History of Tanks Arts Centre

World War II

The demands of naval operations during the Pacific War led to the construction of these 3 concrete fuel tanks, completed for the Royal Australian Navy in 1944, and carefully camouflaged under the rainforest shroud of Mount Whitfield to protect them from enemy eyes.

The tanks held crude type furnace oil and pumped it through an underground, gravity fed pipeline to a fuelling jetty in Trinity Inlet. The Australian Navy used the Tanks for refuelling Australian and visiting American and British ships right up until their decommissioning in 1987.

Community Arts Space

Council originally purchased the land on which the Tanks stand in 1991 with an intention to broaden the footprint of the Botanic Gardens.  Thereafter, a greater community need for more arts space and associated facilities in the city became apparent, and so Council instead secured a Federal Government grant in 1992 to allow initial re-development 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.


Whilst being a stand-alone venue, Tanks is also an integral component of the Cairns Botanic Gardens, the city's 38 hectare botanic and cultural precinct.  Given the area's significance to the region, the entire precinct was placed on the State Heritage Register in 2006, and recently underwent major redevelopment works to formalise and expand the area into a highly attractive, environmental parkland 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 Tours

Free guided tours are conducted every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am, commencing 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)