Townsville, QLD

Largest city above the Tropic of Capricorn, known as the Tropical Capital of North Queensland

The elegant city of Townsville can correctly call itself 'The Tropical Capital of North Queensland'. It is a city of great charm and style which has not, like Cairns or Port Douglas, been overwhelmed by tourism. It is too big and too devoted to serving the tropical north, to be a slave to tourism. Even Reef HQ, one of the city's premier attractions, is relatively low key. It makes little of the fact that it is the only living coral reef in captivity - a fact which means that visitors can actually see the Great Barrier Reef while safely on land. The result is that its gracious buildings and old pubs give it a sense of sophistication. Recognise that Townsville is the largest city in Australia lying north of the Tropic of Capricorn and you will quickly realise that it is a thriving metropolis with lots of accommodation, a vibrant nightlife, and large numbers of excellent restaurants.


Townsville is located 1,339 km north of Brisbane via the Bruce Highway. It is 137 km north east of Charters Towers and 347 km south of Cairns.


Origin of Name

In 1861 businessman and entrepreneur, Robert Towns (1794-1873), asked John Melton Black to select a suitable site for a port on the north Queensland coast. Towns wanted a port that would serve the whole of region.The site chosen by Black was on Cleveland Bay and would become the port for the mines at Charters Towers, Mary Kathleen and Mount Isa and the pastoral interests of graziers across the Gulf country. In 1865 the town was officially declared a port and named Townsville after Robert Towns.


Things to See and Do

The Strand
The tropical heart of Townsville is the 2.2 km beachfront known as The Strand. It is a promenade, a walkway and bicycle track, safe swimming beaches, excellent picnic locations and a water park. It is Townsville's beachfront and is the watery centre of the city. It includes excellent views across the water to Magnetic Island, the Tobruk Memorial Baths, restaurants which are right on the beach, a section of the beach protected from stingers and a Surf Lifesaving Club.

Queen's Hotel
Over the road from the Anzac Memorial Park at 12 The Strand is a huge building which was once the Queen's Hotel. It was built progressively from 1902 through to the mid-1920s. It is an extraordinary building which, in the 1920s and 1930s, was known as the best hotel in North Queensland. There is something of the British raj about the building with its Moghul cupolas and its long verandas at street level. It would not be out of place in India or Singapore. In its day it was the place where the graziers, coming to the coast for business or pleasure, would stay. In recent times it was used as a television studio. The Queensland Heritage Register describes the building as "The Strand elevation shows Art Nouveau and Indian/Colonial influences in its design, including turrets crowned by cupolas framing low tower forms along the northern frontage, decorative render panels, wide eaves and arcaded loggias to the ground floor with verandahs above. The two large and two small tower forms differ slightly in their design and proportions, with the two larger having a broad, recessed arched entry with a recessed loggia above and surmounted by a steep pitch ribbed metal roof. The smaller forms are surmounted by a rounded pediment. Sections of the ground floor arcaded loggias are enclosed with timber framed glazing, and the open sections have cast iron balustrade and french doors with fanlights. The verandah, off which french doors with fanlights also open, has paired timber posts with cast iron balustrade and valance. Metal stanchions have been added to the face of the brickwork for the purpose of tying the roof down, and sections of floor have been replaced with concrete. Four bays of the eastern end of the building have been demolished and the verandah now returns along this face to the rear." For a more detailed analysis check out

Reef HQ
One of the true wonders of the Great Barrier Reef is Reef HQ which proudly declares itself the World's Largest Living Coral Reef Aquarium. It is basically a Great Barrier Reef Aquarium with 120 different types of hard and soft coral, 150 species of Barrier Reef fish and literally hundreds of creatures which live on the coral reef including sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, brittle stars, feather stars, snails, worms and sponges. Located in different areas within the buildings are a Coral Reef Exhibit, a Predator Exhibit and an Exploring the Wetlands Exhibit. One of the true wonders is that the Coral Reef Exhibit, which holds 2.5 million litres of water, actually spawns in the way that the natural reef does. A visit to Reef HQ allows people to "experience the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet". The Reef HQ website explains: "Reef HQ Aquarium was the vision of Dr Graeme Kelleher, a former chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Dr Kelleher's objective was to create the Great Barrier Reef on land, making the reef accessible and affordable while at the same time spreading the reef conservation message and gaining public support for the protection of the 'real thing'." Located at 2-68 Flinders Street it is open from 9.30 am - 5.00 pm. For more information tel: (07) 4750 0800 or check out the website at REEF HQ: closed until 2026. When it reopens we will keep readers informed.

