North Ward, a residential suburb, is immediately north of the central area of Townsville. It overlooks the beach, along The Strand on Cleveland Bay, and was one of Townsville's original municipal wards.
Originally known as Cleveland Bay, North Ward was settled by Europeans in 1864 and was part of the first town survey for Townsville. As Townsville's first suburb, North Ward has the first botanic garden (1867) now Queens Gardens, the Central Primary School, St Josephs Catholic school (1873) and the defence barracks (1880) at Kissing Point. The Gardens and the primary school (incorporating the first Townsville jail built in 1878) are listed on the Queensland heritage register. Denied Townsville's first hospital which was on Ross Island, North Ward was chosen for the general hospital which opened in 1881, where it stayed for 120 years.
North Ward's flat coastal part north of Warburton Street was built on first. Melton Hill, Stanton Hill and other foothills of the Castle Hill range were built on next. The first stage (1892) of St James Cathedral occupies part of Melton Hill, consolidating the Church of England foothold that began in 1871. The Cathedral School of St Anne and St James was added in 1917. Townsville Boys' Grammar School (1888) is further west. Down on The Strand the Catholic church has St Joseph's church (heritage-listed) and primary school, a girls' high school and St Patrick's College (1904).
Most of North Ward's housing was built by the 1920s, and consequently the suburb has many of Townsville's heritage residential streetscapes (eg Alexandra Street). There have been some losses from redevelopments on The Strand, Melton Hill and Stanton Hill for units and motels. Townsville's nearest beach extends along The Strand, where the Tobruk memorial pool and Sister Kenny Park are found. At the corner of The Strand and Oxley Street there is the coastal defence complex, with heritage-listed buildings dating from 1890. At the far end there is an enclosed rock pool, the address of the Arcadia Surf Life Saving Club (1928). Just beyond, at the north-west end of The Strand, the barracks have been turned into a military museum (1980).
The foreshore recreation area is complemented by Queens Park and Queens Gardens on the hilly slopes. Shopping is at the North Ward Village, Eyre and Gregory Streets, and the huge hospital-site development is a mixed-use and residential project.
North Ward's census populations have been: