city and major port, eastern Queensland, Australia, at the mouth of Ross Creek on Cleveland Bay of the Coral Sea. Founded in 1864 and named after Robert Towns, it was gazetted a town in 1865 and served as a centre for trade with the Pacific Islands. Proclaimed a municipality in 1866, it became a city in 1903. Lying close to Flinders Passage through the Great Barrier Reef offshore, it has one of Queensland's finest artificial harbours. The confluence of rail lines from Brisbane (690 miles [1,110 km] southeast), Cairns, Charters Towers, Mount Isa, and Cloncurry, the city also has air links to major cities and is the junction of the Bruce and Flinders highways. Townsville is the seat of James Cook University of North Queensland (1970) and of the Australian Institute of Marine Science. It is now the commercial centre for northern Queensland and handles beef cattle, sheep, sugar and other agricultural crops, and ores. Major industries include meat and sugar processing, copper refining, railroad repair, timber milling, boatbuilding, and the manufacture of steel, cans, and cement. A large prawning and fishing fleet operates out of Townsville. A tourist base for the Great Barrier Reef and the Atherton Plateau, the city is dominated by the 938-foot (286-metre) Castle Hill, which overlooks Magnetic Island. Pop. (2006) local government area, 95,464.
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