The Museum was established in 1986, when the Secretary of the Townsville Harbour Board proposed to the Seafarers Association to set up a nautical display on the upper floor of the 55-year old former Pier Master’s office building, which had been newly refurbished.
The Seafarers Association had a membership of former and serving Navy and Merchant Navy men and women and was established in 1969. The Pier Master’s office building was situated between Berths 4 and 5 at the port. It was a double-story timber building and from this the pier master controlled all vessel movements in the port.
The Seafarers Association agreed in consultation with the Harbour Board to establish a maritime museum, named the Maritime Museum of Townsville. A Board of Directors was appointed and Neville George (after whom the park adjacent to the Museum is named) became the first Curator.
The Seafarers Association appealed to the public to loan or donate artefacts, which received a good response, and, together with the items provided by Seafarers members, it was possible to open the Museum to the public on 1 July 1986.
The official opening took place on 15 July 1986 by the then mayor of Townsville, Alderman Mike Reynolds. The new Museum was located on the upper floor of the former Pier Master’s Office, whilst the lower floor was converted into a Port Information Centre. The Harbour Board and the State and Federal Governments ensured the sustainability of the Museum through grants and subsidies.