Thursday Island – TI to locals or Kawrareg in Waiben dialect – is the ultimate Aussie retreat. Grab a cold beer, find a spot on a wooden pub deck overlooking turquoise blue seas and contemplate the remote beauty of the island. Whilst certainly not the biggest of the Torres Strait Islands, it is the most populated. That is not to say it’s a bustling metropolis. At last count, there were fewer than 3,000 residents for its 3.5 km2.
The Torres Strait Islands is a 274-strong archipelago found scattered between the coasts of mainland Oz and Papua New Guinea. The origin of the name is unknown; what is certain however is that Captain Owen Stanley named neighbouring islands Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday when he visited in 1848, so it is a safe assumption that he named Thursday too. Thursday and Friday’s names were swapped about 8 years later so they appeared in weekday order. Budding explorers should note that Monday, Saturday and Sunday have yet to be found, so perhaps this could be your lucky day.
The island enjoyed a lucrative pearl and shell trade until WWII, and many Japanese pearl divers became residents. This worked out well for the islanders; Thursday Island was mercifully left alone by during the extensive WWII bombings, probably because it was thought that there were Japanese nationals still living there (there weren’t). Superb and pristine example of the island’s heritage still stand, and can be seen in the Green Hill Fort, the Thursday Island Customs House and the Gab Titui Cultural Centre.