THURSDAY ISLAND: HISTORY AND NATURE ALL IN ONE PLACE

ThursdayThursday Island, known colloquially as IT, is an island in the Torres Strait Islands Archipelago.

It is approximately 39 km north of the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia.

Despite only having an area of around 3.5 square kilometres, Thursday Island is the administrative centre of the Torres Strait Island Region.

The highest point on the island, Milman Hill, is only 104 m above sea level.  As of 2011, Thursday Island had a population of 2,610.

 

The island has been populated for thousands of years, with evidence suggesting Melanesian occupation on the island as far back as 2,600 years ago.

The island’s most recent “ancestors” are the Torres Strait Islanders, who’s influence on the island remains.  In 1887, the Queensland Government set up the Torres Strait Administrative Centre on the island and in 1885, a lucrative pearling industry was founded on the island.

This industry attracted workers from all over Asia, including many from Japan, Malaysia, and India, all seeking to strike it rich with a big pearl find.

Additionally, a number of South Pacific Islanders worked on the island in the pearling industry, some of which were brought against their will.

Today, the pearling industry is far less important on the island.

However, the mix of cultures created by the international influx of people created by this industry remains evident and remains a crucial part of the Thursday Island culture.

 

During World War II, the island was used as a military base for both Australian and American troops.  During this time, Beauty-girl-on-a-boatmany of the Japanese on the island were forcibly repatriated.

Interestingly enough, the island was entirely spared from any sort of attack during the war.

Some theorize that the reason for this was that the Japanese might have thought there were still Japanese on the island, or because the island has a large burial site for Japanese who died on the island working as pearl divers.

History enthusiasts, or World War II enthusiasts will surely find some interesting history on Thursday Island.

Accommodation

The island has some very comfortable and modern accommodation options.  Here is a quick run through of the two most popular options.

Thursday Island Hotels1)   The Grand Hotel: While the original Grand Hotel, built in 1890, was destroyed by a fire in 1990, the newly rebuilt version also offers a comfortable accommodation experience to visitors.

The hotel is situated right on the foreshore of Thursday Island, with excellent views of the Endeavour Strait, Horn Island, and Prince of Wales Island.

The hotel has 28 rooms, 21 of which are on the first floor, 7 of which are on the lower level.

 

Each room has an ensuite bathroom, tea and coffee making facilities, direct dial telephones (except budget rooms), fans and air-conditioning, a television, a bar fridge, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

All guest also have access the the hotel’s verandah which has a fantastic view of the Endeavour Strait.  All guests can enjoy a fully cooked complementary breakfast as well.

For other meals, the Grand Hotel offers both an in house bar that serves food as well as a more traditional sit-down restaurant, called Malu Paru.

2)   Island Villas Boutique Accommodation: The island’s only four-star self-serving boutique accommodation, the Island Villas boasts two villas, each with excellent views of the Endeavour Strait and just a short walk away from the island’s amenities and businesses.

In addition to the villas, Island Villas also has a number of other “prestige properties,” for short term rentals. The villas each sleep up to four people and come with two bedrooms (king or twin singles), two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, air conditioning and ceiling fans, office nook, laundry facilities, LCD TV, iPod dock, complimentary WiFi, long distance, and mobile calls, undercover parking, linen and bath towels, and tours and airport transfers.

The, “prestige,” properties include the Bayo Beach House, which is located on Bayo Beach, right on the water’s edge.  This house is pristine and beautifully furnished, offering two bedrooms.

There are also the two Island Apartments.  The first of these apartments has one bedroom and is just minutes walking away from all of the Thursday Island amenities.

It also comes with a large patio, perfect for holiday entertaining, or just relaxing.  The second apartment has three bedrooms and is situated on a hill overlooking Endeavour Strait.   

What to Do – Info

Thursday Island offers a number of different activities of interest to tourists.

The island is packed with historically Thursday Island, colloquiallyinteresting locations, including the Green Hill Fort.

The fort displays the cannons that once guarded the main approaches to the island.

The underground tunnels under the fort, which have recently been refurbished, also houses the Torres Strait Historical Museum, which makes for a fascinating visit.

The museum is houses artifacts from the rugged past of the Torres Strait, including displays form the pearling era, traditional relics from the Torres Strait Islanders, Papua New Guinea, and other nearby cultures that have influenced the island.

As previously mentioned, the island has a number of World War II related landmarks to visit.

The island also has four building listed as national heritage sites.

They are the Quetta Memorial Precinct on Douglas Stree, the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, also on Douglas Street, the Thursday Island Cemetery, which includes the Japanese Cemetery and the grave of the Hon. John Douglas, on Summers Street, and the Thursday Island Customs House, at 2 Victoria Parade.

 

There are also a number of tours and cruises of the islands around Thursday Island that can be particularly interesting.  Torres Strait Tours offers tours of Thursday Island, Horn Island, and Badu Island.  

The Thursday Island is a two-hour tour on an air-conditioned bus that will take you to all the relevant historical sites as well as Lions Lookout, which offers fantastic views of the surrounding islands.

You can finish you tours perusing the unique shops on Thursday Island.  The Horn Island tour is also a bus lead tour.

It is lead by a tour guide from the Heritage Museum on Horn Island who will regale you will tales about the island’s historical significance in World War II.  

This tour includes warplane relics, an underground command post, and old gold mine from the 1860’s, and a number of scenic lookouts.

Badu Island tour starts with a trip aboard the M.V. Robert Henry, where you will enjoy a scenic boat ride to the island weaving through the other islands in the Torres Strait Islands.

Along the ride, visitors will have ample opportunity to see any of the Booby Birds, Torres Strait Pigeons, and Green turtles.  Upon arriving on Badu Island, guests are taken back in time to what traditional island life must have been like.

Many of the locals on the island have retained their cultural heritage and fully embraced showing visitors what Badu Island is all about.  

Visitors will be treated to displays of local arts and crafts, traditional island dances, cassowary feathered headdresses, local songs, and of course, the island cuisine cooked in a an underground steam oven.

Thursday Island is also a fantastic fishing destination.  With a variety of different fish roaming the waters surrounding the island and in the Torres Strait, you are sure to make a catch of some sort. Charters can be arranged for those who want them.

How to Get There

Thursday Island is accessible by plane via Horn Island from either Cairns or Bamaga.

From Horn Island, there is a quick ferry to Thursday Island.  Likewise, the island can also be

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