Yabulu is an industrial town on the North Coast railway, 25 km west of central Townsville. It was named after the railway station. Yabulu is thought to be an Aboriginal word describing grass.

Until the 1970s Yabulu was just a locality. The discovery of nickel laterite at Greenvale, 200 km west of Townsville, led to the building of a railway to transport ore to a newly-built nickel refinery at Yabulu. Greenvale ore supplied the refinery from 1974 until 1993, when imports completely replaced the local ore.

The refinery, run by Queensland Nickel Industries (later a subsidiary of BHP-Billiton) had a 24-hour/day operation and a workforce of 800. In January 2009 the company announced the retrenchment of 350 employees because of weakening of the world nickel market and improvement of Chinese nickel production processes.

Yabulu's census populations have been:

Census DatePopulation
196163
2006603
2011675