South Townsville, a residential and industrial suburb, is immediately east (not south) of central Townsville. It is separated from the city centre by the Ross Creek and is on the northern part of an area formerly known as Ross Island. (The southern part of Ross Island is Railway Estate.)
When Townsville was first settled wharves were built in Ross Creek, but by the mid-1870s the facilities were overstretched. The idea of building an outer harbour on Ross Island emerged, involving reclamation of land out to a knoll known as Magazine Island, located where Benwell Road now meets Lennon Drive. In 1880 the Great Northern railway began running inland via Ross Island.
Ross Island was thus poised to become a workers' suburb, and in 1883 it was excised from Thuringowa local government division and added to Townsville. A primary school was opened in 1884, Victoria Park was reserved for sport and recreation in 1887, and Victoria Bridge was built in 1889. The bridge, of an iron swing design, is on the Australian heritage register. By the mid-1890s South Townsville was Townsville's most densely settled area with employment at wharves, ship building, railways freight yards, foundries, sawmills and the Ross River meatworks. A railway to the jetty was opened in 1892.
There were also numerous hotels, and seven survived into the 2000s, including the sea-faring Metropole (c1889) and the Ross Island (c1904). St John's Anglican church was opened in 1886, and its replacement building (c1907) is on the Australian heritage register. St Patrick's Catholic church was also rebuilt in a striking Spanish Mission design (1930). Its school operated from 1906 to 1970.
Access to South Townsville was improved with Lowths Bridge (1928) over Ross Creek. The port was kept busy with increasing sugar exports and the pace was frenetic when military forces were stationed at Townsville during World War II. The railways workshops (1880) were on a cramped site at the Townsville railway station, and in 1939 they were expanded to South Townsville. Bulk handling facilities for sugar were installed during 1957-64 at the harbour.
Palmer Street was the haven for South Townsville's rowdiest hotels, and four of the establishments continue. They are popular with backpackers. South Townsville's traditional workers' houses can be seen in Nelson Street.
South Townsville's industrial area is concentrated at its northern end (port, storage terminals etc), and its residential area is bisected by the railway. However, it has a riverside park, a maritime museum and Victoria Park. Palmer Street is a night-life locale, with restaurants as well as the hotels.
South Townsville's census populations have been:
J.J. Page, Ross Island 'mud pickers': a history of Ross Island South Townsville State School, Townsville, the school, 1984
Ross Island entry