Linking the Cape with the Torres Strait

Local Information

Torres Strait stretches from Cape York to the PNG coastline, Torres Strait Islanders have a unique oceanographic cultural heritage, traditions remain close to the way of life today in the islands,  fishing, trading and where possible on a few islands tending vegetable gardens. Torres Strait Islanders are masters of the sea and its products.  Early trepang and pearlshell fishers were amongst the first contact with the outside world, Christianity arrived in 1871 with LMS, the winds of change were swift and often cruel and left an indelible mark on Torres Strait, people, land and sea.

In 1606 the Spanish navigator, Torres, sailed through the Strait, subsequently named after him. Although they did not penetrate the Strait, the Dutch ship Duyfken explored the west coast of Cape York the same year.  As the Torres Strait offered the shipping trade a valuable short cut to Asia, the route slowly became popular.  However the need for a port of refuge, pilot base and government outpost was acknowledged and after a short attempt at settling Albany Island, then Somerset, on Cape York, authorities decided upon  Thursday Island.

Thursday Island offered a sheltered harbour and is located virtually on the doorstep of the only navigable shipping lane through Torres Strait, the Prince of Wales Channel.  Access through the P.O.W. shipping channel is still vital and Thursday Island remains the region’s administrative / trading centre and pilot bases continue to operate from T.I. to this day.

Torres Strait is today reliant on most of its food supplies and other supplies being brought in by ship from Cairns this in turn increases the cost of living and during the monsoon season supplies can be delayed by weather conditions.

Thursday Island owes its’ present day identity to the rough and tumble of the early Pearling Industry which turned a quiet administrative centre into a cosmopolitan “Port of Pearls”. A blend of Torres Strait Culture, European modernisation and a strong indo-pacific influence has shaped this remote township into a fascinating destination and a great place to call home.

Did you know Thursday Island is the main centre but the airport is adjacent on a less populated island (Horn Island- Ngurupai airport), connecting us to Cairns with daily flights on Dash-8 aircraft.

How to reach our part of the world

Cairns to Cape York by Vehicle: Choose a Tag – A–Long style trip with an experienced tour company or book a seat with a 4WD Safari operator with camping or accommodation options. There are many reputable tour companies offering this fantastic trip of a life time, see our links page.  If you prefer to be independent then be sure to check road conditions by contacting RACQ.

Cairns to Thursday Island by Aircraft: Qantaslink or Skytrans and other airlines

ACCOMMODATION THURSDAY ISLAND: To check out the various options and take your time to soak up the atmosphere and fall into the alluring pace of island lifestyle, check out an overnight