Museum of Tropical Queensland
Located at 70-102 Flinders Street (it is in the same buildings as Reef HQ), the Museum of Tropical Queensland is open from 9.30 am - 5.00 pm daily. Tel: (07) 4726 0600 or check out The museum, part of the museums of Queensland, specialises in the natural history, archaeology and the human history of the area. Its particular highlights are the incredible "Big Spider" - a giant Silver Orb spider which is located outside the building as well as artefacts recovered from the HMS Pandora which sank off the Queensland coast in 1791.

Queensland Heritage Register - Townsville
The Queensland Heritage Register lists a total of 50 places and buildings of historic interest in and around the city. A staggering 28 of those buildings are located between 87 and 799 Flinders Street. Check out,_Queensland for the complete list. A simple walk, which gives an idea of the richness of the city's history is up Flinders Street. Here is a guide.

Flinders Street Walk
The sensible starting point for a walk exploring the historic richness of Flinder Street is Tattersalls Hotel which is located over the road from the Reef HQ Aquarium at 87 Flinders Street.

Tattersalls Hotel
Located on the corner at 87 Flinders Street, this handsome building is a vital part of the Flinders Street East Precinct. The Queensland Heritage Register notes that it was "erected in 1899 and incorporating an earlier 1868 brick section demonstrates the pattern of Queensland's regional history associated with the development of Townsville as a key northern port and service centre for the surrounding mining and pastoral districts" and that the hotel "features a rare pattern of cast iron balustrade particular to North Queensland. The incorporation of this design of balustrade is an important link to the other two buildings it survives upon in Townsville; the private residences of the former Rooney's House (Yongala Lodge) and "Kardinia'". For more details check out

Bank of New South Wales
Located at 101-111 Flinders Street, over the road from Tattersalls Hotel, is the former Bank of New South Wales. It was probably designed by Sydney architect John Smedley and was built at a cost of £7,500. The Queensland Heritage Register explains its significance in terms of "It is typical of bank buildings of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a ground floor plan banking chamber and a second floor residence for the manager. The interior of the building is substantially unaltered since WWII. It is of extremely high quality in its design, detailing and finishes. It is one of the few intact ground floor commercial interiors of all the historical buildings of Flinders Street East. The upper level retains its layout as a manager's residence, and includes a white marble fireplace and timber joinery ... The street facades form a major contribution to the streetscape of the Flinders Street East area, which retains many historical commercial buildings." For more detailed information check out

Queensland Building
Located at 104-106 Flinders Street, and on the corner opposite both Tattersalls and the Bank of New South Wales, the Queensland Building was designed by Mark Cooper Day and building commenced in 1890. It was built by Burns Philp to house a subsidiary, the North Queensland Insurance Co, a maritime insurance company. The Queensland Heritage Register describes the building as "a 3 storey structure of rendered brick in a free classical style with arcades at each level. There are pronounced cornice mouldings marking each storey. The central entrance is approached by a flight of low steps and is surmounted by a triangular broken pediment. It is flanked by a 3 bay arcade on each side, the round headed arches being separated by pilasters with Doric capitals. The arches on the ground floor have been filled in with glass to create windows and have round canvas window hoods.
"The arcade on the first floor is similar in form but has Ionic capitals and a balustrade linking the arches. Sash windows are visible in the wall to the rear of the loggia created. The top floor is similar in form, but the arches are separated by consoles. The area above these was originally profusely decorated with swags of moulded render, but is now plain. The roof is concealed by a simple parapet of rendered brick."

