There are so many lovely places in Queensland, it’s often hard to decide where to stop and for how long. Usually our destination determines where we stay along the way, othertimes it’s the most logical place to take a break. An overnight means we have relatively little time to explore, two nights gives us a whole day to look around.
Just over three hours from Airlie Beach is Townsville, another major gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and Magnetic Island. The name may ring a bell as earlier this year the town received its entire annual total rainfall in a week! There was over a metre (4 feet) of rain, eclipsing records set in 1998 during a flood known as the “Night of Noah.”
Townsville – named after Robert Towns – was founded in 1864 as a port for the fledgling pastoral industry in North Queensland. Following the discovery of gold in the immediate hinterland at Ravenswood and then Charters Towers, the town developed into the principal centre and de facto capital of North Queensland.
Given the town’s strategic location and importance it was logical to make it a military base. On commencement of WWI in 1914, the town’s Kennedy Regiment was sent to Thursday Island to protect it from attack by German forces in the Pacific.
Post-war, expansion continued particularly once further minerals were discovered nearby. Its first airport opened in 1939 and the Garbutt airfield became a Royal Australian Air Force base.
Between 1942 and 1945 Townsville played an important part in the War in the Pacific, becoming a major military base, accommodating up to 90,000 Australian, American and other allied service personnel. It was bombed on three occassions by the Japanese, and was used as a major offensive launching base during the battle of the Coral Sea.
Post-WWII, the town continued to serve as a strategic military post with the opening of the Jezzine Barracks (now transformed into an Aboriginal and military commemorative heritage site) at Kissing Point in 1964 and the establishment of the Lavarack Barracks for the transfer of the Australian 3rd Task Force in 1967. This occurred alongside the town’s commercial and educational expansion. 2016 saw the town celebrate its 150th anniversary.
It’s fair to say, Townsville exceeded our expectations but all too soon we were heading for our final stop in Queensland, Port Douglas. After re-fuelling at breakfast, we resumed our place on the Bruce Highway pointing the bonnet of our hire car northwards.