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History of Tanks Arts Centre

World War II

The demands of naval operations in the Pacific during World War II led to the construction of three concrete fuel tanks for the Royal Australian Navy. Completed in 1944, they were excavated into the side of Mount Whitfield to conceal them from enemy eyes.

The tanks held crude furnace oil which was pumped along a 5.6km underground pipeline to a fuelling jetty in Trinity Inlet. These tanks supplied fuel to Australian, American and British ships until their decommissioning in 1987.

Community Arts Space

Cairns Regional Council originally purchased the land upon which the Tanks stand in 1991 for future development of the Botanic Gardens. After lobbying from the Cairns Community for a dedicated arts hub, a grant was subsequently secured from the Federal Government in 1992 which allowed for initial remodelling of the Tanks site to accommodate all of the community arts requirements.

Council Youth Arts programs that were previously rolled out from the Graft'n'Arts centre in the CBD, were then moved to Tanks.


The Tanks Arts Centre, whilst being a stand-alone venue, is an integral part of the 42 hectare Cairns Botanic Gardens Precinct. Along with the Flecker Garden, the Tanks Arts Centre was placed on the Queensland State Heritage Register in 2007. Major redevelopment works in recent times have resulted in a highly attractive parkland environment and Visitor Centre. The precinct is a must-see destination for the best in tropical botanical and cultural experiences reflective of the region.

Free Guided Heritage Tours

Free guided tours are conducted every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am, departing from the Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre.
No bookings required.

Self-Guided Walk

Or pick up a self-guided tour pamphlet at the

Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre and discover

the history for yourself.

Gallery of historical images (click to see larger image)