The recent development of the adaptive-anisotropic wavelet-collocation method, which incorporates the use of coordinate transforms, opens new horizons for wavelet-based simulations of wall-bounded turbulent flows. The new wavelet-based adaptive unsteady Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes approach for computational modelling of turbulent flows is presented. The proposed methodology that is integrated with anisotropic wavelet-based mesh refinement is demonstrated for a two-equation eddy-viscosity turbulence model. The performance of the method is assessed by conducting numerical simulations of the turbulent flow past a circular cylinder at subcritical Reynolds number. The present study demonstrates both the feasibility and the effectiveness of the new wavelet-based adaptive unsteady Reynolds-averaged turbulence modelling procedure for external flows.