Federation Gallery

World War I and World War II naval history

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 HMAS Townsville, a Bathurst class Australian Minesweeper. Enhancing the display are a series of short video documentaries, courtesy of the Australian National Maritime Museum and Schindler Productions, featuring, amongst others, the story of the Australian submarine AE2, Australian troop transports during World War I and the trailer for the documentary of the Z Special Forces vessel Krait.

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.

Doug Tarca: Townsville's Reef Tourism Pioneer

The Maritime Museum of Townsville has started planning a new display, featuring Doug Tarca, who pioneered the establishment of Reef tourism in Townsville during the 1970s and 1980s that was affordable and available to both the local community and interstate and overseas visitors. Well-known projects were his Personalities Restaurant with the adjacent Tarca Coral Gardens shop and showroom (South Townsville) and his Reef Link operation between Townsville and John Brewer Reef featuring a fast catamaran, a pontoon for mooring, snorkeling and scuba diving and a specialised reef viewing vessel with underwater windows, the Manta aka Yellow Sub. The culmination of his tourism enterprises was the John Brewer floating hotel, the first of its kind in the world. Little that is tangible has been left of Tarca's operations, but his legacy lives on. The Museum's display will feature the original models of the Yellow Sub and the hotel, photos, personal memories, historical photographs and historical video material. The launch of the display is estimated to take place in April 2018


  Image courtesy of Townsville CityLibraries

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 HMS Endeavour.

Memorial Garden

Located between the Seafarer’s Gallery and the Port Building, this outdoor area commemorates Royal Australian Navy casualties 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 as a result of an attack on 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.

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 and marine communication equipment.

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.