This post is the first in a new series of posts highlighting the Townsville Heritage trails. Townsville has 3 separate trails which run through the heart of some of the cities most beautiful and significant heritage locations, from heritage listed buildings to sites of previous industry and business entities. The heritage trails are ideal for visitors to explore, and are specifically set up to be undertaken on foot, rather than requiring vehicular transport. Just look out for the signs around Townsville City to locate the trail. This series will run over a number of weeks.

The first in the series is the original location of the Townsville Port. Located at the ocean end of Palmer St in South Townsville opposite the Metropole Hotel, another heritage location to explore, is the remnants of the original wharves utilised to load sugar onto vessels entering Ross Creek.


Interestingly the original commercial port was located on the Flinders St side of the creek, now known as the night club street in Townsville, but moved to the southern banks in the late 1800s following the industrial revolution. Larger vessels and new loading methods would see the expansion of the port facilities and movement of the commercial facility to the Southern aspect of Ross Creek where more room was available. 1865 saw the first port location identified by a group of men from Woodstock Station as a suitable location with direct access for pastoral properties to the port.

In 1896 Tropical Cyclone Sigma struck Townsville on the 26th November causing significant damage to the structures of the original port and gave rise to the manufacture of Townsville’s original breakwater, later constructed from rock mined from Pilot Hill extending from the end of The Strand, to protect vessels docked in port. With the breakwater in place and expansion of port facilities around c. 1950, Mount Isa Mines would use the port to expand their zinc export trade .

This breakwater would be lengthened and rebuilt later to what is seen today.


Original Loading of vessels in port relied heavily upon manual labour, with labourers loading hessian sugar bags by hand and crane into vessels a few at a time. Nowadays sugar is loaded by the tonne into the belly of massive ships utilising conveyor systems direct from storage sheds on the port site.

Townsville’s first “sugar shed” was built in 1959, it operated until 1963 before a massive fire destroyed it, in a one in a million blaze which revolutionised the fire service in Queensland, it would be rebuilt and a further sugar shed built increasing Townsville’s sugar export capabilities to world standards. Other commodities joined the port facilities which now export fuels, LPG, oil, cattle, tallow, cars, containers and other goods daily.

More recently a cruise ship terminal has been built which sees several cruise ships stop to visit Townsville each year.

Ross Creek1
Site of the old Townsville Port, Palmer St, South Townsville

The port services Townsville’s industry and is a part of the lifeblood of Townsville, it employs a number of Townsville’s residents and will always remain a bustling hub of industry in Townsville’s coastal seascape.

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The Townsville Port: We walk along the Townsville Heritage Trail and bring you the history of our beautiful city.

References: Townsville Port,

Next Stop: The Metropole Hotel

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