Burns Philp Building
Completing the impressive corner, and at 108-124 Flinders Street, is the Burns Philp Building which was designed by the McCredie Brothers and built in 1895. Burns Philp are one of the great success stories of Townsville. In 1872 James Burns set up a retail business in Flinders Street and he was joined in partnership by Robert Philp in 1876. The scale of their success is described by the Queensland Heritage Register as: "In the late 1870s and early 1880s, Burns and Philp individually established trading networks in North Queensland, which were amalgamated as Burns, Philp & Company Ltd in 1883. By 1887 the company had disposed of their retail concerns, concentrating on the importation and wholesaling of general merchandise, and general shipping and insurance, with branches in London, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Thursday Island, Normanton, Charters Towers, Cooktown and New Guinea. The firm was employing 300 persons, owned their own fleet of small trading vessels, and was pioneering trade, communications and exploration throughout North Queensland, New Guinea and the South Pacific. The company also had interests in North Queensland sugar, gold and pastoralism." The building is described in great detail at

First AMP Building
Located at 143-149 Flinders Street East, this elegant building was designed by the great architect John Sulman and his partner CHE Blackmann and built in 1886-1888 at a cost of nearly £6,500. It was originally the Townsville office of the AMP Society and, as the Queensland Heritage Register explains, "the Society moved into their new premises in January 1888, occupying two rooms on the ground floor: a spacious, cedar-fitted public office at the front, and the district secretary's office, with strongroom, at the rear. The remainder of the ground floor contained two shops, which were let to tenants. The upper floor comprised office accommodation, with strongrooms, let to business and professional persons. At the time, the building was considered a handsome addition to Flinders Street.
"Above the pediment was a marble tableau illustrating the Society's motto Amicus certus in re incerta (a certain friend in uncertain times). The tableau depicted an erect female figure, with a cornucopia by her right side, holding the palm of victory above a seated woman and child to her left. To her right was a seated male figure, alienated from the family grouping. Until the logo was changed in 1988, an Amicus tableau was erected on every AMP building, and usually was removed when the Society no longer occupied the premises. AMP occupied the Flinders Street East building until 1938, when their new premises, a three-storeyed building at the corner of Stanley and Flinders Streets, was completed." The building then became known as Magnetic House. For more detailed information check out

Australian Joint Stock Bank Building
Located at 173 Flinders Street and designed by Queensland Colonial Architect, Francis Drummond Greville Stanley, the Australian Joint Stock Bank Building was built in 1887-1888. The building cost around £7,000 and is described in the Queensland Heritage Register as "Elements of both the design and the construction were considered innovative. The colonnaded front elevation was a new concept in Townsville architecture, accommodating to a tropical climate, and rolled wrought-iron beams were utilised in the construction, rather than the cast-iron girders used extensively in Townsville buildings at that period. The floor of the balcony was constructed of cork concrete, a lighter product than the more usual blue metal mix.
"On the ground floor, the entrance doors opened into a large vestibule, from which a manager's room opened off to the right, and a stationery store to the left. Beyond the vestibule was the banking chamber, a large room 12.2 metres by 11.6 metres, with 6 metre high walls and a lantern light, or clerestory, with arched sashes and small engaged columns, reaching nearly 10 metres above the floor of the chamber. Cedar screens divided the main chamber from the bill department and the accountant's office on one side, and the ledger clerks on the other. At the rear of the banking chamber were an ante room for the clerks and a strong room, separated by a wide hall. The first floor comprised residential accommodation, consisting of sitting rooms, bedrooms and bathroom." For a more detailed description of the building check out

Queens Building
Located at 175 Flinders Street, the Queens Building was completed in 1887 for a local chemist, Pio Vico Armati, one of the earliest Italian settlers in North Queensland. It is described on the Queensland Heritage Register as "The Queen's Building is rendered on the street elevation and has classically influenced moulded decoration. The upper floor has four round headed windows with prominent voussoirs, separated by pilasters. Above this is an entablature and balustraded parapet. The central section is raised and has a tablet decorated by swags and topped by a draped urn. This conceals a hipped roof clad with corrugated iron. There are glass louvres fitted into the lower section of the windows. Early signage is visible on the entablature." For a more detailed discussion check out

