Torres Strait Islands
Experience | culture | history | Island | tour | Far North | Queensland

Torres Strait Islands

Day tour through paradise

by Susie Baber  |  17 August 2022

Torres Strait Islands is comprised of 274 islands, spread north from Australia all the way up to the border of Papua New Guinea. The inner islands are the only ones that you are likely to visit on a trip to Cape York and includes Horn Island, Hammond Island, Prince of Wales Island, Goods Island, Wednesday and Friday Islands to name a few. Further from the coastline are the outer islands. They are divided into four groups each with their own personality: the western, the northern, the central, and the eastern group (while the inner islands are also called the southern group).

Unsure of what to expect of the Torres Straight Islands we booked a guided day trip with Cape York Adventures. Leaving from Seisia, our little boat held 14 passengers plus our guide, the ride out over the channel through the turquoise waters was beautiful. We even saw a turtle poke his head out of the water to check us out, our captain predicted he wouldn’t last long as the locals still consider turtle a delicacy and hunt them regularly, the clever ones have learnt not to surface when people are around.

We visited two islands – Thursday Island and Roko Island.

Thursday Island (TI) is the commercial and administrative centre of Torres Strait and a large percentage of the population are government employees. With a population of 2,500 it is the most populated island and while it is not the biggest, it is the most visited. TI is the largest and neatest town we have seen since we left Cairns. This little community has federal police, state police, island police, border force police and marine police, enough to keep any population in order. After disembarking from the boat our group walked up to the Gab Titui Cultural Centre and wandered the main street of town before reassembling at Island Stars for lunch and a show. Every direction you look in has beautiful views out over those brilliant turquoise waters.

We were entertained by a group of boys doing traditional dances and playing the conch shell. These cultural activities are part of the school curriculum on the Torres Strait Islands and performing for the tourists is all in a day’s work for these kids. The kids were great, very entertaining and you could see that they were very proud of their heritage. After lunch we headed back to the boat and on to Roko Island with a little detour past Possession Island. On the shores of Possession Island is a monument to mark the spot where Captain James Cook claimed the eastern coast of Australia to England in 1770. A little hard to read the plaque from the boat, but we got the idea.

Roko Island used to be a working pearl farm but is now a privately owned glamping resort and welcomes day tours to share their little piece of paradise. After exploring the island and learning a little about its pearling history we relaxed at the palm leaf thatched bar with a cocktail and waited for our ride back to the mainland.

If doing a guided tour isn’t your thing you can get a regular passenger ferry to Thursday Island, I think if we visited the Torres Strait Islands again I would put my walking shoes on and do our own thing. Some of the places I wish we had seen are Green Hill Fort and Underground Museum, and the Japanese pearl divers’ graves at the Island Cemetery.

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