Yongala History

About the S.S. Yongala:

The ‘SS Yongala’ was a steel passenger and freight steamer built in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.  She was launched on 29 April 1903, and took up the busy passenger route linking the gold fields of Western Australia with the eastern ports of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

Following company tradition, the vessel was named after a word in the local Indigenous language; 'Yongala' (originally pronounced Yonggluh) which translates to "broad water", or "broad wide watering place". It is also the name of the small town Yongala in South Australia.

En route from Melbourne to Cairns the Yongala steamed into a cyclone and sank without a trace south of Townsville, just off Cape Bowling Green, on 23 March 1911.  The actual cause of the Yongala’s demise remains a mystery.

One hundred and twenty-two people, all passengers and crew on board, perished in what was considered one of the most tragic incidents in Australian maritime history. There were no survivors.
It was only in 1958 that the wreck of the SS Yongala was discovered lying in waters off Townsville and this has since become renowned as an internationally regarded diving and tourist destination.

In 1980, the wreck was declared an historic shipwreck, and is now afforded some legal protection against looting and illicit salvage of any items still onboard the wreck. 

Australia’s leading underwater film makers, Ron and Valerie Taylor, say that they have “dived on wrecks all over the world, but the Yongala is by far the best”. 

About Yongala Lodge:

Yongala Lodge was built in 1884 as a private residence. Its original owner was Mr Matthew Rooney, one of the Rooney brothers, a renowned Townsville mercantile and importing family. A good deal of the timber used for the building’s two storey construction is Oregon pine, imported by Mr. Rooney at great expense. He also provided the timber and construction for the wooden altar at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church (directly across from the Lodge in Fryer Street).

Tragically, Matthew Rooney, his wife and daughter perished when the SS Yongala sank in 1911 thereby forever linking the Lodge with this historical maritime disaster.


1980 – The building was turned into Yongala Lodge Motel & Greek Restaurant by Peter & Penny Vastianos, who ran it until 2004.

Entrance Yongala Lodge
Yongala Lodge - 11 Fryer Street North Ward Townsville QLD 4810 - P: 07 4772 4633 - E: info@historicyongala.com.au