The state of Queensland welcomes royalty in 1970 - Part 2 The Coastal Tour

Map of Queensland showing flight paths and destinations across Queensland of the 1970 royal visit including Princess Anne’s detour to Cunnamulla. J 394.4 VIS Royal Visit to Queensland 1970. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

In this blog – Part One and Part Two, we feature the 1970 tour of Queensland. To bring it to you, members of the GLAM sector (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) and supporting businesses have contributed their images and collection items showcasing the 1970 tour of Queensland.

The tour continued from Mount Isa and the Royal Family travelled to Mackay, Townsville, the Great Barrier Reef, Cooktown and Cairns. The individual essays and photographs represent a record of Queen Elizabeth II’s time in Queensland, primarily focusing on her visits to the regional centres across the state.

Please note the photographs published in this blog are ‘in copyright.’ State Library of Queensland in collaboration with each organisation was granted permission to include them in the blog. Permission to re-use must be sought from the corresponding organization or private collector unless otherwise stated. 


The 1970 Royal Tour continues…



The visit to Mackay in the evening followed a late afternoon flight from Mount Isa on the 16 April. Their Royal Highnesses were taken to the Anglican Parish Hall at the intersection of Sydney and Gordon Streets for a civic reception, held in honour of their arrival.  

After the National Anthem and the breaking of the Queen’s personal flag, the Royal family met representatives from official and voluntary Mackay organisations. 

Mackay Regional Council Libraries’ Heritage Collection Supervisor, Lara Clarke, said “there was not a lot of evidence of the visit within the library’s collection, however we located one photograph taken by the Daily Mercury newspaper. This image was subsequently donated for inclusion in the library’s collection in 2020/21, as part of the Daily Mercury Archive. The photograph appeared in the newspaper on 17 April 1970, Pg. 15 along with several other images showing the crowds greeting and meeting the Royal family.   

HRH Queen Elizabeth II, HRH Prince Philip, and HRH Princess Anne with former Pioneer Shire Council Chairman Cr. Michael Moohin and wife Beryl. Image © ‘in copyright’, Daily Mercury Archive, Mackay Regional Council Libraries, Heritage Collection. 

The Heritage Team also located a scrapbook featuring three pieces of ephemera linked to the royal visit amongst Mackay City Council papers.  These included an invitation to attend the civic reception and envelope, a single page brochure outlining the function details and a leaflet used for the dashboard of an official car.  

Ephemera pasted into a Mackay City Council scrapbook of the Royal visit to Mackay, 1970. Photo courtesy of Mackay Regional Council Libraries.

The library expects more collections will be uncovered in personal archives in due course.

Contributor Lara Clarke, Mackay Regional Council Libraries 



The royal party had a leisurely cruise to Townsville, taking four days to arrive after their departure from Mackay. On the morning of April 20, they were met by The Deputy Mayor of Townsville Mr. T. Aikens, M.L.A. and Mrs Aikens and Mr W.W. Shepherd, Chairman of the Townsville Harbour Board and Mrs Shepherd.    

HRH Queen Elizabeth II, HRH Prince Philip and HRH Princess Anne disembark from the Britannia, Townsville Harbour. ID 306825. Photographer unknown. Permission granted for public access and copying,  CityLibraries Townsville, Local History Collection. 

The day’s program began with a cavalcade of progress at the Townsville sports reserve. The grounds were filled with crowds and children waving their Australian flag. It was a spectacle for the royal visitors and the local community who came out on the day. 

Left and Right: Children from the Belgian Gardens school wait for HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Townsville Sports Reserve, ID 307371; Cavalcade of Progress procession, Townsville Sports Reserve, ID 307085. Permission granted for public access and copying, CityLibraries Townsville, Local History Collection.      

View more of the Cavalcade of Progress images, digitised and shared on Townsville’s Library catalogue. The photographer was unknown.

Contributor Katie Pittock, Local Studies, CityLibraries Townsville 

James Cook University  

Following lunch on board Britannia, the royal family were driven to the site of Queensland’s newest university, the James Cook University, Townsville campus. 

In the presence of many dignitaries, HRH Queen Elizabeth II formally granted autonomy to North Queensland’s new educational institution.  

Left: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II speaks to the official assembly, James Cook University 20 April 1970. Image courtesy of James Cook University Corporate Records. Image © ‘in copyright’, James Cook University, Townsville.   

Right: HRH Queen Elizabeth II, with Sir Alan and Lady Mansfield, 1970 James Cook University, Townsville. ID 306828, Photographer unknown. Image © ‘in copyright’. Collection CityLibraries Townsville, Local History Collection.

She was accompanied on the dais by The Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Anne, Sir Alan Mansfield, Lady Mansfield, the Premier Mr J Bjelke-Petersen and Mrs Bjelke-Petersen, Mr Priestley, Chairman of the University Society and Mrs Priestley, and Vice Chancellor Dr Ken Back and Mrs Black. 

In 2020, James Cook University celebrated its 50th anniversary with a Treasures exhibition, showcasing 50 collection items from Special Collections, Eddie Koiku Mabo Library, James Cook University, Townsville.

The rare collection item – ‘James Cook University Development: Pimlico to the First Chancellor archival footage, 1960 – 1970’ was one of the Treasures selected for the anniversary year. The 12min film preserved on NQHeritage, the University Library’s Special Collections online repository, shows footage of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II arriving at the official ceremony and being introduced to the official party

Learn more about the significance of the film footage described by the University’s  Chancellor Bill Tweddell and access more images of the Queen’s visit to the University in 1970 on Flickr:

Read more about James Cook University in the 50 years since the Queens visit. 

