Also known as the Reception area, the Breezeway between the Federation Gallery and the Seafarers' Gallery is home to a small gift shop, a display about the history of the Museum and the public noticeboard.

An exhibition  of historic lenses and other lighthouse equipment has been upgraded through the addition of interpretive panels and a map indicating the original location of the items on display.

Federation Gallery

Battle of the Coral Sea

A new display of panels, banners, artefacts, model ships and dioramas has been completed,  telling the story of Townsville’s association with the two world wars at sea, with as focal point the Battle of the Coral Sea (4-8 May 1942), which was fought between Japanese and Allied naval forces only about 885 km (477 nautical miles) north-east of Townsville. The showpieces amongst the models are HMAS Nestor (dedicated to Neville George who sailed on the ship and later founded the Museum) and the aircraft-carrier USS Lexington. A model of HMAS Albatross, an early seaplane carrier, represents the history of the Royal Australian Navy between the world wars. Also on show is a model of the famous (or infamous) World War I German auxiliary cruiser (or raider) Seeadler, probably one of the last windjammers (large steel-hulled sailing ships) used for waging war. Enhancing the display are a series of short video documentaries, courtesy of the Australian National Maritime Museum, featuring the story of the Australian submarine AE2 and Australian troop transports during World War I.

Also on show are two World War II documentaries, loaned to the Museum thanks to the generosity of the Australian National Maritime Museum. The one documentary, titled Clash of the carriers, features the Battle of the Coral Sea, using original footage and state of the art animation, making the battle through stunning visuals and sounds real as never before. This documentary is part of War and Peace in the Pacific 75, a program of the Australian National Maritime Museum supported by the USA Bicentennial Fund.

The other documentary confronts the visitor with the human side of the battle through interviews with Australian and US Coral Sea veterans, both moving and entertaining.

Women’s War 2

The Women's War 2 exhibition , consisting of display panels and display cases arranged around a mock-up of a typical North Queensland living-room during the war, complete with a piano and blackout curtains.This exhibition tells some of the stories about life in Townsville during the years 1939-1945 from a young woman's perspective. The twelve participating ladies whose experiences are showcased had all worked in different local industries in the defence of the country, many of them associated with maritime industries.



Seafarers’ Gallery

Named after the organisation that established the Museum, this gallery contains an eclectic mix of maritime themes, ranging from exploration, the mutiny on the Bounty and early labour recruitment to navigation and surface supplied underwater diving. Highlights of this gallery are models of HMS Pandora, HMS Bounty and HMB Endeavour.

Memorial Garden

Located between the Seafarer’s Gallery and the Port Building, this outdoor area commemorates Royal Australian Navy casualties of the Pacific Theatre of War during World War II, the people who died when the steamship Yongala was lost (1911) and the members of the Allied commando unit Z Special Unit who died when attacking Japanese shipping in Singapore harbour, October 1944 (Operation Rimau).

Royal Australian Navy after 1945

A gallery in the Port Building is dedicated to the post-war history of the RAN, with as focal point the Fremantle-class patrol boat HMAS Townsville, featuring a model, uniforms and a video documentary.

Yongala Gallery

Two areas inside the Port Building tell the story of the disappearance and discovery of the steamship Yongala through interpretive panels, a video documentary and displays of original artefacts, including the ship’s bell.


A small exhibition inside the Port Building features relics associated with some famous shipwrecks, such as the Gothenburg and the Duroc. One of the anchors outside at the Bay Rock lighthouse probably is the oldest artefact owned by the Museum. Dating back to the 1780s, it is an anchor found at the wrecksite of the French exploration corvette L'Astrolabe, which foundered at Vanikoro in the late 1780s. The exhibition tells the story of this famous shipwreck. Also on display are posters showcasing the shipwrecks off Magnetic Island, part of the circa 70 known wrecks in the waters off Townsville.

Bay Rock Lighthouse

This lighthouse is situated between the Port Building and the Model Ship Gallery. After relocation it was officially opened to the public in September, 2003.

Bay Rock is a small mound of granite situated west of West Point, Magnetic Island. The lighthouse was one of the first to be erected in Queensland in 1886. Its light was essential for the safe passage of vessels entering Cleveland Bay from the north or for anchoring in the main shipping anchorage off Bay Rock, or for those vessels making for the Quarantine Station at West Point. Shallow water and reef in this area made early navigation both difficult and dangerous.  

The light source was an open flame kerosene burner of 1000 candle power, and in clear weather was visible for about 14 nautical miles. The tower itself is 8m tall, and when positioned on Bay Rock, the light was 29m above sea level. A small house was also built on 'the rock' to accommodate the light keeper's family.

The last light keeper was John Lawson, who had been on Bay Rock for less than a year when a tragedy befell him in March 1920. Returning to Bay Rock with five friends in a small fishing boat one evening, the vessel was capsized in a sudden squall. The weakest three stayed clinging to the boat, while the others swam to Bay Rock in order to raise the alarm and return to pick up their friends in the light keepers boat. Although they searched all night, no sign of either Lawson or the others was found. The search continued for several days but yielded only the small boat.

Following this incident it was decided to replace the manual function of the light with an automatic mechanism. This meant that light keepers and their families did not have to live on this isolated rock again. Mrs Lawson and the five children were relocated to the mainland.

Although only the top section is original, the lighthouse is of historic significance, being associated with the safe passage of local shipping in the years before and following Federation. It is also associated with local light keeping families, many of whose descendants remain in the Townsville area. 

With the help of the emergency services helicopter and generous community members, the lighthouse was relocated to the museum from Bay Rock in 1992.

Model Ship Gallery

Designed for the demonstration of model ship building, this gallery displays about forty model ships. Although most of them have no particular connection with Townsville, the display demonstrates the evolution of ship design, the craft of model ship building and the range of materials used.

Boat Shed

The Boat Shed is a large covered area displaying the mooring vessel Beth, a range of historic outboard motors (Seagull, Mallard, Gold Cheetah, Evinrude, Riptide) and marine communication equipment. Also on display are a double rowing shell named Terrow and a coxed quad rowing shell named Allan Rolfe, used by school rowers at St Joseph's Gregory Terrace College (Brisbane) and in more recent years at Ignatius Park College (Townsville).

Gun Deck

Located behind the Boat Shed and workshop at the end of the Museum precinct, the Gun Deck displays a rare 1880s naval 5-inch breech-loading gun that may have originated from the Queensland Navy’s gunboat Paluma; it also offers a view of one of Townsville’s oldest shipyards.