Atkinson & Powell Building
Located at 181-183 Flinders Street, the Atkinson & Powell Building was designed by Willoughby Powell and constructed in 1887. The main features are described as "The building ... has classically influenced moulded decoration. The upper floor has four rounded headed windows with prominent voussoirs, separated by pilasters. Above this is an entablature and a balustraded parapet with a triangular pediment. This conceals a hipped roof clad with corrugated iron. A bullnosed corrugated iron awning shades the shopfront. It is supported on cast iron columns linked by a cast iron frieze. The central and eastern bays of the original timber framed glazed shopfront survive." There is an extensive description at

T. Willmetts & Sons Printery
Located at 193 Flinders Street, this 1883 building is a comment on the opulence of Townsville at the end of the twentieth century. It was, as the sign still says, a "stationary warehouse" and printery. It is three storeys and was named after the owner, Thankful Willmett, who became Mayor of Townsville. For more information check out

Commercial Bank of Australia Building (Atinee Building)
Located at 205-207 Flinders Street, this unusual, elegant, quintessentially North Queensland, building was designed by James Percy Owen Cowlishaw and built c. 1897 by J C Harrison & Sons. "This symmetrical three-storeyed building of the Federation period has deep shady verandahs on the upper two levels. These verandahs, which extend over the footpath, are decorated with cast-iron balustrades and friezes, together with timber fretwork. The ground floor shop front and interior have been modernised while the upper floors remain basically intact. The brick building, which is well designed for the tropics, is surmounted by a parapet and centrally placed pediment."  For more information check out

Aplin Brown & Company Building
Located at 232-234 Flinders Street (the corner of Denham and Flinders Streets), this handsome building contributes to the elegance of Flinders Street and enhances a corner which includes the town's old Post Office and the Perc Tucker Art Gallery. The Queensland Heritage Register explains: "The design and quality of the former Aplin Brown & Company building demonstrates the prosperity of Townsville in the 1880s and the way in which North Queensland was developed by the establishment of key ports as commercial and administrative centres. Located on a major intersection of Townsville's central business district and conveniently close to the wharves, the Aplin and Company building is a reminder of the importance of trade to this development." For a more detailed analysis check out

Townsville Post Office (now The Brewery)
Located at 252-270 Flinders Street, the Townsville Post Office is part of the impressive range of buildings on the corner of Denham and Flinders Streets. It was designed by John James Clark and built in 1886 by Dennis Kellcher. It cost a total of £14,000 with the two storey telegraph office being built in 1886 for £6,000 and the residence for the postmaster costing £8,000. The clock tower, imported for England, was added at additional expense in 1891. The building has been described as "The Post Office is a cement-rendered brick building, which displays Renaissance features. Its asymmetric facade has a loggia on the lower level, which shades the building along Flinders and Denham Streets and a verandah along the front and side facade of the upper level. The lowpitched hipped roof of corrugated iron extends into four gabled projections, while a slender clocktower and parapeted cupola dominates the corner. On the upper level, French doors open onto the verandah, with sashed windows in all other openings. The interior is not as intact as the facade because of years of alterations." It has been owned by the Townsville Brewing Company since 2001. For more information, check out

Perc Tucker Regional Gallery
Located on the corner of Flinders Street and Denham Street, at 253-259 Flinders Street, is the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, once the Union Bank of Australia it was first built in 1885. "Designed by colonial architect F.D.G. Stanley the building was single story until a second story was added in the early 1930s. The Union Bank eventually became the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and in the building was its regional headquarters until 1980 when Townsville City Council purchased the heritage building as a venue for Townsville's first public art gallery."
The Gallery holds over 2,000 works of art and has dedicated sections on Contemporary Art of Tropical Queensland, Historical Art of Tropical Queensland, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Contemporary Art from Papua New Guinea, Popular Art and Ephemera. It specifically focuses on art in the tropics. For more details check out

