Castle Hill | Environment, land and water | Queensland Government

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Castle Hill

  • 601218
  • Castle Hill Road, Townsville


Also known as
Cutheringa/Cudtheringa/Cootharinga/Mt Cutheringa
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
28 May 1993
Natural feature: Mountain
2.2 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Exploiting natural resources
2.8 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Protecting and conserving the environment
7.6 Maintaining order: Defending the country
Construction periods
1942, Castle Hill - WWII Observation Post (1942c - 1942c)
1967–1968, Castle Hill - Panorama Restaurant (1967 - 1968)


Castle Hill Road, Townsville
Townsville City Council
-19.25762623, 146.79954411


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

It is important in demonstrating the evolution of Queensland's history as an early example of rapid environmental degradation and consequent conservation measures initiated by the local community.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The site exhibits a landmark quality and natural aesthetic appeal valued by the Townsville community.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

The site exhibits a landmark quality and natural aesthetic appeal valued by the Townsville community.


The natural formation known as Castle Hill [Cutheringa] has been synonymous with European images of Townsville since the 1860s. Aboriginal history and mythology associated with Cutheringa have not been recorded, but its name survives as one of only two known indigenous place names in the Townsville region, the other being Pallarenda.

Castle Hill was one of the earliest sites named by Andrew Ball who, together with MW Reid, were the first Europeans to explore the Ross River area in April 1864. The settlement established here was known initially as Castletown, until the name was replaced by Townsville in 1865. The hill became a much admired local landmark, evoking aesthetic delight and a unique sense of identity. This prominent link between urban life and nature largely determined the disordered layout of Townsville's streets, and in the late 19th century was frequented for recreational pursuits such as botanising and nature study.

Townsville residents also illegally plundered timber and firewood from the hill. Wild goats further ravaged the native vegetation, and by the late 1880s considerable public outrage, led by Edmund J Banfield, author, journalist and editor of the Townsville Herald 1882-1897, was being expressed in the local press at the continued denudation of Castle Hill. These concerns were being voiced at the same time as Queensland-wide debates on forest resource use, conservation, and human interaction with the environment. In an innovative approach to conservation, the Townsville Municipal Council applied to the crown to establish the hill as a reserve under their protective trusteeship, and on 30 June 1888 Castle Hill was gazetted a recreation reserve of about 228 hectares.

Despite the appointment of Crown Land Rangers and later a Conservator of Trees for Castle Hill, the Council was able to do little to revegetate the reserve during the depression years of the 1890s. Alderman Edward Downs and EJ Banfield privately planted various trees through the 1890s, including the surviving banyans [Ficus benghalensis], but by the 20th century, popular interest in preserving the natural vegetation of Castle Hill had waned. Small areas of the reserve were excised in the 1890's for water reserves and quarrying, but by 1900 it remained an unimproved recreational reserve of close to 215 hectares.

Not until the 1930s did the Council appear to address the Castle Hill environment. The goats were removed, permitting natural revegetation, and in 1935-6 a road to the summit was constructed as an employment generating scheme, partly funded by the Main Roads Commission. Hynes Road (now Castle Hill Road) and Lookout were named after the then Minister for Labour and Industry, Hon. MP Hynes.

The provision of a road to the summit facilitated the use of Castle Hill as a communications and observation post during the Second World War. Infantry and field regiments of the 5th Australian Division were deployed on the hill, and the observation post they constructed remains. In 1942 a radar station was established on the summit, and searchlights extended halfway up the hill. Also in 1942, the memorial stone from the Sydney grave of Robert Towns, founder of Townsville, was acquired by the Townsville City Council and erected at the summit, near the Hynes Lookout.

