buildings set among greenery, adjacent to a beach, seen from the air


AIMS headquarters, located at the heart of the Great Barrier Reef

Our headquarters at Cape Ferguson, about 50 km from Townsville’s CBD, is an international landmark in tropical marine science and home to the National Sea Simulator (SeaSim).

It is adjacent to the centre of the Great Barrier Reef and surrounded by a 207 hectare national park and marine reserve. The area is free from development, is biosecure and has access to clean seawater and a protected harbour.


In the language of the Bindal Traditional Owners, the Townsville site is named 'Nilgoolerburdda,' which means 'comet' and 'shooting star.' When a comet is seen, it is believed to be an ancestral spirit trying to get back home, whilst shooting stars indicate the direction of danger or someone who is in trouble. 

In 1846 a shooting star led Traditional Owners to the current Townsville site where they found shipwreck survivors sheltering in a cave in the headland between the beach and the marine operations centre. 

Bindal Elder, Eddie Smallwood, shared this language name as an indication of the meaningful and respectful relationship between AIMS and the Bindal Traditional Owners. 

Audio file
Listen to the pronunciation as spoken by Bindal Traditional Owner Leah Saltner

Finding us

Head south from Townsville on the Bruce Highway (A1). Approximately 37 km from the city centre, turn left at the signposted turn-off to AIMS, onto Cape Cleveland Rd. Follow this road for a further 16 km until you arrive at the Institute.

Please note there is no public transport to the Institute.

View AIMS Sites in a larger map

Public tours

Due to the on-going building works and construction activities, the public tours of our Cape Cleveland facility south of Townsville remain closed.

On site accommodation

We have six self-contained houses and six motel-style units available for visiting researchers, official guests and staff. These accommodation facilities are not available to the public.

To book, please email