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A blend of nationalities in the most progressive island on Torres Strait Islands welcome the cruise tourists at Thursday Island Port. Found in Queensland, Australia, this “Port of Pearls” is also called TI or Waiben. Torres, a Spanish explorer, visited the island in 1606. A South Sea atmosphere is prevalent where the Pearling Industry began. Money is earned through prawns, tourism, and crayfish. Vegetable gardens were planted in a few islands. Fishing is the main source of livelihood of Torres Strait Islanders. The past 100 years has been the same for Thursday Island cruise terminal.
One of only 17 inhabited islands in the Torres Strait, Thursday Island is the administrative and commercial centre of all the Australian islands between Cape York and the New Guinea mainland. It is situated in the Prince of Wales Island group, or Inner Islands, 39 kilometres (24 mi) north-west of Australia's northern extremity, the Cape York Peninsula. Its area is approximately 1.4 square miles (about 3.5 square kilometres). At 341 feet (104 metres) above sea level, Milman Hill, a World War II defence facility, is the highest point on Thursday Island.
Although populated for thousands of years by the Melanesian Torres Strait Islanders, Thursday Island was settled in 1877 with the construction of a government outpost, and Port Kennedy was settled the following year. The island became a coaling station for shipping, a quarantine point and the pearl shell industry headquarters. By 1883, over 200 pearling vessels were based on the island. In 1892, the Battery Point fortification, with a gunnery on Green Hill at the eastern end, was erected to protect the entry to Port Kennedy on the south-east shoreline. In the early-to-mid-20th century, Thursday Island's infrastructure expanded to accommodate steady growth in pearling, commerce and population, During World War II, Thursday Island became the military headquarters for the Torres Strait, and was a base for Australian and United States forces. By the late-1950s, the decline of its treasured pearl shell industry gave way to cultured pearl farming, fishing, and various government and municipal services.
Today, tourism is a viable component of Thursday Island's local economy. Its well-sheltered harbour has become a popular destination for the cruise industry, and represents an ideal launching point for exploring the island's abundant coastal beauty, historic landmarks, flora and fauna, marine life, and bird species. In addition, Thursday Island's ease of accessibility attracts visitors returning from the mainland or flying from Cairns to Horn Island, just a 30-minute ferry-ride away. There is also a great deal of local travel between Thursday Island, other islands in the Torres Strait and Cape York, mostly in smaller boats and weather permitting.
Thursday Island's legacy and culture can be explored through visits to historical sites and exhibits that offer a unique insight into life on the island. Thursday Island has four sites on the Queensland Heritage Register: the Our Lady of Sacred Heart Catholic Church complex, the earliest building dating from 1885; the Quetta Memorial Precinct, Douglas Street, including the Anglican Cathedral; the Japanese Cemetery complex, resting-place of hundreds of Japanese pearl divers; and the elegant, two-storey Customs House in Victoria Parade. Other notable landmarks include the Torres Strait Cultural Centre, Gab Titui Cultural Centre, Grand Hotel, Pilot House, Infantry Monument, Green Hill Fort and Military Museum, Sea and Pearl Museum, Horn Island Jetty and Cultural Centre, Kazu Pearl Farm, and the All Souls Quetta Memorial Church.
In addition to its many historic and cultural landmarks, Thursday Island abounds with natural and coastal beauty that is ideally-suited for nature hikes, helicopter flight-seeing, boating, sailing, fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving, and a wide array of other popular outdoor excursions during your visit.
Due to its compact size, Thursday Island can be easily explored in just a single day.
Where You are Docked
The ship may be at anchor. Depending upon weather conditions, guests will tender ashore from the harbour, or lee of Black Rock, to the Engineers Jetty Pier. The town centre can be reached via a one-block walk from the landing pier on-foot.
Things To See and Do
City Centre
Thursday Island's city centre is easily-accessible on-foot. In addition to local landmarks such as the Infantry Monument and shopping and dining venues, the city centre offers stunning vistas of the harbour, Torres Strait and its offshore islands, pristine beaches, intimate coves, hidden inlets, fishing boats, and more.
Green Hill Fort
Overlooking the entire island is the Green Hill Fort. Constructed in 1892 to protect Australia and Thursday Island against Russian invasion. The fort offers tours of abandoned bunkers and tunnels, and houses two museums. The fort's location atop one of the highest points on Thursday Island affords spectacular vistas out to the islands of the Torres Strait, as well as Prince Charles Island, which is situated opposite the port.