Since the 1950s, areas from within the recreation reserve, including the summit, were excised for a variety of purposes: further water reserves and quarrying, a restaurant, carparking, communications installations, and residential subdivision. Most of this development was undertaken in the 1960s. In 1963 about 52 hectares on the lower northern slopes were converted to residential subdivision, and in 1967 a large reservoir was constructed on the lower northern slopes of Castle Hill to service this suburb. In 1967-68, the Panorama Restaurant and kiosk, with a seating capacity of 600, was constructed near the summit, on the southern side of the hill, under special lease. This land has since been converted to freehold. By 1972 the recreation reserve had been reduced to about 143 hectares. In 1983 a further 33 hectares on the north-eastern slopes of the reserve were granted under special lease as a development site.

Since 1974, radio communications installations erected at the summit have serviced the Civil Aviation Authority, ambulance, fire brigade, police, state emergency services and customs.

Castle Hill remains a popular tourist and instructional venue in Townsville, with education groups regularly using the reserve to study natural environments, community history and urban geography. The North Queensland Conservation Council is undertaking a voluntary bush rejuvenation programme of the site, and the hill remains an important icon in community and tourist advertising and promotional activities.


Castle Hill is an isolated granite outcrop which rises almost 300 metres above the central business district of Townsville. On the seaward side the foothills meet with pink granite bluffs which overlook the Strand foreshore. It is one of the most distinctive natural features on the Queensland coast, and remains an imposing backdrop to the heart of Townsville, despite encirclement by urban development.

The hill is an inselberg of Carboniferous-Permian origins, rising abruptly from the younger Quarternary coastal plain. The surface is primarily bare rock or shallow lithosols with small areas of duplex soils. There are three peaks to the summit.

The vegetation, largely regenerative, is dominated by indigenous plant species, with some minor areas of weed infestations. Floristic diversity is high, with approximately 300 plant species identified. Of particular importance are: Sarcochilus ceciliae [Orchidaceae], for which Castle Hill is the type locality, described by Ferdinand von Mueller in 1865; Aristida sp. nov. [Poaceae] and Arthrogrostis sp. nov. [Poaceae], both endemic to Castle Hill and currently being examined for description as new species; and Triodia stenostachya [Poaceae], a hummock grass community which represents an unusual coastal occurrence of this more typically inland spinifex.

The plant communities are predominantly mixed Eucalyptus spp. [E. drepanophylla, E. dolichocarpa, E. tessellaris, E. platyphylla, E. papuana] with a variable woody understorey. Small areas of semi-evergreen notophyll vine thickets, not native to the site, occur in mesic areas such as gullies. On the gentler slopes kangaroo grass [Themeda triandra] is the dominant herbaceous species, while giant spear grass [Heteropogon triticeus] dominates on the steeper slopes. Specialised flora also occur on the cliffs and rocky outcrops, in particular the Triodia hummock grass community, Ficus spp. [5 species] and orchids [2 species]. Introduced flora comprises almost 50 species, including banyans [Ficus benghalensis].

The fauna, which has not been surveyed comprehensively, includes the Unadorned Rock Wallaby. The avifauna has been censused, with over 50 bird species either visiting or residing on the hill. Peregrine Falcons and Brahminy Kites nest here.

The bitumen covered surface of Castle Hill Road winds for about 3 kilometres from the northeast slopes to the summit of the second peak, on which a concrete lookout platform, resting on a stone base, has been erected. Near the lookout is the stone monument from the Sydney grave of Robert Towns, founder of Townsville. There are several walking tracks around the summit, and a goat track leading from the lower northern slopes to the top of the cliffs.

There are several buildings and installations on the hill. On the southern face is a two-storeyed octagonal building of concrete block work, which formerly housed the Panorama Restaurant, but which now is vacant. A carpark associated with the former restaurant is located nearby to the north. Other structures on the site include several water reservoirs and three radio communications installations. On the northern-most peak of the summit is a 1942 observation post, a low, square, concrete bunker with observation apertures.

There is a former quarry site on the southern slopes, accessed via Stagpole Street, and on the northern cliff face a large graffiti of 'The Saint' is painted.

Image gallery


Location of Castle Hill within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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