Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Naval Auxiliary Patrol Head Quarters

Cairns Yacht (Aquatic) Club

Naval/port facility

4 Wharf Street, Cairns 4870

Being located alongside the Navy workshops and stores, the club house played an important role during World War II. The RAN took over the downstairs area of the club house in 1941 as headquarters of the Naval Auxiliary Patrol, while the upstairs area continued to be used for dances and fund-raising events for the Australian Comforts Fund. Club members who were either too young or too old to enlist in the forces, provided valuable service with the Naval Auxiliary Patrol in assisting the operation of Cairns’ harbour boom defence system and in harbour protection generally.

The club rooms remained a popular local venue for social functions in Cairns until the 1980s when high-rise hotel development began to take place alongside the building. However, the Cairns Yacht Club still retains its membership and its important function of training young competition sailors.


The Cairns Aquatic Club was formed at a public meeting in March 1908. It was subsequently known as the Cairns Sailing Club and has been an enduring part of the local sporting scene since its inception. Today it is known as the Cairns Yacht Club.

In 1917 the aquatic club purchased a disused rice mill on this shoreline site, which it modified as a club house. However, in February 1920 a cyclone struck Cairns, destroying the building. A new and stronger building was planned in the same site and funds were obtained through organised dances and donations. The willingness of locals to support the club was due to a large number of the organisations members being returned soldiers from World War I. From 1915 the club held socials to assist wounded returned soldiers and sent hampers to serving members overseas. Departing soldiers were always farewelled by the club and returning diggers were assured of a rousing welcome home at the Cairns Aquatic Club.

The new club house was officially opened in July 1920, the rebuilding exercise having taken just four months. The top floor was used for entertainment and the downstairs area housed members’ boats. By the end of the year Cairns Aquatic Club had recovered to such an extent that it sent a boat to compete in the Australian sailing championship. With its superior dance floor the Aquatic Club became the hub of social life in Cairns and was a popular venue for balls. On these occasions the downstairs boat storage area was transformed into a supper room.


Cairns Yacht Club, Site ID: 19558, Queensland Heritage Register, Brisbane, (no date).

Personal communication: Vera Bradley, Cairns.

Vera Bradley. I Didn’t Know That: Cairns and districts Tully to Cape York, 1939–1946, Service personnel and civilians, Boolarong Press, Brisbane, 1995.

Howard Pearce (Ed.). Heritage Trails of the Tropical North: A heritage tour guide to far north Queensland, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2001.

Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.