This is not a complete list of all the historic buildings in Flinders Street. As you continue up the street you will pass the former Queensland National Bank at 295-303 Flinders Street (1878); the former AMP building  at 416-418 Flinders Street (1938); the State Government Offices at 419 Flinders Street (1928); the Great Northern Hotel (1901) at 500 Flinders Street near the railway station; the huge, three storey railway station and North Yards Railway workshops (1913); the former Lion Brewery (1894) at 719 Flinders Street; and St Theodore's Greek Orthodox Church (1947) at 799 Flinders Street. Detailed descriptions of all these buildings can be found on the Queensland Heritage Register.

Army Museum North Queensland
The Army Museum North Queensland is located in the 15 ha grounds of the Jezzine Barracks, Mitchell Street, North Ward which was originally the location of Townsville's front line of defence. In 1880 the barracks and two 64 pound muzzle loading guns were established on the point. Over the years the area decayed and it wasn't until 1980 that it was reopened as a museum. The first museum was closed in 2008 and relocated to its current premises the following year.
The website explains the collection: "The Collections extend from the establishment of the first defences at Townsville and Thursday Island until the present day. The Museum is in the newly refurbished building at the centre of Jezzine Barracks. Show cased within the Museum are three galleries. 
"Gallery One focuses on the history of the Australian Army in North Queensland  from the late 1800's till the end of the Boer War.  Displays include a Colonial Officers tent and stories about the defence of North Queensland during the Shearer's Strike.
"Gallery Two focuses on World Wars I and II, showcasing the fabulous Honour Boards from both conflicts.  Stories of North Queensland soldiers during the Great War are enhanced by interactive displays and the effects of the Second World War on the Townsville region are another highlight. 
"Gallery Three focuses on more recent and contemporary conflicts since World War 2, including Vietnam and Korea, the history of Sir John Lavarack and Lavarack Barracks." 
The museum is open Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from 9.00 am - 1.00 pm. Contact: (07) 4721 1495 or check out

National Trust Heritage Centre
An unusual and unique museum are the three historic houses reconstructed by the National Trust at 5 Castling Street, West End. The houses, all of which once stood in various parts of Townsville, have been brought together to show the styles of housing which were common in Townsville in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There's a worker's cottage built in 1884, a farm house built about 1921 (it is not open to the public), and 'Currajong', a superb villa residence built for a local banker in 1888. All three buildings have been fully restored and furnished. The project was started in 1978 and now has pleasant gardens and two of the buildings are open for inspection. The centre is open on Wednesdays from 10.00 am - 1.00 pm and on weekends from 1.00 pm - 4.00 pm. For more information check out

Castle Hill Lookout
Castle Hill, a prominent pink granite monolith which towers some 286 metres above the city, is the city's premier lookout. The view across the city and across to Magnetic Island is both panoramic and genuinely impressive. It can be accessed by car and there are also walking tracks up and down the granite outcrop. It is, not surprisingly, particularly impressive at dawn, sunset and at night time.

Townsville's Botanical Gardens
The city has three botanical gardens. 

Queen's Gardens
The oldest of the botanic gardens is Queen's Gardens, a 4 ha park with extensive stands of tropical trees and flowers which is located 2 km from the city centre with the main entrance being from Paxton Street. It is a remnant of Townsville's former 100 acre (40.5 ha) Botanical Gardens Reserve which was proclaimed on 14 June 1870. The Gardens have been listed in the Queensland Heritage Register and a very detailed description of their history and evolution can be accessed at

Anderson Park
Located 6 km from the city centre, and officially known as Anderson Botanic Gardens, Anderson Park covers 20 ha including a lagoon, conservatory and a number of picnic places. The park is known for its collections of palms, pandanus, and an impressive tropical fruit orchard which includes mango, citrus, lychee, black sapote, papaw, breadfruit, miracle fruit, dates, cashews, jackfruit, palm hearts, cinnamon, cloves, coffee,tea, turmeric and ginger.

