Pearl farm

Where to go

Torres Strait

The Isolated Beauty of the Torres Strait

Blessed with coral reefs, deserted beaches and pockets of rainforest, the 274 islands of the Torres Strait off the tip of Cape York are a fascinating mix of Indigenous and Melanesian cultures.

Boat tied up at Friday Island

A WORLD AWAY

There are few relatively undiscovered places left in the world, yet one of them starts just off the coast of Tropical North Queensland. The Torres Strait Islands are impossibly beautiful and virtually untouched, a series of stepping stones reaching from Cape York towards Papua New Guinea.

Sea turtle in ocean

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

White beaches, volcanic peaks covered in forest and rocky islets emerge from turquoise water teeming with dugongs, dolphins, sea turtles and giant marlin. The northernmost fringes of the Great Barrier Reef lie to the east, although you’ll find none of the crowds that exist further south.

Dancers in the Torres Strait

INTO THE ANCIENT

It’s a region with a rich history, dating back 70,000 years when the first Torres Strait islanders migrated from the Indonesian archipelago. The people are still intrinsically tied to their ancient culture and each of the islands’ small communities has their own distinct practices, beliefs and customs. Practices they share include colourful dance, distinctive masks and headdresses, traditional carving and modern printmaking.

Cannon

IT MUST BE THURSDAY

Less than 20 of the islands are inhabited and just a few permit visitors, including the administrative capital, Thursday Island. The island is tiny (about 3 sq km) and there are just two sleepy main streets and a handful of hotels. In the late 19th century, it was a bustling pearling hub with hundreds of ships and divers based here. More than 600 Japanese divers are buried in the island’s heritage-listed cemetery. You’ll also find one of Australia’s oldest military fortifications on the island, Green Hill Fort, built in 1891.

Remote island in the Torres Strait

THE OUTER REACHES

On the more remote islands, tourism is almost non-existent. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get around – friendly locals will be happy to take you out in their dinghies to fish in hidden coves or invite you to join them for a celebratory meal.

Tips

  • During World War II, 5000 troops and airmen were stationed on Horn Island, which was the second most-attacked location in Australia after Darwin. Visit the Torres Strait Heritage Museum on the island to uncover its fascinating and little-known military history.

  • See historic artefacts and contemporary works from local communities at the award-winning Gab Titui Cultural Centre. The centre promotes only ethical sales of Indigenous work and supports some 70 artists across the islands.

  • Visit a modern working pearl farm at Roko Island, a private island just off the mainland that produces high-quality Australian South Sea pearls. Take a tour of the farm, see pearls being harvested and buy jewellery made on the island.

  • The fishing on the islands is exceptionally good. Throw a line in off the wharf at Horn Island, or take one of the many available fishing charters in search of coral trout, sail fish, mackerel, golden snapper and red emperor.

  • The Torres Strait Islands can be tricky to get around, so plan ahead with flights and inter-island transfers, book accommodation in advance and carry cash, as banking facilities are limited.

Discover More

Learn more about the individual islands, their unique communities and the region’s fascinating history – and explore the untouched tip of the Great Barrier Reef.

Getting here

  • Skytrans aircraft on tarmac

    By air

    Skytrans connects Cairns with the main communities on Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands and offers the most diverse route options. Qantaslink offers daily return flights from Cairns to Horn Island.

  • Peddels ferry service on water

    By boat/ferry

    Peddell’s Ferry offers transfers from Seisa to Thursday Island as well as providing island tours by bus on Thursday Island. Private boat charters are also available. McDonald Charter Boats and Rebel Marine/Torres Strait Tours offer ferry services between Horn Island and Thursday Island.

  • MV Trinity at sea

    By ship

    Sail to the islands with Ahoy Buccaneers or take the cargo ship MV Trinity Bay to the tip of Australia. You’ll cruise 1,000km along the Great Barrier Reef on a vessel destined for the azure-blue waters of the Torres Strait Islands. A stunning, unique, bucket-list experience like no other. Why not put your 4WD on the vessel heading north, and drive back to Cairns through Cape York – an untamed wilderness that has to be seen to be believed.

  • By helicopter

    Multiple scenic and fishing tours are available from Seisa, Cape York to the islands of the Torres Strait with GBR Helicopters, Nautilus Aviation, and Helitours North Queensland. Private charter services are also available.

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