The Legend of Stuart

Nobody embodies the spirit of being Lost In Australia like Scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart. He is remembered in Australian history as one of the most successful and distinguished pioneers. He was the first to navigate through the Australian mainland from south to north with the Adelaide to Darwin Stuart Highway becoming an ode to his remarkable achievement.

In 1861, Stuart and his loyal expedition braved the starkness of the vast central Australian desert on his sixth large-scale expedition to reach the top of the continent. Stuart pioneered his way for ten months through the somewhat foreign flora and fauna of the bush. He then reached the lush tropical landscapes bordering what once was the Van Diemen Gulf, now the Indian Ocean where he notoriously carved his initials in the revered tree in the Daly River Region. This symbolised the end of the treacherous journey, and champions Stuart as a trail-blazer.

Experience the true essence of northern Australia, and join other Australians who make the pilgrimage to the Daly River Region to embrace Stuart’s remarkable journey. Lost in Australia has plenty of tours in our itineraries.  Embrace your inner explorer and take in the marvels of Stuart’s expedition. Stop at Stuart’s famous tree to absorb how Stuart’s horseback journey laid the foundations of European settlement in Northern Australia.

Stuart was born on 7 September 1815 in Dysart, Fife to army captain William Stuart and Mary McDouall. In 1838, Young Stuart graduated in civil engineering from Edinburgh’s Scottish Naval and Military Academy. Stuart’s family left Scotland in 1839 and migrated to the colony of South Australia. At the age of 24, he found work as a surveyor, and developed a strong professional reputation through his accurate skill set.

On the 25th October 1861, Stuart departed from Montefiore House in North Adelaide, home of John Chambers and his wife Catherine Chambers. Make sure Stuart’s tree is on your itinerary while you explore the incredible scope of the Daly River Region. Immerse yourself in the story behind the long-winded journey. This was Stuart’s most significant and final expedition. On 24th July 1862, Stuart’s party finally scrambled through dense bush land and achieved their enormous feat, breathing in the salty air of the Van Diemen Gulf.

While Stuart was feeling very weak from the arduous journey, he scrawled his initials on a large tree to mark his achievement. You will discover that this location was exactly south of the original arrival point to the coast, as the marshy mangrove scrub blocked the party’s access to the Adelaide River mouth.

On 25th July, Stuart’s expedition stripped the branches of a mangrove, and erected the British flag on top to mark the end of their adventure. All members signed and buried a note inside a tin to declare the SA Great Northern Exploring Expedition was a success. The tree was marked ‘Dig one foot S.’ Due south and further inland, Stuart’s initialled tree sat.

Daly River sits between the Northern Territory’s capital, Darwin and Katherine. Boyle Travers Finniss first came across the tropical northern region in 1865. It’s famous for fishing and hunting with a plethora of large barramundi. No wonder it’s home to two large annual fishing competitions, drawing many interstate and overseas visitors to embrace the weather and hone their fishing skills. Daly River is peppered with popular camping spots including the popular Douglas Daly hot springs, gorges, and rivers. You will have the chance to spot a range of wildlife including water buffalos wallowing and cockatoos perched in Kapok trees. There are also some great bushwalking trails to experience where visitors can view majestic paper bark trees and scaly reptiles clambering around. Freshwater turtles can also be seen paddling their flippers in the billabongs amongst dainty water lilies.