The Palmetum
Located in the suburb of Annandale, close to James Cook University and accessed from Nathan Street, the Palmetum, which covers an area of nearly 17 ha, specialises in palm trees. The garden's collection includes all six subfamilies within the family Arecaceae, with a total of about 300 species represented. Many are considered rare and threatened in their natural habitat. There are paths and a boardwalk through the gardens.


Other Attractions in the Area

Magnetic Island
Located 8 km north-east of Townsville (it is officially a suburb of the city) and easily visible from the city, Magnetic Island covers 5184 ha and rises to 497 m at Mount Cook. It has four small settlements at Horseshoe Bay (the island's major residential area), Arcadia, Nelly Bay and Picnic Bay. Some 2533 ha of the central area and western side of the island is now national park. In recent times the island has changed dramatically from a sleepy, out of the way, destination to a chic holiday resort. The sense of it being an untouched weekend retreat and place where fishing, bushwalking and swimming are the main activities has given way to a more aggressive, upmarket 'tropical paradise' image. While the National Park, which covers about half of the island, remains untouched the rest of the island has developed rapidly. About 70% of the island is World Heritage listed. For more detailed information check out

Located 13 km up the Ross River in the suburb of Condon, and opened in 2006, Riverway is 11 km of parkland which stretches along the Ross River and includes Pioneer Park, Loam Island, Apex Park, Ross Park and the Riverway Arts Centre. It is ideal for both picnics and for pleasant walks beside the Ross River.

Billabong Sanctuary
Located 17 km south of Townsville on the Bruce Highway, the Billabong Sanctuary is an Australian animals experience. The selling point is that visitors can get up close and personal with most of Australia's wildlife - cuddle a koala, feed a kangaroo, let a python wrap itself around you, watch a ranger feed the crocodiles. There are specific feeding times:
9.15 am - Koalas and Kangaroos feeding
10.00 am - Cassowary feeding
10.30 am - Turtle and barramundi feeding
10.45 am - Wombat experience
11.15 am - Koala experience
Noon - Reptile experience
1.00 pm - Crocodile feeding
2.00 pm - Free flight bird show
2.30 pm - Turtle feeding and turtle races
2.45 pm - Dingo experience
3.15 pm - Crocodile feeding
3.45 pm - Wombat experience
4.00 pm - Koala experience
4.20 pm - Reptile experience
4.40 pm - Kangaroo feeding
It is possible to spend the whole day at the sanctuary and simply move from one show to the next. For prices, opening times and other information check out

Mount Stuart Rotary Lookout
Located  23 km south of the city centre - via Southern Port Road and Mount Stuart Road - is the Mount Stuart Lookout which offers a superb overview of the entire city. This is one of those popular challenges for physical fitness enthusiasts with runners, cyclists and hikers all making the trip (along with lazy drivers) to the summit where the panoramic view, from 585 metres up, is spectacular and dramatic. There is a short track around the top. The walk from the base is around 15 km return. Check out for details.

Townsville Town Common Conservation Park
Located off Cape Pallarenda Road 6 km north of the city centre, this untouched area of mudflats, grasslands, swamps and forests has a serenity and peacefulness. National Parks describe the park as "Known locally as the Town Common, the park is ... a great place to enjoy nature and fantastic coastal views. Visitors can hike across the Many Peaks Range, enjoy expansive island views while riding the Under the Radar or Smedley's trails or take the trail to the beautiful and secluded Shelly Beach.
"Deep-water lagoons, seasonal wetlands, coastal woodlands and sheltered beaches bordered by rocky headlands all feature in this park. Mangrove-lined tributaries of the Bohle River meander across the floodplains that fill each year during the wet summer months. Up to 280 bird species have been recorded in the area. Magpie geese, brolgas and many others gather here to feed and nest, particularly as the wetlands dry out and food sources become concentrated in the remaining lagoons." An excellent map can be downloaded at and information about the nature, culture and history of the area is available at



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area around Townsville was home to the Wulgurukaba First Nations people.

