Prior to the advent of rail in Australia, Townsville was an outpost in Northern Queensland that could only be reached by sea. Ships and lightkeepers were essential to the region’s connection with the rest of the world, and this small museum in central Townsville explores the area’s lengthy past with ships, sailors, and the sea. Shaped like the bow of the SS Yongala—a passenger ship that mysteriously sank off the coast in 1911—the museum features a fascinating exhibit on the SS Yongala itself, from its construction in England to its service in Australia and its discovery in 1958. History buffs will also find the historic Bay Rock Lighthouse, which was originally built on Magnetic Island in 1886. It was one of Queensland’s first lighthouses, and was manned by lightkeepers until tragedy struck in March of 1920. Today the dome of the original lighthouse is on display at the museum, nearby a boat shed that houses a lifeboat that was used in the film Australia. The main attraction of the museum, however, is the fleet of model ships, which are fantastically detailed and constructed using the same designs as the originals. The HMAS Townsville is also docked in the creek outside the museum—a haven of maritime history and heritage in the heart of bustling Townsville.
The Townsville Maritime Museum is right in the middle of Townsville’s strip of popular cafés and restaurants. It’s an easy and informative visit when touring Townsville on foot.