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Townsville is 1363 km north of Brisbane. It is a thriving international port and Australia's largest tropical city, with a population of 124,925. It lays claim to having 320 days of sunshine a year and to receiving three-quarters of its annual rainfall in the wet season, between October and March. Cyclones also feature in the city's sultry tropical climate.

The small settlement on Cleveland Bay at the mouth of Ross Creek had a slow start, and it was not until John Melton Black persuaded Robert Towns, from Sydney, to invest in a boiling-down works for the cattle industry that there was some growth. Thousands of labourers from the South Pacific worked the sugar and cotton fields and the coffee plantations. Copper was found at Einasleigh in 1866, and the discovery of gold at Cape River, Ravenswood and
 
Charters Towers soon followed, establishing Townsville as a regional centre. Other factors in the city's growth were the railway from the west, which terminated at Townsville, and the region's first meat-freezing works, established in 1892 at Ross River. During World War II, Townsville was a major staging base for US and Australian troops, due mainly to its strategic position near the South Pacific region. In 1942, the town was bombed three times by Japanese aircraft, but no damage was done. There are many historic buildings in Townsville, particularly around the waterfront park area. The typical Queenslander, high-set on stilts, of timber construction and with verandas, is very common.

Townsville is the northern centre for higher education, being the home of James Cook University, formerly the University College of Townsville, which specialises in marine biology, and of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and also the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The city is also home to the North Queensland Cowboys rugby league team.

In 1986 the city of Thuringowa was officially declared; it shares a common boundary with Townsville, and the two are promoted as twin cities. Thuringowa is the fastest growing city in Queensland and currently it has a total population of around 40,000 living in an area of 1872 sq. km, and a growth rate exceeding 6 per cent per annum.

The Townsville Town Common Environmental Park is a refuge for brolgas, jabirus and also other wetland birds during the wet season. They move out when the swamps dry up and crack. The Great Barrier Reef Wonderland, with its walk-through underwater tunnel, giving a great all-round view of the coral and the fish, is well worth a visit.

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