* Townsville was first visited by Europeans when Captain Cook reached and named Cleveland Bay and Magnetic Island in 1770. 

* Phillip Parker King anchored in the bay for three days during his voyage to the Northern Territory in 1819. He was accompanied by Allan Cunningham.

* Captain John Wickham, in the Beagle, chartered the coastline in 1839. 

* In 1846 James Morrill was shipwrecked in the area and subsequently spent 17 years living with the Bindal Aboriginal people.

* In 1861 Robert Towns asked John Melton Black to select a suitable site for a port on the north Queensland coast.

* The site chosen by Black on Cleveland Bay would, over the next century, serve the mining interests of Charters Towers, Mary Kathleen and Mount Isa as well as the pastoral interests of graziers across the Gulf country.

* By 1862 a site had been chosen on the shores of Cleveland Bay and within the next year a settlement had been established with a boiling down meatworks, a wharf and a woolstore. At first it was known as Castletown.

* A hotel was opened in 1864.

* In 1865 the town was officially declared a port and renamed Townsville after its founder, Robert Towns. 

* Townsville was declared a municipality in 1866. Monthly steamer services began to operate in this year.

* The Cleveland Bay Express newspaper was first published in 1866.

* The discovery of gold at Ravenswood in 1868 led to the establishment of a breakwater in 1872. 

* The local Anglican Church was consecrated in 1871.

* In 1872 a local Catholic Church was opened.

* In 1874 Burns Philp was created in Townsville when James Burns went into partnership with Robert Philp.

* A School of Arts was opened in 1877.

* In 1880 the town held its first agricultural show.

* The harbour was dredged in 1884. That year saw the opening of the Queensland National Bank and Bank of Australasia.

* A railway from the port, known as the Great Northern Railway, moved out into the hinterland reaching Charters Towers in 1882 then Ravenswood (1884), Hughenden (1887), Winton (1900), Cloncurry (1908) and Mount Isa in 1929.

* A meatworks was opened in 1890.

* By 1891 there were 13,000 people living in the town.

* In 1892 the Church of England Cathedral was consecrated.

* In 1893 Townsville Grammar School became co-educational. The first private school in Queensland to do so.

* By 1896 the Japanese had established a consulate in the town. At the time there were 4,000 Japanese working in the area.

* In 1901 Lord Hopetoun opened the town hall.

* In 1902 the town was officially declared a city. That year saw the opening of a new Customs House.

* The rail link from Townsville to Brisbane opened in 1923.

* In 1930 the Sacred Heart church became a cathedral.

* Townsville's domestic airport was opened in 1939.

* During World War II the city hosted 50,000 Australian and American troops.

* In July, 1942 the Japanese attacked Townsville and dropped bombs which landed in the harbour.

* In 1948 there was a three month long strike by railway workers.

* Townsville University College opened in 1960. It evolved into James Cook University.

* In the 1960s Townsville became a major military base.

* In 1971 the city was seriously damaged by Cyclone Althea.

* Flinders Street became a mall in 1979.

* The first international flights into Townsville started in 1980. They stopped in 1994.

* Buchanan's Hotel burnt down in 1982.

* A casino opened in 1986.

* In 1998 Cyclone Sid seriously damaged The Strand.

* In 1999 Sun Metals Corporation from Korea opened a zinc refinery south of the city.

* The Museum of Tropical Queensland was opened in 2000.

* The Townsville City Council was created in 2008.

* REEF HQ: closed until 2026.


Visitor Information

Townsville Bulletin Square Visitor Information Centre, Flinders Street, tel: 1800 801 902 and Bruce Highway Visitor Information Centre, Billabong Sanctuary, Bruce Highway, tel: 1800 801 902.


Useful Websites

There are a number of useful sites including

Got something to add?

