Linking the Cape with the Torres Strait

Local Information

The traditional inhabitants of this group of islands stretching from Cape York to the PNG coastline, are a culturally unique group, these Torres Strait Islanders lived, fished, traded and where possible on a few islands tended vegetable gardens. They were masters of the sea and its products.

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.

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.

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 p. 131313 operate daily flights from Cairns to nearby Horn Island, connections available to Thursday Island

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


Please note that although our ferry and tours generally operate on these days and services such as hotels and restaurants continue to trade, some local businesses choose to close to join the celebrations.

June 3rd Mabo Day Celebrations (Gazetted Bank Holiday)

July 1st Coming of the Light Celebrations (Gazetted Bank Holiday)