Blog Post

You can now experience the Torres Strait on a day tour from Cairns

  • How

    One day return trip (ex. Cairns)

  • Where

    Horn & Thursday Islands

  • Time

    7:30am to 6:15pm

  • When

    April to September

When you think of islands in Australia, the Torres Strait Islands may not be what springs to mind for most people, but with their unique history, culture and untouched beauty, they should be. 

Not only does this archipelago claim the most northerly part of Australia and the closest point to our nearest international border – approximately 5kms between the most northern island and Papua New Guinea – there are at least 274 islands surrounded by fringing reef, turquoise seas and abundant marine life. Of these islands, only 17 are inhabited, of which are divided into five major island clusters (Nations). 

Due to its remote location, limited people have the privilege of seeing this paradise, so two friends Fraser Nai, Traditional Owner of Yorke (Masig) Island, and John Palmer wanted to offer a service that allowed people to visit in an attainable way. And thus, A Strait Day was born.

Fraser Nai and tour guest on Horn island

Joey Laifoo's Island Stars

Enjoy an Island Style feast including local crayfish

Strait Experience’s one day tour allows you to explore two of the more populated islands, Thursday (Waiben) and Horn (Ngarupai), as well as enjoy a scenic flight along the east coast of the Cape York Peninsula, the tip of Cape York and the southern islands of the Torres Strait. The tour departs from Cairns Airport on Skytrans at 7:30am and returns at 6:15pm on the first Saturday of each month (April to September). 

The Torres Strait is an important crossover of cultures and Australia’s only area where both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures intersect on their traditional countries (including the Northern Peninsula Area of Cape York). It’s been a trade route between Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and even Papua New Guinean people for thousands of years.  

With over 90% of the population identifying as Indigenous, culture is understandably a strong theme across the day. Guests will enjoy a song and dance performance by Joey Laifoo’s Island Stars, as well as an island-style feast prepared by Joey and his family – including local staples like fresh crayfish, yams, fried scones, sop sop (coconut, yam and banana stew), nummus (a pickled fish dish similar to ceviche) and sago (tapioca pudding). You’ll also have the opportunity to browse the Gab Titui Cultural Centre and Art Center on Thursday Island with great local arts and crafts available to purchase.

Green Fort Hill on Thursday Island

PhlipVids, Tourism and Events Queensland

Tour guide Vanessa Seekee showing guests a 3.7-inch anti aircraft gun on Horn Island

Torres Strait Heritage Museum

The fascinating WWII history of the Torres Strait is also a strong undercurrent of the day. Learn more of the region’s military (and local) history when visiting key WWII sites and the Torres Strait Heritage Museum with knowledgeable guides – Vanessa and Liberty Seekee, have spearheaded much of the research efforts and restoration of many of the sites.

With its aforementioned proximity to our nearest international border, the Torres Strait (namely Horn Island) was a critical military base during the war and was the second-most bombed location in Australia (after Darwin). Approximately 500 bombs were dropped on Horn Island and sadly over 150 military personnel and 80 civilians lost their lives across the campaign.

Learn more about the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion

At the height of the war, over 5,000 American and Australian troops were stationed on the island. To this day the region remains the only place in Australia to have an entirely Indigenous battalion, The Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion, consisting of over 800 Torres Strait Islander volunteers over its time. These men were integral to the efforts due to their intimate knowledge of the seas and their skill as seamen.

A Strait Day allows for a new and easy avenue to explore this untouched part of the country. While one day will never feel enough, it certainly inspires a love for the Torres Strait and a desire to return. Don’t forget, 272 more islands await.

Strait Experience supports local operators

Strait Experience work with local Torres Strait operators to deliver quality packages and experiences. What to expect on your A Strait Day tour:

  • Return flights from Cairns to Horn Island with Skytrans
  • Join the experienced team at Torres Strait Heritage for their  In Their Steps WWII history tour on Horn Island
  • Scenic cruise between Horn and Thursday Islands with Rebel Ferries
  • Experience “Ailan Life” (Island Life) on Thursday Island with Lax Charters and Tours who will show you the island through the eyes of a born and bred local
  • Enjoy an island feast, browse local art and buy shop for unique souvenirs at Gab Titui Cultural Centre
  • Be moved by cultural performances with Joey Laifoo’s Island Stars

Discover more

Other ways to explore the Torres Strait and Indigenous cultures.