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

7 suggestions
  • Hi
    My granduncle John O’Brien
    Born in 1885 – Milltown Malbay, Co Clare, Ireland
    Died – 175 Flinders St, West End Townsville, North Queensland, Australia. He had at least two daughters Julia and Frances.
    Do you know where I could get his daughters’ birth, marriage or death certs?
    Mary Jane O’Brien

    Mary Jane O'Brien
  • Hi.
    I want to come in contact with Bolger/Draper/Cheetham/Thurland that is connected to
    my great grandfathers brother Ingvald Ellingsen Taarland (John Ellis Thurland) born 1869 in Stavanger, Norway, married 1900 to Alexandra Annie Maria (born Bolger) Draper Thurland. They both died in 1914. Ingvald suffered from Angina Pectoris (heart cramps).

    Annie married 1st William Draper in 1988. They had three children.

    Their daughter Annie Girlie Draper married Stanley Cheetham in 1913.
    They had these children:
    1 Lesley Stanley Cheetham, born 14.05.1914 –died. 06.06.1983
    2 Mabel Annie Cheetham, born 21.02.1916
    3 William Alfred Cheetham, born. 20.12.1917
    4 William George (George) Draper, born 04.07.1918 married. 12.08.1939 to Maud Ellen Peters, born 10.01.1921 – died 04.11.2011
    Children: Valerie May, born– died 07.03.1940 , John, born–died 25.07.1941,
    Glen, born- died 31.01.1948
    5 Alfred Cheetham, born 14.11.1919

    I am making the Taarland family tree and wants to get in contact with living family after Alexandra Annie Maria (Bolger) Draper (Taarland) Thurland. I hope to get my family tree correct and have copy of photos of Ingvald and Annie / William and Annie. I can give you the Taarland family tree, and copy of two photos of Ingvald (John Ellis) Ellingsen Taarland/Thurland. That`s all we got after him.

    Sigfred Tårland
  • A link to the Registry for anyone interested in finding out about ancestry. Information of records and things of use in family research.

    Ian Coates
  • Hello and thanks for thanks opportunity to find out a bit more about my mothers descendants – I hope. Marilyn Mary Murphy (nee Reid) was born (in Townsville) around 1934. Her mother Florence Walker married James (Jim) Reid, and had a sister(?), whom we only ever knew as “Auntie Mick” (Walker). I have a photo of mum at school – about 40 or so children around 10 – 12 years old. Of all the different “tints” of skin mum was perhaps the 3rd or 4th darkest and had long frizzy had that went a foot out from her shoulders. I have heard that ‘Walker’ was a fairly common Koori surname about your area and am hopeful you could point me in the right direction to find out more. I could not see any ‘Cultural Centre’, etc, listing in your info – only the original “First Peoples” clan name.

    Clayton Murphy
  • I was there for training with the Australian Rangers in 1980 with the 25th Infantry division out of Hawaii. I met the Gaia family members, one named Bendi, she was aboriginal, wondering what happened to her and her family.

    Alfred Mack
  • REEF HQ: closed until 2026.
    Refurbishment was scheduled to take two years; however, the building’s age and extent of deterioration resulted in a decision to demolish and rebuild the site. Originally the facility was to be closed for about two years, reopening this year, 2023.

    For travellers to the region wanting a local aquarium, try Cairns, which has a centrally located aquarium, the first public aquarium to be constructed in Australia in eighteen years. It opened in 2017.

    I moved to Townsville to work for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which was housed beside Reef HQ. My daughter visited the aquarium hundreds of times; now an adult, she has been to the Cairns Aquarium and says it offers an authentic and sound educational experience drawing upon the biodiversity of the Wet Tropics. It also houses the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.

    Below Excerpt from Wikipedia:

    Date opened 2017
    Location 5 Florence Street, Cairns City, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
    Coordinates 16°55′06″S 145°46′26″ECoordinates: 16°55′06″S 145°46′26″E
    No. of animals 16,000
    Volume of largest tank 400,000 litres (88,000 imp gal; 110,000 US gal)
    Total volume of tanks 3 million litres
    Major exhibits 71

    Susan Milner
  • The history of James Morrill the shipwrecks sailor in the 1800’s is particularly interesting. There is a movie about to come out about him called “The Wild One”.

    Lori Thompson