Infantry Monument
Located in the town centre, the Infantry Monument honours the deaths of fallen soldiers in various wars.
All Souls Quetta Memorial Church
The All Souls Quetta Memorial Church was built in 1893 in memory of the shipwreck of the Quetta, which struck an uncharted reef in the Adolphus Channel in 1890 and resulted in the loss of more than 130 lives.
Military Museum
Part of the Green Hill Fort, the Military Museum features a collection of military artefacts depicting the origins of the fort, as well as the stationing of Australian forces during World War II to protect Northern Australia against possible Japanese invasion.
Sea and Pearl Museum
The Green Hill Fort is also home to the Sea and Pearl Museum, dedicated to the pearl fishing industry and importance of the sea in the Torres Strait. The original Booby Island Lighthouse lens is displayed here.
Gab Titui Cultural Centre
The Gab Titui Cultural Centre offers a unique glimpse into the lives and traditions of Australia's indigenous people. The centre's interpretive display establishes the link between traditions and modern culture, as well as the diverse geography of the Torres Strait and the people's spiritual and practical connection with the sea.
Torres Strait Cultural Centre
The best museum devoted to the First Nation People in the archipelago, the Torres Strait Cultural Centre explores the culture of the indigenous people prior to the Europeans arrival. During July and August, the centre offers workshops and cultural dance performances.
Torres Strait Art Gallery
Located in the Jardine Hotel, the gallery features both historical and contemporary artwork.
Japanese Cemetery
The Japanese Cemetery is home to hundreds of gravesites of Japanese pearl divers; some of these gravesites are marked by small bowls to hold food for the spirits of the dead.
Horn Island Jetty and Heritage Museum
The Horn Island Jetty is the entry and exit point for boaters making their way to the tip of Australia. It features lovely views of the coast and turquoise blue sea, and excellent fishing. The museum explores Thursday Island's role in history, particularly World War II, and features warplane relics, pearl-diving memorabilia and an old gold mine.
Queensland Heritage Register
Thursday Island has four sites on the Queensland Heritage Register: the Our Lady of Sacred Heart Catholic Church complex, the earliest building dating from 1885; the Quetta Memorial Precinct on Douglas Street, including the Anglican Cathedral; the Japanese Cemetery complex, resting-place of hundreds of Japanese pearl divers; and the elegant, two-storey Customs House in Victoria Parade.
Kazu Pearl Farm
A water taxi to Friday Island brings you to the Kazu Pearl Farm. Here, observe the painstaking pearling process by which seeds for pearls are implanted in oysters, and pearls are removed two years after implantation.
Special Events
Thursday Island offers special events that include the bi-annual Torres Strait Cultural Festival, the Coming of the Light Ceremony, held in July and celebrating Christianity in the Torres Strait, and the Island of Origin Rugby League Match.
Outdoor Activities
Guests to Thursday Island can participate in various sporting activities, including tennis, shooting, basketball, football, and aerobics facilities. The pristine natural and coastal beauty of Thursday Island combine to offer a wonderful array of outdoor activities, including nature hikes, helicopter flight-seeing, boating, sailing, charter boat fishing, and scuba diving and snorkelling with Tony's Tours.
Eating Out
Fresh seafood, prawns, Semur chicken, rooster, and produce are island specialities. The local delicacy, Torres Strait painted crayfish, is considered a taste sensation. The few restaurants are casual, and include the Grand Hotel Restaurant, Gab Titui Café/Ilan Café, Pearl Lugger, Malu Paru, Bobby's Snack Bar, and the Island Rooster.
Thursday Island, Australia wants tourists to experience Australian fast food from Queensland. Island Rooster serves fried or grilled chicken, chips, and burgers among its other dishes. At Pearl Lugger, there is an array of crayfish, fillet steaks, and garlic prawns. At their beer garden, guests can cook their own “barby”. The wine selection satisfies the thirst of the alcoholic beverage lover. The top pub of Australia is at Torres hotel.
Shopping opportunities on Thursday Island include original islander art, music, jewellery, carvings, pearls, and seashell art. Boutique shopping experiences include Rosie Ware Textile for handmade souvenirs, Gab Titui, the Peddels Souvenir Shop, Jetty Shop, and Douglas Shop. Douglas Street is the island's main shopping area, and located just a five-minute walk from the jetty. The local art gallery, souvenir shops, news agency and drugstore can all be found here. Although the heyday of the pearling industry is gone, pearls are still produced in the region from seeded culture farms. Shops are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The local currency is the Australian dollar.

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