Escape Cliffs

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Boyle Finniss was in charge of establishing the Escape Cliffs settlement

Escape Cliffs is a locality on the northern coast of the Northern Territory of Australia and the site of the fourth of a series of four failed attempts to establish permanent settlement in Australia’s Top End. Escape Cliffs lies on the western coast of the Cape Hotham peninsula, and the eastern shore of Adam Bay, near the mouth and estuary of the Adelaide River. It lies about 60 km north-east of Darwin and is protected in the Cape Hotham sector of the Djukbinj National Park. There is no road access, though it is sometimes visited by yachts.[1]


Escape Cliffs Northern Territory, looking north east

In 1864, the year after South Australia was granted control over the Northern Territory, the South Australian government decided that settlement of the area was desirable and sent a surveying and settlement expedition under the command of former state Premier Lieutenant Colonel Boyle Travers Finniss. He had been instructed to establish the settlement at Adam Bay and chose the Escape Cliffs site despite disagreements with other members of his party. It was intended to cover settlement costs through sales of land, much of which had already been presold to speculators and intending settlers even before the expedition reached the site and began their survey work. [2]

After a confused start, following an abortive initial move to another site some 65 km up the Adelaide River, the establishment work at Escape Cliffs began. Problems included conflicts with the local Marananggu people and the unsuitability of the land for agriculture, exacerbated by personality clashes and resulting in ongoing disputes and deteriorating morale. Following complaints and unfavourable reports to the South Australian government, Finniss was recalled in 1865. Escape Cliffs was eventually abandoned in 1867, two years before the ultimately successful settlement at Port Darwin.[2]


  1. ^ "Escape Cliff" (PDF). Darwin Sailing Club. Retrieved 2012-05-14. 
  2. ^ a b "Escape Cliffs: Initial Settlement and Exploration". Litchfield Council. Retrieved 2012-05-14. 

Coordinates: 12°08′S 131°15′E / 12.133°S 131.250°E / -12.133; 131.250