The tunnels were constructed by 400 workers from the Civil Construction Corps, George Fisher was appointed Engineer-in-Charge of the secret project. They were digging with picks, shovels and pneumatic tools. The light bulbs of the lamps emitted heat, so there was a temperature of 32 °C inside the tunnel, and the steam shovel emitted humidity causing a humidity of 90 %. It was actually like a steam bath, and working here was very strenuous. But there were more obstacles, the ground was soft and unstable and during the wet season water poured in and caused collapses. And the rising costs, from 220,000 to 850,000 pounds caused discussions to abandon the project. But finally the war was over before the tunnels were completed, and they had never actually stored oil. Only six of the 11 tunnels were actually built.

In total 11 tunnels were planned, simple straight tunnels of different lengths. Each tunnel was covered by concrete, 63 cm thick at the barrel vault and 53 cm thick at the walls. There was an entrance section, and the rest of the tunnel was filled with a tank.

In the 1950s there was a confrontation with Indonesia, and so the RAF and RAAF bombers needed a storage for their jet fuel. A local fuel supply agent used the tanks of tunnel 5 and tunnel 6 for three years. This worked well until, during wet season, heavy rains caused excessive rainwater seepage which damaged the tank. The kerosene seeped from the damaged tank, and the facility was abandoned. Twenty years later, the tunnels were used now and then for training purposes by the Fire Brigade, filling them with smoke. Finally, in 1992 tunnel 5 and 6 were transformed into a tourist venue.