Bronwyn McBurnie, Special Collections, Eddie Koiku Mabo Library, James Cook University


Great Barrier Reef and Green Island

According to the formal schedule, the Royal Yacht Britannia arrived off Green Island on the morning of 21 April, after leaving Townsville the day before. The scheduled visit to Green Island was dependent on the weather.

All three members of the Royal family were taken by Royal Barge to the Green Island jetty. They were introduced to Mr V. Vlasoff and Mrs Vlasoff and Mr and Mrs R.L. Grigg. The visit only lasted 30mins, before Britannia left for Cooktown by 10:15am the same day.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh with Vince Vlasoff, on Green Island’s Underwater Observatory, 1970. Also on display is a cannon linked to Captain Cook and the HMAS Endeavour. Photographer Sylvia Card, Image © ‘in copyright’, courtesy of Cairns Historical Society.   

Cooktown – 200 years since Cook’s landing, 22 April 1970

Timed to coincide with the Australian Bicentenary celebrations of Capt. James Cook’s landing in Cooktown two hundred years earlier in 1770, the Far North Queensland Bicentenary Committee planned a re-enactment of Cook’s landing for the royal visitors. The esplanade alongside the Endeavour River was filled with spectators expecting to see the Royal family during their short stopover in Cooktown.

HRH Queen Elizabeth II in Cooktown after the re-enactment of James Cook landing two hundred years earlier in 1770. Image © ‘in copyright’, courtesy of Cooktown Museum, 1970.  

Following the re-enactment, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the newly renovated James Cook Museum which was established in 1888 as the St Mary’s Convent and boarding school run by the Sisters of Mercy originally from Dungarvan, Ireland.

Young Jennifer Creek and Margaret Rootsey (ages unknown) were nominated by the Cooktown planning committee to present Her Majesty with the official key to open the Museum. Their outfits were specially made by local resident and dress-maker Lyn Miller.   

Left  – Right: Jennifer Creek and Margaret Rootsey in matching dresses prepare for the Royal visit in Cooktown, 1970. Photographer Lyn Potter (formerly Lyn Miller) posted to Facebook group - Only in Cooktown FNQ, 22 April 2020 marking the anniversary and Back to Cooktown celebration. Image © ‘in copyright’.

The official key used to re-open the James Cook Museum on 22 April 1970 is on display in the Cooktown Musum. Image © ‘in copyright’, courtesy of Cooktown Museum.   

The dignitaries present included Sir Ralph Cilento, President of National Trust Queensland, and Lady Cilento, committee representatives, the architect and supervisor of the Museum construction and Bishop J.A. Torpie D.D., the Roman Catholic Bishop of Cairns who handed the building over to National Trust Queensland.

A new garden surrounding the Museum was renamed the Joseph Banks Garden at the time.

Since that time, the James Cook Museum has been renamed Cooktown Museum, acknowledging the First Nations history and culture that is intrinsically linked to the iconic region. The Museum showcases many artefacts, as well as the living stories of the Guugu Yimithir people and their culture as well as exhibits of Far North Queensland history.

Changing exhibits in the Cooktown Museum highlight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Image © ‘in copyright’, courtesy of Cooktown Museum, 2021.  

Visitors planning a trip to the Museum at certain times of the year should check the hours of opening prior to their arrival. During the ‘wet season’ the hours of opening are reduced.

Contributors Cooktown Museum, National Trust Queensland and Lyn Potter (Miller) private collection.   


Cairns – Trinity Inlet and Airport

The Royal family arrived at Berth No. 3, Cairns Wharf the next day on the morning of 23 April. The official party included the Mayor of Cairns - Mr. R.Jones, B.E.M., M.L.A., and Mrs. Jones and the Chairman of Cairns Harbour Board, Mr. H.N. Whitaker, M.B.E. and Mrs. Whitaker.

To catch a glimpse of the Royal family, spectators crowded the wharf car park and lined the streets along the official route to the airport.

Crowd gathers around Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's vehicle as it leaves the Cairns wharf area, photographer A Shephard. Image © ‘in copyright’, courtesy of Cairns Historical Society.  

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II passes the Barrier Reef Hotel in a Rolls Royce, 1970. Photographer Fred Holmes. Image © ‘in copyright’, courtesy of Cairns Historical Society.    

Contributor Pauline O’Keeffe, representing Cairns Historical Society and Museum

A Ceremonial Farewell was conducted at the Cairns airport involving His Excellency the Governor Sir Alan J. Mansfield K.C.M.G. and Lady Mansfield and the Honourable the Premier Mr Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Bjelke-Petersen.

Accompanied by the G.O.C., Northern Command Major-General A.L. MacDonald, C.B., O.B.E. the Royal family moved to a dais, while the National Anthem was played. After Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II inspected the Guard of Honour, the official party were escorted to their plane in preparation for the flight to the nation’s capitol, Canberra.    

The information regarding the travel itinerary and dates came from the following publication held in the John Oxley Library. It proved to be an invaluable primary source, helping us to map the tour and dates and locations in the correct sequence.   

Read about the first half of the 1970 Royal Tour in Part 1 - The Inland Tour when the Royal Family visited inland communties including Cunnamulla, Longreach and Mount Isa.

Source: Visit to Queensland of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh accompanied by Her Royal Highness The Princess Anne: April 12th to April 23rd, 1970: working programme (provincial section). J 394.4 VIS

This blog showcasing the Queen’s visit to regional centres of Queensland in 1970 was a collaboration between Libraries, Museums, Historical groups, universities, private collectors and local businesses.

State Library of Queensland thanks everyone for their contribution of images, stories and memories linked to the Royal visit of 1970.

This blog is a record of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to our state and is posted online in 2022 to commemorate the year of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee.

Read more blogs about HRH Queen Elizabeth II and her visits to Queensland


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